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Missing Cat!

posted February 21st, 2016 by
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What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Missing Cat!

By Dolores Proubasta

 

Instead of panicking, enlist an action plan.

Cats don’t like to roam; most would rather stay home on a favorite armchair or window sill looking out, feeling wrongfully imprisoned.

Forced to “enjoy freedom” by guardians blissfully unaware of traffic, poisons, dogs, aggressive toms, pregnancy, neighbors who don’t like cats and other dangers, a cat will stake his territory, usually very close to home, and fend for himself as well as he can. For entertainment, he will do exactly what he would do in the safety of a living room (observe, sleep, chase, groom…) with the occasional kill of a songbird as a bonus. In fact, there is not much out there to do for an animal that has no place in the wild, and much less in the city, except as a “companion.”

Outdoor-access cats develop a check-in routine for feedings or human companionship. When they fail to show up at the usual time, guardians should presume their pet is in trouble and start an immediate search, following the recommendations stated below. Intact males and females are even more at risk because, even if able to return, the males may be wounded, and the females will be pregnant.

For cats to live long, healthy lives, the only alternative is to adhere to the indoor-only plan. However, a door is left ajar or a screen comes off the window frame, and before you know it, the cat is out.

Given a chance, most indoor cats will heed the call of the wild only to discover there is danger all around. Faced with strange smells, noises, and creatures, the errant cat, instead of high-tailing it back to safety, may go into hiding. If vocal, he’ll be quiet; if friendly, he’ll avoid people; and movement will be under the cover of bushes, night and shadows.

Back home, the cat’s absence is met with justifiable panic. The first impulse is to send out search parties in different directions to cover as much ground as possible and to plaster every utility pole in town with “Lost” posters. This M.O. is the correct one… if a dog goes missing. However, if a cat goes missing it requires subtle adjustments explained below. The first thing to remember to recover your cat is that he will rarely stray beyond three or four houses in either direction from where he ran out. Of course, a cat cared for enough to be kept indoors is presumed to be spayed and neutered; if not, all bets are off.

Quick action, a good plan and perseverance are imperative. Don’t ever think “He’ll find his way back,” because there are at least as many chances he will not. Waste no time and do the following:

  1. Put food and water by the door the cat exited.

Keep it fresh. Alternatively, set a humane trap (see 7 below).

  1. Search for the cat right away.

Don’t be discouraged if the first attempt fails; the cat may still be enjoying the newly gained freedom. Walk the immediate neighborhood at least twice a day without fail (preferably in the quiet hours of the early morning and late evening—take a flashlight). Search for the cat alone; only the cat’s closest people should be involved because un-familiar voices and smells will send him into deeper hiding. Don’t send a child to do the job unless it’s the cat’s primary friend.

Your personal and steady involvement in the search helps remind your neighbors that the missing pet is not a passing concern to you, but a serious one. Don’t expect them to do your job for you, but they can be your eyes when you are not there (see 4 below).

Call your cat in gentle reassuring tones so that he may realize he is still near you, and, therefore, safe; this may keep him from wandering farther away.

Ask permission from the neighbors in a five-house radius to access their backyards, even when they are at work. Don’t bother to ask for access to yards with dogs, because no cat would hide there. Obtaining permission to enter other people’s yards (without being mistaken by a prowler) is a huge tactical ad-vantage because tool sheds, decks, porches, and access to crawl spaces are behind, not in front of, houses. Look under structures, behind bushes, up trees, around wood-fence runners and window ledges… Leave no place unchecked.

Carry an unopened can of fishy food. If the cat is spotted, he may respond to the temp-ting sound and smell of a freshly opened can.

Take a pet carrier with you if you think the cat may walk into it or if he may be difficult to restrain in your arms once caught.

  1. Post laminated “Lost” signs in the intersections around your address.

Use packaging-strength clear tape to affix the sign to utility poles — unlike staples it works on metal too. Place the signs at lower than eye level for car drivers to see. (Remember to remove all signs after your pet is found as a courtesy to your neighbors and a signal that the search is over.)

  1. Distribute flyers, i.e., paper copies of the “Lost” sign, to each house or apartment near yours.

If the resident is not in, do not insert the flyer in the mailbox, which is unlawful, but tape the flyer to the storm door or another visible spot by the entrance. Individual flyers give your neighbors a sense of how important your cat is to you; give contact information, a visual description of the missing cat and additional pertinent information. (Keep it short.)

  1. Take a copy of the flyer to the city shelters, humane societies, and neighborhood veterinarians in the event the cat is trapped by animal control or someone else and taken there.

Do not use this wide coverage, however, as an excuse to stop looking. The cat is most likely only yards away from you.

  1. Search online.

Post your missing cat’s description, photo and last location on all social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. While your general news feed is a great place to gain leads, there are specific lost and found pet pages for most towns or areas.

  1. If your cat is hard to catch, set one or two humane traps.

A raccoon-sized trap is most comfortable for an average-size cat. Put one by the house entrance or where your cat was last spotted. Be prepared, however, to catch other cats before yours. Carefully release the unwanted (and angry) guest and start again. But first you will have to wash and disinfect the trap thoroughly to avoid contamination if the previous animal was sick and also because your cat will not walk into a place where another may have urinated or left the scent of fear.

For a baited trap to be effective, remove any other feeding stations. Ask your neighbors to refrain from trying to be kind by feeding your cat. Only hunger will drive the cat into the trap. A pinch of catnip next to the food may make it more enticing.

Also, covering the trap with a towel or blanket makes it more inviting and provides shelter once the cat is inside. Traps must be checked frequently to avoid exposure and prolonged fear of any animal inside.

With the plan outlined above, a cat should be recovered within hours or days of the escape, but be prepared to persevere longer. The search has to be aggressive and methodical. The life of a feral cat is short and hard; death is usually painful. Most feral cats were once owned by people who either abandoned them or “lost them,” which simply means they failed to look for them under the mistaken belief that “Tom will come back when he’s ready.”

March / April OKC Pets Magazine

posted March 11th, 2015 by
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20150315

Publisher – Marilyn King

Creative Director – Debra Fite

Advertising Sales – Marilyn King, Steve Kirkpatrick, Nancy Harrison, Cheryl Steckler, Susan Hills, Tina Collie

Web Manager – Steve Kirkpatrick

Editor – Anna Holton-Dean

Contributing Writers – Marilyn King, Holly Brady Clay, Emily Cefalo, Pat Becker, Lauren Cavagnolo, Camille Hulen, Sherri Goodall, Nancy Haddock, Bria Bolton Moore, Dolores Probasta, Nancy Gallimore

PO Box 14128 Tulsa, OK 74159-1128