Why Cats Escape
One of the worst feelings in the world is to realize that a pet has become lost. Despite an owner’s best efforts, this can happen when a cat darts out of the door, when it flees a frightening experience (being chased by a dog, hearing fireworks, home remodeling activities, etc.), when it jumps out of a car, or even as a result of theft. While many owners understandably battle feelings of guilt and distress when their pet is lost, their energy is better spent taking quick action to increase the chances of being reunited with their companion. It is important to cover lots of ground in as little time as possible, preferably with the help of family and friends. Hopefully, you will never have to experience this agony, but if your cat does disappear for whatever reason, here are some tips that may help you find your feline friend.
There are 3 basic situations pet owners may face when a cat is lost: an indoor-only cat may escape from the house, car or boarding facility; an indoor-outdoor cat may escape from one of the same situations or simply won’t come home; or a primarily outdoor cat may just disappear. Cats usually behave differently depending on which category they fall into.
Where to Look
The good news is that indoor cats who escape usually don’t stray too far from home. Indoor cats and indoor-outdoor cats who become displaced by escaping from cars, RVs, veterinary clinics or boarding facilities, also usually don’t stray far from where they escaped. Cats in both categories will be in an unfamiliar environment. They probably will be overwhelmed and try to find a place to hide. This could be in a garage, under a house, in a dumpster or garbage can or under nearby bushes. Assuming that the cat’s disappearance is identified fairly quickly, most of the time it will be found hiding somewhere close by. It may try to return home (or to the site of escape) at night, when it feels safer. Unfortunately, the owners will probably be asleep or not there, and unaware that their kitty is trying to return. Fortunately, humane cat traps are increasingly available and normally work extremely well. They can be bought or borrowed, baited with canned cat food or another tasty treat and left outside near where the cat disappeared.
Ways to Find Them
As the owner scans the neighborhood for his cat, he should notify neighbors and enlist their help in “keeping their eyes open.” It can be helpful to make up a flier to post and to hand out, with a current picture and description of the cat, its name and the address and phone number of its owner. It’s best if this flier is printed on bright neon paper. Local animal shelters and veterinary clinics should be visited in person and given several copies of the handout to post and use to inform their staff of the missing cat. Markets, pet supply stores and other retail shops often let people post “lost animal” fliers near their doors, but owners should always ask for permission. Shelters can be visited regularly to see whether the cat has turned up. At any point in time, the owner can put a lost cat notice in the classified section of the local newspaper. Internet sites are available to help locate lost pets in many areas. Rewards may or may not be offered.
While fliers, ads and shelter visits are important, the most important thing to do probably is to search every nook and cranny within a mile or so of where the cat was lost, which usually is in its own neighborhood. Cats usually hole up and remain silent, which makes traveling to remote shelters and clinics and posting fliers on telephone poles less likely to be successful techniques than they are for lost dogs, which are more vocal and tend to roam. Humane traps are one of the best ways to reunite an owner with his lost kitty. These can be purchased or rented at many hardware and feed stores, shelters and veterinary hospitals.
Being properly prepared for the possible loss of a pet is critical. Try to keep an up-to-date picture of your cat in your files. Indoor and outdoor cats can benefit greatly from being microchipped, because they both can disappear for a number of reasons. They can run out a door, escape from a car, leave a RV during travel or find their way out of a veterinary clinic or boarding facility. A skin tattoo, and/or a collar and information tag, are other good ways to identify a pet. Reflective collars can be great when trying to track an animal at night. Neutering and spaying companion cats can greatly reduce their risk of roaming. This is especially true of males, which tend to stray widely when left intact. Advances in pet-location technology are also being made. Global Positioning System (GPS) and similar technology is already being used on collars to help owners track lost pets. Over time, these devices will become increasingly affordable, as microchipping has.