Where oh where has my little cat gone?
October 7, 2005 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Lost Cat Filter: My sister just moved into a new place, and woke up to find that her cat was missing. It's 3 years old and has only ever been an indoor cats. He has no collar or microchip. Any advice on how we can find him?

She is pretty sure he got out through a window that was open, as the screen had been pushed out of place, so a cat could have squeezed through. She's called animal control and all of the local shelters, and has visited her old neighborhood a couple of times to see if the cat managed to get back there.

Does anyone have any experience hunting down a missing cat? Any particularly good places to look? Do they ever come back?

It would be less nerve-wracking if he had ever been outdoors before and if she wasn't in an entirely new neighborhood. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
posted by tastybrains to Pets & Animals (29 answers total)
Have you checked behind the refrigerator to make sure he's not back there? That seems to be the favored place for cats to go when they've just been moved into a new place, and you would not believe the tiny amount of space they can squeeze into.
posted by MsMolly at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2005

If there's a local Craigslist, try that, too.
posted by tristeza at 2:46 PM on October 7, 2005

I've heard of cats escaping and going back to their old homes. Maybe check her old neighborhood as well?
posted by idiotfactory at 2:50 PM on October 7, 2005

Every time we'ved moved our cats would become extremely traumatized and would find a dark, quiet spot in the new house and just sit there for hours or even a couple of days. Check cupboards, drawers, boxes, suitcases, underneath and inside your sofa, all nooks and crannies, everywhere, before you go searching outdoors. They can hide in surprising places. Good luck.
posted by ldenneau at 2:55 PM on October 7, 2005

Since the cat was indoor only, I think it's unlikely the cat has gone far. Check the inside of the house very well for a scared cat, and if no luck, check outside in hidey holes close by. My cat when scared will not make a sound until you make direct eye contact, so simply calling is not enough; I have to peer into bushes and look for little cat feet under things. I bet it's close by. Also, break out the emergency can of tuna (that every can owner should have) and walk around with it. That might work too.
posted by dness2 at 2:56 PM on October 7, 2005

Cats like to "map" everything. Move a piece of furniture in a room and they are all over it, looking mildly anxiety-ridden. If its always been an inside cat then it probably went for the closest thing to being indoors. I'd check with all the neighbors and ask them to check their garages. A cat can get inside an opened door and then get caught there when the door goes down. The scariest thing about a cat being outdoors (if it has never been) is the streets, but we don't want to think about that.
posted by spock at 2:59 PM on October 7, 2005

My cat ran away twice after two separate moves and I got him back both times after leafleting the neighborhood. Both times he got out (I never could work out who was stupider - him or me) and became disoriented and hunkered down somewhere safe. Both times he ended up no further than two blocks away. It's worth walking around at night when it's quiet and he's less scared and calling him. Good luck.
posted by firstdrop at 3:03 PM on October 7, 2005

Since it's an indoor cat, it probably hasn't gone far. Try sardines; there was just a story in the local paper about a refugee family from New Orleans that had lost their cat. It worked for them.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 3:04 PM on October 7, 2005

I'd second the dark quiet space answers. A similar thing happened with my partner's cat just after moving house, and it simply went to ground into the nearest bit of cover it could find. This cat had also been principally an indoor cat, with little experience of open spaces. It didn't go far, and it did come back after a lot of coaxing.
posted by greycap at 3:09 PM on October 7, 2005

If you are 100% certain the cat is outside, and if possible, leave the door/window cracked open at night. The cat will wait for nightfall before breaking cover. Good Luck, I know it feels awful.
posted by Triode at 3:13 PM on October 7, 2005

chocolatepeanutbuttercup writes "Try sardines"

Or not. To paraphrase Dirk Gently, with sardines you may end up not with the cat you want but with the ones you ought to have.

When we moved both our (then indoor only) cats would vanish for the whole day into very small spaces, leaving their hideout only if a litter box visit was mandatory. They wouldn't even eat while there were anyone else awake in the house. They slowly recognized and occupied again their previous favorite spots (like the cable tv box). But it took sometime.
posted by nkyad at 3:38 PM on October 7, 2005

Second the behind the fridge suggestion. The exact same thing happened when I moved into a new apartment. My cat was able to squeeze behind and under the fridge, and stayed there for hours. He didn't emerge until I had been quiet for a couple of hours and it seemed "safe" to come out.
posted by googly at 3:46 PM on October 7, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks guys...she has her old roommate searching the old neighborhood and is searching the area around the new house. I'm making her up some fliers to post everywhere as soon as the rain lets up.

