Lost cat in Manhattan; need pet detective.
June 30, 2013 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend a pet detective in Manhattan for my lost cat.

My Ada [1 2 3 4 5] went missing on the evening of June 20/morning of June 21. I was out of town and Ada was staying with a friend of mine, who lives about 20 blocks away from me. Ada most likely escaped through the open bathroom window, jumping down three stories and into the apartment courtyard. As all of this happened at night, nobody saw it happen.

What we have done thus far:
- Put up flyers with colour photos of Ada all over the neighbourhood.
- Checked all local animal shelters, and check the New York Animal Care and Control lost pets database everyday. She is microchipped, thankfully.
- Walked around the neighbourhood everyday, especially around dusk, calling her name.

I would like to hire a pet detective who specializes in finding lost cats in the Manhattan area (Washington Heights, specifically). None of the pet detectives in the Pet Detective Database are located in NY, although I see that some of them are willing to travel.

Here are my questions:
- Have you ever hired a pet detective from the database above? What was your experience, and would you recommend him/her to me?
- Have you ever hired a pet detective in the New York area?
- I really like the idea of tracking dogs. Have you ever hired a pet detective with tracking dogs, and if so, what was your experience?

My ideal set-up would be to hire someone in Manhattan with a tracking dog. I'm really scared that Ada has wandered -- she's an indoor cat, and has never been outside before. Money is no object at this point; I only care that I am hiring the best help available.
posted by tickingclock to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine was a pet detective in NYC a while back. She told me once that she found a good proportion of the animals through visiting local vets. People who take in lost pets will sometimes decide to keep them and will not identify the animal as lost when they visit the vet-- so if that's the case with Ada, the microchip won't help much. I would make sure you've also spoken with the staff at all the nearby vets. You shouldn't overlook pet stores either, as many of them host small-scale rescue operations.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:44 PM on June 30, 2013

I can't help with the pet detective, but are you familiar with FindToto lost pet alert service? I've never used it, but I keep it bookmarked just in case. I imagine it gets a bit less useful every year as more and more people get rid of landlines, but if it were my pet I would still use it.
posted by HotToddy at 2:12 PM on June 30, 2013

reddit.com/r/nyc is really great for these things, as well. They recently helped find a lost bird in Brooklyn.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:43 PM on June 30, 2013

I'll be no help with the pet detective angle, but I wanted to mention what I learned when the last time I had a missing cat. If your baby was indoor-only, chances are good she is still very close to where she got out. They tend to go to ground almost immediately in the safest, darkest place they can find, and to then not respond to their owners calls. Go to all the neighbors in a two-block area, and ask if they have seen her, or HEARD anything. Look in nooks, crannies, basements....Even if a hole looks tiny, peer around as best you can. A friend's cat was in an abandoned house and got in there in a hole you would have sworn she couldn't fit though. Use a live trap if it is feasible.

Good luck. I certainly know what you are going through. Don't give up. With a source of water, cats can stay hidden for weeks.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:18 PM on June 30, 2013

Seconding a live trap (or multiple) in a location very close to your home. I lost my cat in an unfamiliar wooded area and although it took two months, we found her (along with quite a few possums, raccoons, and shrews) by using three different live traps rigged with tuna, cat treats, and McDonald's cheeseburgers. She was actually in great condition, although pretty skinny, which was really surprising. If you can't find live traps at a local hardware store, you should check with nearby shelters - often they'll lend or rent out traps for finding lost pets.

This site was extremely helpful for me in helping me think about how my timid indoor-only cat might behave in a totally unfamiliar environment (mostly, hiding from everything including familiar scents and voices, which is why wandering the area yelling "Buffy!" wasn't very fruitful). Good luck, I know how hard this can be. Feel free to memail me if you have any questions on any details.
posted by augustimagination at 5:26 PM on June 30, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for your kind words and advice. Ada is still missing -- it has now been two weeks -- but my friends and I are continuing to do the best we can.

I still have not been able to find any pet detectives in the NY area, although I have been playing phone tag with one who works in the northeast US. I consulted with a different detective yesterday, which helped me feel optimistic.

