Help me find my cat.
September 17, 2008 11:07 PM   Subscribe

One of my cats got out, what should I do to help insure he gets back to me?

I've already calmed down after the initial hysterical freak out and am trying to look at this rationally. I don't know how the hell he got out because he's not one of those cats that is itching to get out all the time. He's strictly an indoor cat only. The only times he's ever come to the door, he slowly approaches it and cautiously looks out. The only time he could have gotten out tonight is when I was bringing in groceries from outside. I had to make two trips and on the second one, I left the back door open a little. My car was parked right outback and I was only gone for about 30 seconds. he doesn't have a collar on either. I only noticed him missing after about two hours after getting back from the store so it's been a total of about four hours now.

I live in the city so there's a bunch of noises and cars so I'm sure he's freaked out and hiding but I've looked everywhere in a few blocks radius and turned up nothing. I put a bowl of food and water out and even his favorite toy.

How likely is it that he'll show back up? He's never spent time outside before and he's very shy. I guess one thing he has going for him is that he's obviously an indoor cat. He's a fluffy, white Himalayan so if he comes to someone's door I think they're going to assume he's a lost cat. I plan on putting up flyers tomorrow and checking with SPCA and animal control. What else can I do in the meantime? I really miss him a lot and I'm very upset now.
posted by MaryDellamorte to Pets & Animals (24 answers total)
No microchip? That's a good one for the future. Sorry I can't help now.
posted by lottie at 11:16 PM on September 17, 2008

No microchip, no collar.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:16 PM on September 17, 2008

I guess I'm looking for reassurance too. How likely is it that he'll come back and what not.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:22 PM on September 17, 2008

Is he defiantly outside? Cats are full of mischief. Absinthe once hid in the space between the some books and the back of the bookshelf. Another time I thought she'd gotten out but it turned out she had managed to get in the basement (naughty kitty).
Another time she did get out and came back soaking wet from getting rained on.

Both times she came back after we shook a few kernels of food in the cup we use for scooping dry food. Opening a tin of wet food would also work for her.

I would consider staying on the porch until he comes back for food so he doesn't decided to leave again when no one is there. Or, shut your other cats in another room and leave the door ajar for a bit (with food and water just inside).

If you don't hear from him for a day or two, get a humane cat trap and put food inside.

good luck.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:25 PM on September 17, 2008

I live in a city so I don't really want to be leaving my back door open but I will consider that. The reason I went to look for him in the house is because I thought it was strange that I hadn't seen him in a while as he's always in the same room with me. I live in a small apartment so there aren't too many places he can hide. I've looked everywhere. And it was also feeding time so he would have definitely come out of a hiding spot.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:28 PM on September 17, 2008

I've read that indoor cats who run out will find the nearest "safe" place to hide, and stay there. He can probably hear you, but is too afraid to come out of hiding - so definitely scour close by.

Lost Cat Behaviour

How To Find A Lost Cat Or Dog
posted by taz at 11:30 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, when I was in high school we had an outdoor feral cat we had adopted. When she came back from the vet (spaying and shots) she wasn't supposed to exercise too much so we left her in her cat carrier overnight. The next morning the door was popped open and the carrier was halfway across the yard. I was sure I would never see her again. She didn't come back that night and I was miserable thinking she was gone forever. But the next morning, there she was with her little "Where the f-- is my food or did you let the squirrels eat it all again?"

Don't give up hope ;)
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:31 PM on September 17, 2008

If you do end up leaving your door ajar, only open it just far enough for a cat to squeeze in. Both may cats seem to think this is more secure (stealthy?) than a wide open door. Also, for your safety put a tight wedge in it so it can't be opened further and hang out near the door so you can hear if some one is approaching.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:41 PM on September 17, 2008

I think your best bet for the next hour or so is either to search (leaving an inviting spot for him near the door - a box on its side to hide in, with some food in it), or just sit quietly by the door, occasionally calling and listening carefully for him.

