Help me help my cat find her way home :(
May 18, 2011 3:47 PM   Subscribe

My cat has run away from her new home. :( Seeking advice or your similar experience.

My cat, Apricot (as seen in my profile image), was chased out of our home early this morning by our dog (it's been 8 hours since). We recently moved to a new home and she was introduced to the new home and dog on Sunday. They got along fine until this morning, and before then she seemed to be adjusting to the new home very well.

Needless to say, I'm very worried that she won't return because she's not yet familiar with the area and home, but I'm hoping she'll turn up soon. She's run away once in the four years I've had her and in that instance, she was gone for two days.

I was wondering if anyone could offer any advice as to what I can do to help her find her way home or if anyone can share their similar experience and outcome.

Thank you.
posted by blithecatpie to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The general advice is that housecats will look for tight, dark locations very nearby - under stairwells, behind garden sheds, under bushes, etc. This is a good chance to meet the neighbors and ask if they will search their backyards.
posted by muddgirl at 3:49 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mine always goes up a tree.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:52 PM on May 18, 2011

Best answer: Just keep looking. Keep walking around and calling in ever-increasing circles. She won't likely stray further away than a quarter mile.

KEEP LOOKING. When we lost our cat for a long time, it turned out she was in the neighbours' yard and the gate got closed on her. She was extremely old (like, 20) and couldn't jump fences, so didn't have a way of getting back to us. We looked for two days, but she had been only a few feet away from us all along.
posted by tel3path at 3:54 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, our cat got loose the day after we moved in to our new house, some 20 miles away from our old house. He was gone for almost two weeks. We assumed he was dead for sure. One day he just casually sauntered on to the porch. Our best theory as to what had happened was that he felt like he had to go back to the old house, found his way there, and then when he realized we were not there anymore, her turned around and came back.

Obviously, this doesn't happen in every case, but just realize that he may be gone for a while and can still come back!
posted by Rock Steady at 3:59 PM on May 18, 2011

Yep, be patient. It's upsetting, but cat's are very smart. And weird. One of our cats disappeared the day we moved, and turned up the next day as if nothing happened. We think she may have just been hiding in the crawlspace or something until she felt comfortable in the new place.
posted by The Deej at 4:05 PM on May 18, 2011

When I was little, a cat started hanging out on our back porch. He was there every day, and kind of scrawny and pathetic looking, so we thought he might be a stray. My dad started leaving food out for him, and after a while, he kind of became "our" cat, even though we never let him inside. This went on for months.

Some holiday was coming up, and one of the neighbors on our street threw a party. As the resident antisocial family, we decided we absolutely had to go to this one since there were several new neighbors on our block that we had never met, and it was just getting awkward waving at them from the mailbox. At this party, my dad starts talking to these people who had lived next door to us for a few months, and it turned out they lost their cat shortly after moving in. After some back and forth, it dawned him that their lost cat was our "stray" cat.

Long story short, talk to your neighbors. Even if they're not BFFs with your kitty, they can keep their eyes peeled.

Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 4:05 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Try putting a pair of shoes outside near the door. This worked for my 15 year old inside kitty whom escaped the first morning in the new house. He returned that night at about 10:00 pm. He was meowing at the door where we had placed the shoes.

Good Luck!
posted by JujuB at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your cat wanted to get away from the dog, and once she did that, probably didn't go much further. She'll have tucked herself away somewhere close by. If she likes a particular kind of treat, take the bag out and shake it, or strike a can and a can opener together as you walk around. This will make you feel foolish, but it will likely help. A strong-smelling food she likes may also draw her out. My sister's cat, hiding outside, came running to the sound of her rattling car keys. Don't give up if none of this works the first day, or second, or so on, because she'll wait until she's sure about things. But I bet she'll be back soon.
posted by Francolin at 4:28 PM on May 18, 2011