My friend has created a Facebook page for Ada. Would you mind sharing it? I am trying to reach as many people in the area as possible. Thanks again.
posted by tickingclock at 10:10 PM on July 3, 2013

Response by poster: Also, can I just say that I really love the MeFi community? On my r/nyc post, two out of the three comments were Ace Ventura references, which is not helpful to say the least.
posted by tickingclock at 10:28 PM on July 3, 2013

Response by poster: It has been a month since my post, so I guess it's time to post an update.

Ada is still missing. I hired a pet detective from ME, who brought three smart and well-trained dogs with him; I was very impressed. He only tracked with one dog at a time, so we knew that the dogs were independently following the same trail, rather than simply copying each other. Our hypothesis is that Ada got out through the front door of the apartment (she only needs a 10-cm gap, no more), somebody saw her wandering in the hallway, picked her up, and probably took her in.

We are still putting up flyers and have raised the reward for finding her, but still, nobody has found her or returned her yet. There have been more look-alike sightings in the neighbourhood, but no definite leads. Still, it does make me feel better to know that people are looking out for her.
posted by tickingclock at 9:24 PM on July 31, 2013

Response by poster: WE FOUND ADA!

After seven long weeks, the prodigal cat returns! I am overjoyed -- I don't think I realized how much I missed her until I had her back in my arms.


She was in one of the apartments that the pet detective pointed out. The management was doing some repair work yesterday, and when the repairman opened up the apartment, Ada dashed out! She ran across the courtyard and went into the basement, where the repairman and the building superintendent trapped her.


On June 20~21, the door was left ever-so-slightly ajar for a brief period -- likely by the maintenance man, who probably did not know that Ada was there. Ada, being a small cat, only needs a gap of ~2"/~5cm to fit anywhere -- meaning that ever-so-slightly ajar was large enough to get through. She is also very curious and cannot leave an open door alone, so she snuck out for a brief peek.

While she was out, the open door was noticed, and promptly shut. Stuck outside, Ada wandered around the building hallway, until she ended up on the first floor. One of the apartments here was open, so she snuck in, and immediately hid -- she may even have gotten stuck in her hiding place. Cats can be invisible and quiet, especially when lost and in "survival mode," so she went without being noticed for weeks.


She looks mostly healthy, with no obvious signs of injury or disease (e.g., cuts, swollen lymph nodes). A full blood work-up is currently in progress, to check for long-term organ damage (e.g., kidneys, liver), which is a common problem with cats (and people) that have been missing for a long time.

There is, however, severe muscle wasting. She has lost 35~40% of her body mass, and weighs less now as an adult than she did as a six-month-old kitten. She can barely jump half as high as she used to. Hopefully there hasn't been irreparable damage; as she's still a young cat and was healthy before she went missing, there is a good chance that she'll recover fully.

She also smells like the urine-soaked floor of a NY subway, but hopefully this is temporary.


Just as with people, cat behaviour can change after a traumatic event. So far, she seems fairly normal -- she still comes when I call her name, remembers her favourite spots, her favourite mugs (she prefers to drink out of mugs when I am around), and so forth.

However, she is quieter and more reserved than before; she doesn't even squirm when I pick her up, which is a big change. This may or may not be permanent, and perhaps she will go back to her rambunctious self once she regains her muscle mass. She also starts crying if I leave her alone for too long.

She was purring and kneading a lot, though, so I know she's happy to be back!

I am immensely grateful for the pet detective, who narrowed down the search area and gave me hope that I should keep looking. If it hadn't been for him and his wonderful dogs, I probably would have given up much sooner, and probably would have stopped putting up flyers in the building. If it hadn't been for the flyers, the repairman and the super probably would not have recognized Ada when she dashed out, and probably would not have caught her.

All in all, I feel lucky to have Ada back, and can't ask for more. I am so happy that I can tag this post resolved.
posted by tickingclock at 10:32 PM on August 8, 2013 [136 favorites]

What a great outcome! I'm really happy for you and so glad little Ada is safe at home.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:38 AM on August 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are a good cat mommy.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:28 AM on August 12, 2013

Hurray! So very happy for you both!
posted by wallabear at 7:14 PM on August 13, 2013

Allrighty then!

posted by Nanukthedog at 3:08 AM on August 22, 2013

posted by kathrynm at 3:48 PM on August 25, 2013

So happy for you and Ada! Thanks for spreading the good news :)
posted by eggkeeper at 12:49 PM on September 19, 2013

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