When you have to go to sleep, leave a nice hiding spot in the backyard near the door; cardboard box on its side with familiar-smelling cloth in it, eg.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:52 PM on September 17, 2008

About two months after getting a new cat I went on vacation and my roommates looked after him for me. He got out while I was gone, they're guessing to go look for me. He came back about three days later, perfectly fine. We live downtown on sort of busy streets. I don't know if that is helpful, but I bet he'll come back once he gets hungry.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:06 AM on September 18, 2008

My mother once found two small dogs wandering around her yard and took them inside (they were very out of place and she had never seen them before). They had collars but no tags, so she called the police dept and was on the phone with a shelter when the police dept called her back, having heard from the owner. She had recently moved into the neighborhood and the dogs were able to squeeze out of the fence.

I'd call around and let shelters know that you're missing a cat. Someone may find him and do the same.
posted by Sufi at 4:22 AM on September 18, 2008

When one of mine got out, I opened a can of tuna and left it by the door. Even though he never had tuna before, the smell lured him back. He had spent the night outside. I called for him and could hear him respond, but he must have been hunkered down somewhere and too scared to come out. I brought the tuna back inside for the night and worried about him till daylight. Then I put the tuna back outside. Success!

He was totally freaked out by the scary outdoors adventure. I watched quietly while he crept up, but felt that if I grabbed for him he'd take off. So, I let him find the tuna and start eating. Then I spoke to him and eased over to where he was before petting him - then I nabbed him and scurried his little butt inside.
posted by mightshould at 5:29 AM on September 18, 2008

Shake his bikkies and look in all of your cupboards, draws and closets... They're much easier to catch before dinner or when it's raining.

Years ago I would whistle before putting their bowls down. To this day they know what that whistle means... :) And it covers more ground than bikkie shaking.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 5:38 AM on September 18, 2008

A similar thing happened to me about a month ago so I totally know what your going through. The good news is that there is a excellent chance that someone has taken your cat into their home. That's what happened in my situation. I had pretty much given up hope that he would turn up again: indoor cat, big city, too much ground to cover etc. But we found him 2 days after he made his escape

My advice is to poster as heavily as possible, (I put up around 60 posters in a 4 block radius), and keep looking, (take different routes to work or to run errands keeping an eye out). If you can ask a friend to help you out as it will help you both logistically and emotionally to not be doing it alone.

We found the AWOL cat in the alley behind my house but the funny thing is I got a phone call the next day from an old lady saying that the cat (Franky Boy) had been at her house the whole time, and kept had scratching on the door to go back outside so she let him back out. This explains why we didn't find him in the first days of searching. He wasn't outside to be found!

I got about 4 other calls about cats that looked like Franky Boy that other people had taken in to their homes as being lost. So, at least in my experience, there is a very good chance that someone has taken the cat for a stray.

Good luck and keep us posted!
posted by hector horace at 5:56 AM on September 18, 2008

Put posters up ASAP! Your neighbors might surprise you.

If a neighbor calls to say they've seen her in their yard or whatever, go rent a HavAHart trap (humane feral cat trap) RIGHT AWAY! And stake out where she was seen - set the trap with tuna and pray. Read up on cat trapping for tips, but I'd definitely do that SOONER rather than later.
posted by tristeza at 7:12 AM on September 18, 2008

Also try putting out familiar smells - Food, but also your dirty laundry. No idea if it helps, but I did when my buddy went for a walk for a few days, and he sauntered on home maybe 8 hours after I scattered some dirty t-shirts outside along with his food. I wold love to know where he was those days.
posted by mzurer at 7:30 AM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

one of my kitties goes nuts when my cell phone rings. she generally meows, jumps up wherever i am, and starts to rub her head on either me or whatever surface she's on. when she won't come in the house (she's indoor/outdoor, altho i prefer to keep her indoors), i take the cell phone outside & play the incoming call ring tone. she comes running.

i know. it's a little bizarre. but it works.
posted by msconduct at 7:47 AM on September 18, 2008

Go door-to-door to ask your neighbors if they've seen him, and give them a picture and your phone number. If there are any garages/sheds around, ask if you can look in them. My kitty, twice, got stuck in garages for several days, and the neighbors had no idea. Also, walk through the neighborhood, yelling loudly. Check every nook & cranny, because, as taz said, indoor cats are likely to hide.

