Calling your cats name may not always produce Felix front and center. After an extended absence, many owners lament that their pet is lost. Not so, says Dr. Paul DeMars, DVM, of Oklahoma State University, who is board certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Once inside another cats territory, a domestic cat would become very nervous and look for a hiding place, he explains. When owners think their cats are lost, they are likely close by and afraid to come out into an unknown territory.
A frightening experience (a loud sound or a predator, for example) can drive your cat from his or her comfort zone and cause it to take cover. Reading lost and found ads and posting lost cat flyers are important, but an owner-initiated search can accelerate a happy, injury-free reunion.
Feline Specific Tips: Cats are hiders nonpareil and prefer dark, tight spaces, especially vertical ones. Look above you even if kitty is declawed. No location is too unusual or too small. Frightened cats often reply faintly so continually stop and listen as you call your pets name and engage its other senses. An injured or stranded feline might not initially respond to the sound of your voice, so recheck every area. Ask people if they have recently noticed an unfamiliar cat.
Helping Hands: Enlist neighborhood visitors like mail carriers, joggers, dog walkers, landscapers etc. Dont overlook children who are generally enthusiastic about finding missing pets. Contact veterinarians and animal shelters, learn each agencys holding period, and revisit them based on it.
When searching, bring a powerful flashlight (even during the daytime) and items that make pleasant and household sounds (a box of dry food that you can shake, a favorite squeaky toy) or emit familiar smells (your gym clothes, pungent food).
According to Dr. DeMars, these things can help draw a frightened cat out of hiding. If you believe your pet is inside your house, run the can opener and open and close the refrigerator door. Put your cats litter box or bed in a secure area outside your home to engage its olfactory senses. During warm weather, crate other pets and leave them somewhere safe in your yard.
Advertise your cats disappearance on a flyer, which includes a color photo, identifying information (breed, sex, etc.), and your phone number. Leave off several unique characteristics (e.g. white spot beneath chin) to help screen out prank calls. Offer a reward of an unspecified amount since sadly some people may attempt extortion.
Search Territory: Begin with your house and backyard. Investigate out-of-sight places like the tops of tall furniture and crawlspaces. Check behind, under and inside appliances. Pull out desk drawers completely, and look behind them. Outside, scan beneath vehicles, houses and porches. Cats often hide in gutters and dense brush.
Inspect neighbors yards yourself since your pet may be too frightened to approach you, let alone a stranger. New construction or renovations can pique a cats curiosity so investigate those areas thoroughly. If a local house is for sale, ask the realtor if you can look inside as your cat may have wandered in behind prospective buyers. Felines sometimes explore open trucks only to find themselves accidentally driven away, so if a work crew was nearby when your pet disappeared, contact the company. If you recently moved, revisit your former neighborhood. Cats may repatriate.
Best Search Times: Dont expect Fluffy to come bounding out to greet you. Unlike dogs that use a dominance-based social structure, explains Dr. DeMars, cats minimize social contact through avoidance, thereby eliminating the need to fight. Increase your chances of encountering kitty by looking at dusk when felines are most active. In the morning, visit sunny secluded spots where cats like to warm up after a cool evening.
The Reunion: Even when you find your cat, it may not be comfortable approaching you outside of its territory. If you pet resists your entreaties, return at night when it feels more hidden and therefore more secure. In extreme cases, you may need to resort to using a humane trap like Havahart. Once reunited, examine your cat for injuries and visit your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.