One of the worst feelings a cat owner can experience is when you realize that your furry friend is missing. Your heart sinks as your mind races through all the possibilities…is she still in the house? Did she get out? How far could she have gone? More importantly, is she OK?
Missing Pet Partnership (MPP), founded by Kathy “Kat” Albrecht in Federal Way, Wash., has studied how cat behavior changes when pets are out of their territory, be it be indoors or out. MPP has provided valuable tips on how think like a “displaced” cat (one that has found itself in unfamiliar territory), and what to do to improve your chances of finding her.
The first thing to realize is that a displaced cat will hide in silence. Uncertain and afraid, the cat will look for a place of safety – under bushes or a porch, for example. The length of time a cat hides depends on its general disposition. A confident cat will emerge sooner (a few hours to a few days) while a fearful cat can take 10 to 12 days to appear. Although a cat may not meow or come when you call its name, she may still be close by.
Start searching as soon as you realize your cat is displaced. Your first step should be a thorough search of your own home, as frightened cats look for safe, out-of-the-way places to hide.
“It’s not unusual for an animal shelter to get a call about a missing cat, only to be told later that she was found in a closet or drawer,” Albrecht says. “Look behind washers, dryers, refrigerators, in your box springs, under all furniture, in all closets, cabinets, drawers. Check heating ducts and behind books in bookcases. Then search the area around your house—garage, shed, cars, under bushes, in culverts, trees and on your roof.
“You’ll want to also search at night, as cats are nocturnal,” Albrecht added. “Move slowly and quietly if your cat is particularly fearful. Rattle a bag of treats or tap on a can of food to help entice your kitty to come out. Call your pet’s name and listen for any response.”
The MPP website offers more search tips:
Look for clues such as pet hair, pawprints or droppings. Ask neighbors if you may search their yard. Sometimes cats get trapped in moving vans, neighbor’s garages or in buildings under construction.
Leave out food and water as well as items that will smell familiar, such as an article of your clothing or your cat’s favorite blanket.
Make neon-colored flyers and saturate the area. The flyers should include a photo, a description of the pet, where it was last seen and a phone number. For more confident cats, post flyers around a five-block area.
Let as many people as possible know your cat is missing. Give flyers to all your neighbors—hopefully someone will call if the kitty has been seen. Call area shelters, vets and police departments every few days.
Set a humane trap, which you may be able to rent from your local shelter or animal control. Put the trap in a place the cat will view as safe, bait it with strong smelling canned food (fish-flavored is great), and cover it with a towel. Check the trap every morning and change the food daily.
Above all, don’t give up. “It may take some time and persistence to find your lost cat, but you’ll both be grateful when your efforts are rewarded,” Albrecht says.
Read Kat Albrecht’s full article, with more valuable tips on finding lost dogs and cats, at www.missingpetpartnership.org.
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