My kitten is missing
April 16, 2011 11:20 AM   Subscribe

My kitten is missing. What can I do to maximise the chances of getting her back?

At 8 this morning we were working out in the garden and had the back door open for about 10 minutes. Our two cats (one older cat, one kitten named Lola about 6 months old) generally tiptoe out into the garden fearfully, staying close to the back door and running inside whenever we go in.

This time, though, the kitten has disappeared. We live out in the country and only have two neighbour houses. I've spoken to the lady right next door and she looked in all her outbuildings, etc and couldn't find Lola. She then told me that she's had 3 cats go missing without a trace in the 7 years she's lived here. There are probably foxes in the fields around the house and she thinks foxes got her cats.

So I've been calling every few minutes and shaking her treats, we've been out looking for her, etc. Tomorrow I'll go see the other neighbours who live almost a mile away. Obviously if we were in the city I'd be out putting up signs, etc. But in the country? I feel like there's not as much I can do.

I'm thinking about sleeping in the hallway tonight with the door cracked open just in case she comes back in the night (we don't have a cat door). Any other ideas? Should I put food out?

I guess this is a stupid question really as what else can be done, but I figured I'd go ahead and ask out of desperation.
posted by hazyjane to Pets & Animals (26 answers total)
I'm not a cat owner but I recently found these links for a friend who had a missing cat situation (she came back on her own accord). The first link is only really useful if you're in the same area but it may help you find pet detectives in your own area perhaps. The second link goes to a book written by the same pet detective which is all about lost cat recovery tips. Disclaimer: my friend's cat came back so we didn't buy the book so I don't know if it is good or not:

LA-area pet detective:

A book written by the same people (first 8 pages in free sample, whole e-book is $20)

Good luck!!
posted by Bwithh at 11:26 AM on April 16, 2011

My experience with cats tells me they only gradually expand their ranges (they're not like dogs, which will bee-line enthusiastically in some direction and only look around when the stimulus disappears). Your kitten has a big cat example, so she probably has innate + learned caution. It is possible Lola is stuck somewhere but with cautious (sensible) cats my guess is she's nearby and Hiding from the People in some bizarre game only cats understand.
posted by jet_silver at 11:28 AM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look again nearby your house. Nthing that when small, they don't go far.

Oh! Don't forget to look up!!

A few years ago one of my kittens made it up into a tree maybe 25ft+. She didn't respond when called because she was scared or knew she had done "bad." We discovered her the next morning when she finally decided to meow for help;)

Hope your kitten comes home soon!
posted by jbenben at 11:39 AM on April 16, 2011

Thanks everyone for your good wishes and suggestions. We only have one tree anywhere nearby and I've just gone and looked and she isn't in it. I don't really think she's playing because she loves her food too much to let a game interfere with her dinner. I'll just keep hoping for the best and searching as much as I can. The thing that scares me so much is the whole thing about not going far - well she's definitely no where nearby I'm almost positive. I'm going to try to keep hoping but will try to prepare for the worst.
posted by hazyjane at 11:59 AM on April 16, 2011

A tiny kitten can hide in darn near any little nook, hole or cranny, and will be very difficult to find. Our big cat got out last fall and was extremely hard to find, despite his size.

One word of caution...If you DO find the little girl, approach with caution. She will be scared and defensive. When we found our guy, he acted like he didn't even know us, with a lot of growling and hissing. We eventually managed to bait him back into the house with his favorite treat...american cheese slices.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:33 PM on April 16, 2011

Is there any space under your house or the neighboring houses?
posted by unknowncommand at 12:38 PM on April 16, 2011

Listen hard. My cousin lost a kitten and she was probably meowing the entire time, but we didn't hear her until someone got close. Look under everything, including your house and porch, even if you're 90% certain she couldn't possibly be there.
posted by plaintiff6r at 12:41 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

When my girlkitty got outside, she didn't go far -- but like others said, she was so shitscared that she never made a peep, even when I meowed or made kissy noises.

Eventually, she reappeared when I was rooting around in the garden. Seeing me out and about made her come out of the thick bushes I couldn't see into and come trotting over to me, covered in burrs and dirt. She didn't even flail around when I picked her up and brought her inside.

Good luck. Losing HereticalKitten for even a day was harrowing.
posted by Heretical at 12:45 PM on April 16, 2011

I've read that cats/kittens may hide in the very first safe(-ish) place they find, often quite near to the house (but often hard to find!), and not make a sound (which makes sense in terms of not attracting predators). And I've read that more timid cats are more likely to be nearby, while people-loving cats may gravitate toward neighbors, and adventurous types may go for more of a walkabout.

And I've also read about people having luck looking for/calling for their cat in the wee hours – 3 or 4 in the morning.