Seconding phunniemee. This is an excellent time to knock on your neighbors' doors with a picture of Apricot and an appreciative suggestion for them to keep their eyes and ears open. You'll meet them with a good reason to talk and move on to the next neighbor. Generally, your new neighbors will want to help.
Definitely shake Apricot's favorite kitty treats while walking around. (If your kitty doesn't associate sound with OMG fave treats, make kitty LEARN the association for this reason and house fires or head-counts or whatever.)
Leave out shoes or an unwashed t-shirt or anything that might carry the smell of home on a breeze.
Make sure your neighbors at your old place know she's missing.
Good luck. And keep us posted.
posted by Jezebella at 4:43 PM on May 18, 2011

We recovered a roommate's cat by handing flyers out to everyone within a few blocks around us (go up and down one street at least). Sure enough, that night one called as her cats were fighting my roommate's cat and in a stand off. We got the cat back and took her to the vet, and all turned out ok.
posted by jwells at 5:06 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

P.S. If it's like what happened to us, you're going to meet some very weird people so just roll with it and leave the flyers with everyone you speak with and under the doors of those you don't.
posted by jwells at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2011

Best answer: Indoor cats can become so terrified if lost that they may be afraid to respond to your voice. Get a flashlight, get on the cat's level, and look EVERYWHERE! Walk the neighborhood repeatedly ... if kitty smells your shoes, she may be able to follow your scent back to the new home.

This website was particularly helpful to me when I lost my cat:

The large fluorescent poster works! Also copying the flyer and going door-to-door to all your neighbors. Ask if they'd mind if you checked their yards ("He might be hiding under shrubs, and I don't think he'd come to a stranger.") I met some lovely people that way, and even got a couple of calls from concerned ones just wanting to check the cat's status. Not one of them refused me permission to check their yards/crawl spaces. (After the cat was returned, I posted a FOUND cat sign so they could all stop worrying!)

Good luck to you, and kitty too!
posted by theplotchickens at 5:20 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Two of my cats made the dash to outdoors last night. I caught one right away, but the other one jumped over a fence. Going around calling for the cat may have helped, but I think shaking the treat bottle did more to attract her.
posted by dragonplayer at 5:38 PM on May 18, 2011

Cat treats might help if they are in hearing range. When my dad lost his cats, the vet suggested he leave the sliding glass door open, and sleep by the door. Then the cat could see/smell him if it wandered by and could find home. It worked for one of the cats at least. You could try leaving a blanket outside that smells of you, and their usual food, so that they can have some cues that you are nearby and hopefully stick around. Good luck!
posted by gilsonal at 5:59 PM on May 18, 2011

Best answer: DON'T PANIC. Not yet, anyway. It's okay to cry a little (dog knows I bawled when mine got out one day).

Nthing everyone else -- kitteh may well be very close by, just terrified and unwilling to do much.

Did I mention don't panic?

HereticalKitten got out one time, and eventually she was found in my backyard about twenty feet from the door. She was, as others said, too shitscared to come out right away. I spent about an hour in the backyard, mucking around in my garden, before she finally came out, meowing like she did when she was a tinykitten. She heard my voice enough and probably spied on me long enough that she finally felt safe coming out, dirty as hell, covered in burrs, and so scared she slept on my face that night.

See? Happy ending! Look at the happy ending! Being nearby may encourage her to come out so you can have that teary heart-dropping panicjoy too. Go buy her a can of the really expensive gooshyfood when you find her so she can nom well.

And don't panic.

If she's gone for more than a day, contact any animal shelters within twenty miles (because, seriously, cats can travel far) and police animal control centers. If your kitteh is 'chipped, that will help a great deal so have that info handy; if kitteh is not 'chipped, consider forking out the $50ish it cost me to get HK 'chipped once she got back. Some newspapers and radio stations may publish an ad for free for a short time.
posted by Heretical at 10:14 PM on May 18, 2011

How awful for you. When we moved one of our cats left for a week; she came back. Then we moved again and another of our cats left for 4 days. Make sure you call your humane society and put up signs. Also walk around the neighborhood and talk to your neighbors. My husband would also walk around in the wooded areas and call the cats' names out. I am not sure if it helped, but it made us feel better.
posted by fifilaru at 11:48 PM on May 18, 2011

I went through this a couple of weeks ago. It was heart wrenching!

anyway, according to my experience, these things have worked:

- The last time she escaped, I would go out in the neighborhood and call, hoping she would recognize my voice. I would walk around the houses shaking her treat jar. I must have looked like a lunatic. Anyway, it wasn't until hours and hours later that she found us because she heard me. Really, just go out once in a while and call her. The shoe idea is also very good.

