Catting around or really lost?? Leaving in the morning, don't want cat to die. Help.
December 18, 2012 4:37 PM   Subscribe

I leave tomorrow for two weeks, and I'm not sure if this cat has a home. Help!

I've had a cat visitor every few months since Feb 2011. Usually she comes and gets pets and then goes. I swear she has/had owners. She's very sweet and loving and likes to get up on you and knead and head butt.

The last few weeks, though, she's been hanging around very close to here. She stayed around here two weekends ago (outside, mostly, with just a couple of snuggle visits) from Friday to Tuesday, and then disappeared for four days. Then she came back and has come back once or twice a day since.

I fed her salmon that time when she was here for days. Probably not the best thing to do, but I only did it twice. OK, three times counting today.

I put her in a suitcase and took her to the vet for a chip scan last Monday. Nothing. I emailed neighborhood listservs with pictures. Nothing.

I leave tomorrow for two weeks and am frantic that she's back. She was here this morning and here this evening. This morning I tried to feed her a saltine to see just how starving she was, but she didn't eat it. This evening I tried to feed her a fortune cookie, same thing, and she didn't eat that either. I fed her a nugget of frozen salmon, and she chowed down. So I fed her again. Not a lot, but I don't want her to die!

She might be spending nights under my house in the crawl space, which has a vent that's been knocked loose. I haven't fixed it because I am scared she is going to get cold otherwise.

Anyway, sorry about the infodump there.

I leave tomorrow morning for two weeks. I live in central North Carolina, so it isn't necessarily going to be -20F or anything, but it is getting down into the 30s and lower at night.

What the hell can I do? Assume I can't find anyone to come take care of her.

Also, I am allergic. Very allergic. But I love her. I have named her Tiny.
posted by Stewriffic to Pets & Animals (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Wait, I misspoke. She has stayed away two times, once for 4 days and once for three.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:39 PM on December 18, 2012

Cat will be fine. They have many sources of food.
posted by sammyo at 4:41 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, I don't know how much time you have, but if you can cut a hole in a big Rubbermaid bin (I use a knife heated over the stove) then stuff it with straw (not hay) then it will give her a makeshift shelter. If she's been making her way to the crawl space you could also put some food down there.

Have you contacted local cat rescue groups?

Also, she probably didn't eat the fortune cookie or saltine because cats don't usually eat those foods. They're obligate carnivores, which means they eat meat only (or cat food).
posted by Anonymous at 4:43 PM on December 18, 2012

Can you have a friend stop by and just put a big bowl of water and food out 2 or three times while you are away?

She's probably going to be just fine, but then you don't have to worry.
posted by Vaike at 4:44 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

She'll be okay. It sounds like she's used to scrounging around for food and affection and there are feral cats all over the world thriving in worse weather conditions than North Carolina winters. Just leave out some extra food and water if you want to make extra sure she has a backup plan.
posted by something something at 4:44 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why not just leave a large bowl of dry cat food somewhere inconspicuous and ensure she won't starve? Also a bowl of water, water sources can be quite hard to come by for strays.
posted by tatiana131 at 4:45 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

By "food" here you should assume people mean dry cat kibble, which is what I'd get if I needed to feed a stray cat and wouldn't be around for awhile. Put out a couple of big bowls (something that won't break) but assume some may be eaten by raccoons or other animals besides your cat.
posted by zadcat at 4:47 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

She probably has owners but comes around because you're cool, have yummy salmon and petting skills!

Something you could do: put an old towel / blanket where you think she might be hanging out at night. Styrofoam boxes work well as DIY cat shelters.

Leave a big bowl of dry food outside (ideally so other animals won't get to it) so you know for sure she'll have some food around.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:53 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you put food in your crawlspace, you may well come home to find worse things than a stray in there.

Even if she lacks proper owners, she'll do just fine at finding food for two weeks (and won't starve to death if she doesn't). Don't worry about it, cats do pretty well at surviving without human intervention.
posted by pla at 4:55 PM on December 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: If you put food in your crawlspace, you may well come home to find worse things than a stray in there.

This is my fear in addition to leaving her.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:56 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

considering that she is not afraid of people and quite happily comes to you for snuggles, I imagine you're not the only person that feeds her. plus, cats are natural hunters and there is a good chance she will catch something.

As for the cold, 30F is really not that cold. I see cats outside in that weather and they seem just fine, but granted I live in Alberta and we don't consider that cold at all, particularly for night time. Also cats are furry and are quite capable of climbing into warmer and cozier crevices when needed.

I imagine a bowl of water may be more helpful actually. Maybe.
posted by electriic at 4:59 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have time tomorrow morning, you could call the SPCA and see if they would be willing to take her. The one in Raleigh is very nice and is no-kill. If you do that, though, you run the risk that she is actually somebody's pet that you have just put up for adoption.
posted by something something at 5:02 PM on December 18, 2012

Hey Stew. If you have a friend that could come by three or four times and put some dry food out, the kitty should be fine. I would offer but I don't live there anymore :) I would put out a big thing of water though. Agreed that kitties are pretty resourceful. My cat disappeared for six weeks and managed to stay alive in the wilds of Chapel Hill.
posted by greta simone at 5:16 PM on December 18, 2012

Best answer: Don't put food out and don't take the cat to a shelter This cat has an owner, I bet you $200 it does. Just leave it, it'll be completely fine.

My neighbors cat was sitting on my lawn at 12am licking its butt and hanging out while it was all of about 1 degree (F) the other night. Cats are furry.
posted by fshgrl at 5:26 PM on December 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

Is she mangy? Does she have fleas? Is she scrawny and underfed?