Good luck; I hope you find your girl soon!
posted by taz at 1:08 PM on April 16, 2011

Tuna fish. I have a can on hand at all times for just these emergencies..

Place it along the side of the house and near the backdoor, and just wait.

Chances are she's really close (like all the above posters say) and being infuriatingly quiet.

Also, look inside under the bed (or behind the couch etc). When Kittyness was small and still afraid of the wind she would bolt inside and under things so quickly I never knew she was actually inside. Actually, she still does that...
posted by dness2 at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2011

Yes, try checking inside the house as well.

It's amazing where cats can end up. We were sure that this one got outside when we were moving luggage to the car. After searching the neighborhood for a few hours, we found her inside - inside the box spring of a mattress. I only found her because I noticed that the fabric was sagging a bit underneath the bed.
posted by statsgirl at 1:34 PM on April 16, 2011

We did the following when our older orange cat fell out a screen window:

-Smelly food that they love (we used tuna fish)
-Their litterbox outside
-Something that smells like home (I used an undershirt that I had worn that day)

We have a screened in porch and we were able to prop open the door and put all of this just inside on the porch. We're pretty sure something like a raccoon at the tuna, but our guy came back at about 3AM. We found out later that he was likely hiding in our neighbor's garage all day, even though we canvassed the neighborhood both during the daytime and at night with flashlights. We printed up flyers and handed them out. We also put the tuna on a cookie-sheet that was propped on a small rock so that it rocked and made some noise when something stood on it. Not sure if that might scare your little one away or not. When he came back onto the porch he yelled quite loudly and gratefully ran inside. He spent the entire day scrunched under the bathroom sink.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 2:45 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

The lost cats I've known about lately have all been hiding in tiny crevices under the porch, under the neighbor's porch, etc. Even when their owner was right next to them they didn't peep - one got found only because her owner saw her eye-glint in the dark space. So look again - any crack the size of a golf ball, she can probably get into, so peer in and listen hard.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:29 PM on April 16, 2011

Cats can hide like nobody's business. My cat once went missing for several hours, and I finally found her in our apartment hallway wedged behind a planter. So don't give up hope... she may be quite nearby. Keep looking; I searched for hours, and had actually walked past her about seven times before I found mine.

Good luck!!!
posted by OolooKitty at 7:14 PM on April 16, 2011

Do you have a dryer vent? I had a kitten who crawled into ours, presumably to check out the lovely cozy space inside.

He was fine, by the way.
posted by corey flood at 7:48 PM on April 16, 2011

SHE'S HOME :-)))))). I found her in the garage which doesn't make sense as I searched in there about a billion times. She must have been out playing and then snuck into the garage when I opened it this morning. I'm so relieved I can't even put it into words. Thank you so much to everyone who posted, it was a huge help to feel like I wasn't alone in all this.
posted by hazyjane at 2:35 AM on April 17, 2011 [14 favorites]

Yay, kitty!
posted by Scram at 5:18 AM on April 17, 2011

Yay! keep a good eye on her! :)
posted by dmbfan93 at 6:03 AM on April 17, 2011

Hurray! I am so relieved. Thanks for updating us!
posted by OolooKitty at 8:38 AM on April 17, 2011

It's a mefi rule that you have to post a picture if you're going to ask a question involving a kitten. Now that she's home, I can pester you about it.
posted by desjardins at 9:30 AM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, picture please!
posted by jbenben at 12:00 PM on April 17, 2011

posted by unknowncommand at 5:50 PM on April 17, 2011

By popular demand, here she is (a bit smaller then than now but not much, she's going to stay tiny I think). Unfortunately in the picture you can't see the black triangle of fur she has on her white front, earning her the nickname "supercat".
posted by hazyjane at 4:39 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

let me be the first to say, "awwwww"
posted by desjardins at 7:32 AM on April 18, 2011

Nthing the worn undershirt in case someone else is looking for help in the future. We lost our cat for 3 days and the undershirt is how she knew where to find us :)

(She is super cute, btw)
posted by getawaysticks at 10:34 AM on April 20, 2011

I'm indescribably glad you found her. In case someone happens upon this thread in the future with a similar worry, I'd just like to put up a couple things I learned the only time my cat went missing.

- I had already had him microchipped. It was cheap and incredibly comforting, and it gave me a completely empirical way to "describe" him when I reported him missing to the local shelters.

- I wish someone had told me not to post in the lost-and-found section of Craigslist. I got the most distressing and heartless emails from people telling me what terrible things would happen to him. It was one of the most upsetting things that've ever happened to me.

- And when he did come back, every shelter I contacted, especially those who contacted me back, I sent a small donation just for the peace of mind they gave me. This little thank-you felt really great.
posted by kostia at 9:45 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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