- On another occasion, nothing would work, but we happened to check one of the houses that were up for sale and empty, and she was trapped behind a fence that was too tall for her. This means you should look everywhere.

- Another time, she had just had a fight with a neighbor kitty, and she was scared. We found her close to the house, but clearly confused. We went to her and let her smell us, something clicked in her and she followed us home. We literally had to guide her home and she was not far at alll, just confused.

Cats are very smart. I'm sure you will find her, or she will find you. I hope this makes you feel better. It's OK if you feel sad, too (I cried like crazy the last time she got lost), just don't give up, keep looking! I know she will show up! my best energies to you!
posted by Tarumba at 6:43 AM on May 19, 2011

Also, when she comes back, train her for this kind of situation. Everytime you feed her, say her name in exactly the same intonation (sing-song works well, and loud. think exxagerated Japanese)

Teach her to recognize the sound of a treat jar being used as a maraca.

Mix these two. Call her with the sing song intonation while shaking the treat jar and give hem some treats when she comes to you.
posted by Tarumba at 6:48 AM on May 19, 2011

Nthing walking around and calling for her. My indoor cat escaped our city apartment when she was I think about three. I was sick about it. We found her two days later, huddled in one of the ground-level windows of the building. I was walking around calling her, and she meowed back.
posted by torticat at 9:48 AM on May 19, 2011

When this happened to me, I didn't see my cat for a week, and I didn't get him back for two weeks. But I did get him back. Here's what I did:

* Stood at my door at dawn and dusk (that's when cats feel safe to come and go) and called Max's name and rattled some dry cat food in a bag.

* Put up fliers with a COLOR photo of Max on utility poles and on bulletin boards within a two-block radius of my place. (Seconding what jwells says about handing out fliers to people in person, too. People want to help.)

* Max reappeared in the neighbor's yard but wouldn't let me approach him. Someone from the local Humane Society let me borrow a Havahart humane animal trap, or you may be able to rent one from a hardware store.

I'd been putting out food for Max when he started coming around again, but when I wanted to trap him, I stopped. I set the trap and put in a blanket, a well-used T-shirt of mine, and a dish of tuna (the stinkier, the better). (And if your neighbors have outdoor cats, ask them to keep them inside for a night so you don't trap the wrong beast.) Around dawn the next day, my neighbor called and said, "He's home!"

Memail me if you have questions, and good luck ... I'm rooting for you and Apricot.
posted by virago at 11:56 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

P.S. Havahart traps are very easy to use. I can barely hammer a nail, and I had no problem with it.
posted by virago at 11:58 AM on May 19, 2011

You've moved into your new home, but is your old home nearby? A while back we moved from one place to another place that was about four blocks away. One of our kitties escaped...and went back there.

Leave a bunch of your stuff around outside, as suggested above. Shoes, clothing that has been worn, even Apricot's favourite pillow or duvet or whatever (if she has one). Cats have a great sense of smell, maybe not as amazing as a dog's, but still pretty good!

I hope you find your little princess, it's a horrible feeling for one of your animal companions to go missing, even for a short time.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:00 PM on May 19, 2011

if you don't live in an area where wild animals are a danger, you could try leaving her favorite food (can of tuna?) on the porch or in the front yard. best of luck.
posted by ghostbikes at 8:14 AM on May 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your stories and advice!

I'm happy to say that Apricot has returned! My father was over on the weekend and he went outside, called out her name and rattled a treat bag (which we had been doing every day, every hour, whenever we could, in addition to talking to neighbors and trolling the streets) and then went back inside to watch TV. Moments later she ran through the doggy door and into our living room, much to our surprise!

Thank you everyone :)
posted by blithecatpie at 3:29 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yay! I've been checking this thread every day. Thanks for letting us know. :-)
posted by callmejay at 3:46 PM on May 25, 2011

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