If not, please don't assume she's a stray. Plenty of cats have homes but are allowed outside and like to roam, even staying away from home for days. And don't assume because she has no collar or chip that she's unowned. When I lived at my parents, only one of our cats had a chip (the other we got when a friend's cat had kittens), and both were such experts at getting out of collars that we gave up. They're both allowed outside, and during fair weather are allowed to remain outside while nobody's home. A "well-meaning" neighbor decided she could take our friendlier cat inside and feed him milk (which makes him vomit) and let him nap in our house. Without asking us. And you know, those days we needed him to come inside and he wouldn't come and wouldn't come? Turns out he was inside her house. Normally he'd show up within 10-15 minutes. Made us worried sick when we couldn't find him, and it turns out he'd just been catnapped. I'm not saying that's for certain here, but it sounds like you live in a suburban or rural area where it's very common for people to have indoor/outdoor cats.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:23 PM on December 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Based on that video that shows the "secret lives of cats" I'm thinking that even a homeless cat could fend for itself food-wise for a few weeks.
posted by radioamy at 6:39 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

schroedinger: "Well, I don't know how much time you have, but if you can cut a hole in a big Rubbermaid bin (I use a knife heated over the stove) then stuff it with straw (not hay) then it will give her a makeshift shelter."

This is your best bet, imo. And although straw would be great, even some old towels or a pile of newspapers would be fine. Cats like comfy hidey-holes.

And I'm not a stray (or feral) cat expert, but most of the ones I've known have been very lean, bordering on too skinny, and their coats are often matted, dirty and just otherwise unattractive. Your visitor looks healthy and shiny and, from what I can see from the pic, a good weight. So it's very likely this cat has an owner, or at least a regular place to go that's out of the elements.

I wouldn't worry.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:52 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

When my brother-in-law moved we found out his cat effectively had a second home in their apartment complex. The cat had done a runner during the move so they were out searching when they found him in a neighbour's yard - it turns out he regularly (2+ times a week) came to hang out with her, occasionally for longer periods, and she had begun feeding him as well.

She probably has an owner and what you're doing just reinforces her behaviour.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:33 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another shelter option is to put a couple of towels or a pillow in the Rubbermaid. One of my cats LOVES bath towels and will arrange them to her liking and sleep the day away. She also will snuggle down on a pillow if a towel isn't available. Both would be a good way to keep warm.
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:04 PM on December 18, 2012

She's gorgeous. She totally has a home. (Or several!)

Anecdata: The first time we moved we had a yard sale. The lady from a few doors down came by and saw our cat hanging out and said "Oh! Is that your cat?" and promptly showed us a video on her iphone of him rolling around and purring in her lap. Apparently he did this very very regularly while we were away at work. The next house we lived at he'd follow a neighbour who passed by our place on the way to the community garden (1/2 block away, she crossed the street with him). He regularly visited several cat-friendly neighbours at that house, and was friends with the cats and their humans. Sometimes he had cat buddies over for "a beer". This (third) house is in a cul-de-sac that butts into an elementary school and "all the kids love him". There were kids at our front gate an hour ago yelling "meow meow!" and he ran to them...

Our other cat goes absolutely batsh*t crazy for fresh fish, especially salmon. You're her dope dealer. =)
posted by jrobin276 at 12:41 AM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: OK. I'm going to assume she has a home and not worry about her other than putting some water out. She's not here this morning so far (yay, because it's cold out!), which I am taking as a good sign.

She's a good cat. I'll follow up when I get back from the holidays to let y'all know if i see her again.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:51 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you fed me salmon three times in two weeks, I'd be hanging out at your place a lot too.

Stray cats do not have the "I'm a pretty pretty princess!" look that Tiny exhibits. Hell, I can't keep our two from getting little matts in their fur with semi-regular brushing and they're indoor only!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:53 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm with fhsgrl; this cat has an owner. Over here, we've got Orange Cat, whom me wife and I sometimes argue over whether he's got a home. He's mostly clean, but has dirt in his fur (he'll roll on the ground if you pet him; of course he'll pick up dirt). He's lean (but not scrawny). He'll nom down all the cat treats you can give him (but he won't touch kibble).

Since then, I've twice seen a nearby teen carry the cat from the bus stop to his house; I think that Orange Cat would tear me to shreads if I picked him up.

Don't put food out; I put food out a few nights, and shortly thereafter we saw a giant racoon leaving our back yard in the morning. We then had to deal with him tearing into our trash. I consider it lucky that after a few weeks of keeping the trash in the garage, I could move it back out to the side of the house without it getting opened. There were really cute racoon prints going to the crawl space under our deck. You can google, but I don't think you want racoons hanging around; they're cute, but destructive, stubborn and smart enough to be a problem.
posted by nobeagle at 6:50 AM on December 19, 2012

Response by poster: OK, just got back. Tiny is not around. It's raining, though. I'll check back in when/if I see her.
posted by Stewriffic at 10:26 AM on January 1, 2013

Thanks for checking back in. Hope she shows up.
posted by zadcat at 3:21 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: Someone came back!
posted by Stewriffic at 2:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: She really loves me.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:27 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Couple more, just because.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:09 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yay! (and boy, does she look happy to see you!)
posted by Vaike at 6:10 PM on January 9, 2013

OHHH! Adorable!
posted by travelwithcats at 10:40 PM on January 9, 2013

Response by poster: Oh, and I fixed the vent so that nobody can get in the crawlspace anymore. I saw a big, mean-looking cat go in there, so when I was pretty sure that cat was out, I re-installed the vent piece.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:34 AM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: Ha! I found out where she lives. It's literally 2 doors down from me, but across a street. She just cats around. Can't bear to find out her "real" name though. She'll always be "Tiny" to me.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:13 PM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: So today I was out walking and ran into Tiny's people. We struck up a conversation. Tiny's "real" name is Buttons, and she's 6 years old.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:05 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

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