How to Catch Your Cat

Be prepared in case your cat makes a run for it. Even a brief out-door excursion can turn into a nightmare, so here are some tips.

Diane Levesque of Rochester, New Hampshire, adopted a kitten that had been born in the wild. One day her kitten got loose outside, and Levesque was frantic. “I could see her near the garage, but I couldnt catch her,” she recalls. She set a trap with food to lure her cat, but it didnt work. Finally, she called her veterinarian to see how she could get her cat back inside. It turned out that Levesques cat, like many other felines, didnt want to step on the traps metal floor. As recommended, she put a towel on the floor of the trap to cover the metal. Her kitten went for it. Now shes back safely inside.

You never know when your cat will make a run for it. Even cats that have been brought up indoors since kittenhood will sometimes escape outside. Dont panic: There are things you can do to get your cat back in the house as soon as possible.

Clever Hiding Places

If you cant find your cat, remember that cats are great at sneaking into hiding places. Cats can squeeze themselves into spots where youd never think they would fit, according to, so dont overlook any places you think would be too small.

Favorite spots include closets, file cabinets, kitchen cupboards and, yes, even suitcases. Cats will hide behind books on a bookshelf and behind and under appliances, such as the refrigerator or stove.

Melissa Remy, who lives in a small New York City apartment, wondered why her kitten hadnt slept on her bed one night. In the morning, she found her feline inside the refrigerator – and perfectly fine except for chocolate pudding on her paws and tail.

Some cats will slip silently into the basement if a door is left open. There are cats that will climb into holes in mattresses and box springs, forced-air ducts and plumbing. And dont write off the chimney! Its fair game for many cats.

Quick Getaways

No matter how happy a cat is at home, there will be times when he or she will try to escape. Its just the call of the wild. Even older cats that have never been outside will sometimes make a run for it.

Cats can escape in a number of ways: “An improperly latched door that flies open with the wind provides an instant opportunity for your cat to take off,” says writer and animal-welfare volunteer Robin Tierney of the Partnership for Animal Welfare (PAW) near Baltimore, Maryland. “So does an open window or flimsy screen on any window in the house. A cat will dash out a gate your kids leave open, or over or under a fence,” says Tierney. And dont underestimate a cats ability or willingness to escape from a deck or a balcony, even one that is significantly high up. A cat can wriggle under or between the slats or bars.

Don’t Chase a Cat!

What if your cat gets out? “I wouldnt chase an escaped cat,” says Michael Courlander, former president of PAW. “But I would definitely follow her, periodically calling her name. If she doesnt come when called, I would try to herd her back towards the house or yard by changing the direction I was moving. I wouldnt take the time to run back to the house to get food; following the cat is much more critical.”

If you lose sight of your cat, get hold of a preconstructed humane trap, says Courlander. An example is a HaveAHeart trap, the kind that Diane Levesque used to catch her cat. “Put in some very smelly food,” says Courlander. Levesque used wet cat food to lure her cat in.

“As soon as you realize your cat is gone, immediately describe your cat to all the animal shelters and animal rescue groups in the area,” says Courlander. “Call them daily.” Cats can cover a lot of territory, so also regularly contact shelters in outlying areas.

Another must: Using a recent photo of your cat, make many highly visible signs on colored paper and encase them in plastic sleeves or have them laminated so they dont deteriorate from rain, snow or dew, says Courlander. Post these at all outside and inside public areas. Ask everyone in your neighborhood if they have seen your cat. “Joggers are especially good folks to ask because they cover a lot of territory and are out running almost every day,” he says.

Dont take it personally if your cat tries or manages to escape. Probably the best thing you can do is to prepare for the possibility that your cat might escape. Having your cat wear a breakaway collar with identification is wise, even for indoor-only cats. You should also ask your veterinarian to insert a microchip under your cats skin to increase the chances that your cat will be identified and united with you as soon as possible. v