And when (not if!) he comes back, get him a collar and ID, willya? Ditto for any other cats that don't have them. Even if they're inside kitties, the collar is to make sure the cat's safe if the worst (like this) happens.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:13 AM on September 18, 2008

I think they tend to get scared and hide out during the daytime when they escape, so best bet is hitting the streets at twilight with a flashlight and some food. My cat escaped and was gone for two days, and despite my walking around in an 8 block radius almost nonstop for those two days, when we found her she was hiding under a car in front of my house. (I believe she was in an alley across the street behind some boards most of the time she was out.)

I plastered the neighborhood with posters, let all of my neighbors know, put flyers in mailboxes, visited the aspca for recently arrived stray pets and let the local vets know. The aspca also let me fill out a lost pet report there, so if they got a cat with her description they would call. They said people who were really active and aggressive about finding lost pets usually find them. Put an ad with a pic on craigslist, too.

Good luck and please keep us posted.
posted by 8dot3 at 8:22 AM on September 18, 2008

when our young cat finally got out after months of trying, she came back three days later and booked for the litter pan. our little alley-cat wanna be couldnt figure out how to pee outside and gave herself a bladder infection.
posted by phritosan at 10:20 AM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Put posters up and check with local shelters. Check any potential hiding areas nearby. My friend's cat got out and was gone for several days. She was trying to lure her back in with food, and she was eating it, but was scared to come back in. I think she eventually got a humane trap and got the cat back. Best of luck!
posted by FlyByDay at 6:47 PM on September 18, 2008

Nthing a hideyhole nearby. My cat got out once and I found her about 30 feet away from my door, in our apartment building's laundry room, wedged waaaay behind a washing machine.

Wait until late at night, when it's quiet and he'll probably have calmed down and feel bolder. Then, creep around, calling for him in a reassuring, coaxing voice. Listen carefully, because he'll meow back in a small voice, and he will Marco Polo you to his den.

Good luck.
posted by oceanmorning at 9:35 PM on September 18, 2008

don't get totally hung up on the tuna either. our psycho cat got out for a week and I caught 4 neighbors cats on tuna, then got my lunatic with chicken. I never thought I'd see him again because he hates all 2 legged critters including us. I cried when I saw him in there hissing at me. why do we love the crazy ones so much....
posted by Redhush at 7:23 PM on September 19, 2008

Just wanted to say, please DO NOT GIVE UP!! The typical "MO" for a shy cat that goes missing is to hide for one-two weeks, and only then emerge. I went through this with my super-shy cat, who ran away from a house I was boarding him at. I plastered the neighborhood with photos, searched for days, put out Hav-a-hearts, everything. I got dozens of calls for cats that turned out not to be him.

But after two and a half weeks, when I believed he must be lost permanently or dead, I discovered him half a block away from where he'd gone missing. He had holed out in the crawl space under someone's garage, completely invisible from the street. It was only through the posters which prominently featured his face, and a kind neighbor who caught a glimpse of him, that he was found. I believe that he did not even leave the crawl space for a long time, until hunger drove him out. Of course he was skinny and flea-ridden, but he happily gulped down the food I'd brought, hopped in the carrier, and came home with me.

In short:

1. Scared cats often hide out for 1-2 weeks and only then start venturing out so they can be discovered.
2. Advertise heavily, with a good photo and promise of monetary reward.
3. Keep searching for your cat for at least 4 weeks.
posted by bchaplin at 1:48 PM on September 20, 2008

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