This kitty is my cats' littermate so I feel especially sad. It's like my furry little nephew. :-(
posted by tastybrains at 3:49 PM on October 7, 2005

When our indoor cat got out, we put out food and water for him -- and some clothes we had worn recently. Not sure whether the clothes helped, but I found him on the second morning he was lost eating the food. Good luck!
posted by shallowcenter at 4:17 PM on October 7, 2005

People who search for lost animals almost always find them within a mile or so radius (Dammit, where did I read it?)

I'd suggest keeping the cat's food nearby...and even possibly used litter if there is such...a family smell for the cat. or a favorite toy or such.
posted by filmgeek at 4:45 PM on October 7, 2005

I hope the cat is found. All I can add to this thread is:

Have you checked behind the refrigerator to make sure he's not back there? That seems to be the favored place for cats to go when they've just been moved into a new place, and you would not believe the tiny amount of space they can squeeze into.

This has happened to me several times. They can hide just about anywhere.
posted by interrobang at 5:22 PM on October 7, 2005

Good advice here. I'd add that she should call all the vet clinics in the neighbourhood (and in her old neighbourhood), and ideally take them copies of the flyers. Also, she should actually visit the shelters and look at the cats they have, it's often the case that a shelter doesn't have enough staff or an efficient enough system for logging incoming animals and making sure that the people on the phones have access to those logs to make just calling them reliable enough. I hope the cat comes back, your poor sister.
posted by biscotti at 5:25 PM on October 7, 2005

Report the missing cat to the SPCA. Years ago when my parrot flew out the window of my new place, I reported it to the SPCA and within two days they had matched my "missing" report with a "found" report.
posted by trip and a half at 5:46 PM on October 7, 2005

Advice from the professional $200/hr dog tracker we did not hire when we lost our cat after a move:

Put some used underwear or a sweaty t-shirt on the front porch so the cat can identify the unfamiliar house.

Put your own urine in a squirt bottle and squirt trees, stairs, fire hydrants, etc around the house and down the block.

After searching and flyering and waiting, my wife actually sprayed her own urine all over the neighborhood (with a squirt bottle, that is.)

No luck for us but maybe it'll work for you.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 6:53 PM on October 7, 2005

When my cat (yes, Toots again) got out in Brooklyn (where she wasn't allowed out) I found her hanging out with a bunch of alley cats. I got her away from that scene with her preferred cat signal: a box of her favorite dry food, rattled (along with about 15 others). This was after several days (and a couple other cats who tried to persuade me that I wanted them). She was preggers. fortunately only 3, and all were placed.

If your cat isn't spayed/neutered, finding the local cat hangout should find your cat.

Even in a non-city environment, the outdoors can freak out an indoor cat. Cricket would occasionally make a break out the door and get about 6 feet before she would hunker down, ears back, eyes wide, in sheer terror. Nothing there but wind and trees and open space. Maybe a car passing, but likely not. Funny enough, she never learned to stop doing that.
posted by Goofyy at 9:27 PM on October 7, 2005

Everbody's right. Paper the surounding mile with zillions of flyers. I learned that if she is social, within about ten days she'll start looking for human companionship, so make sure that human has seen your flyer. Mine turned up in someone's yard lounging on a chair on day 9.
posted by puddinghead at 9:38 PM on October 7, 2005

No real hints, but a friend in a similar situation had a happy ending to her cat escaping. When she first moved to Seattle, one of her cats ran off. That cat just came home a little while ago, three YEARS after the cat initially ran off! They are now happily living together again.

So don't give up hope for your sister's missing feline overlord!
posted by spinifex23 at 11:12 PM on October 7, 2005

When I moved as a kid, my cat ran off for probably a month or so. He came back little worse for the wear (this was the country) and settled back into living his life as he had previously. So, even if you come up empty on the posters, there is a possibility that the cat will just come home when it's done doing whatever it is that it wants to do.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:48 AM on October 8, 2005

what about shaking a box of cereal... always worked when I was a kid when we'd lose our cat.... or use an electric can opener with a can of tuna.

Best of Luck!
posted by adamfunman at 11:26 AM on October 8, 2005

I second the suggestion of putting your dirty clothes, sheets, towels, etc. out where the cat can smell them. Porch, lawn, bushes, patio, etc.

Also has your friend checked the inside of her boxsprings(if she has that kind of bed)? I have known two cats who dug their way into the boxsprings to get away from a stressful situation. There's usually only a thin, gauzy fabric covering the boxsprings so it's easy for them to get through.
posted by lobakgo at 11:55 AM on October 8, 2005

Sorry...I should have written "your sister."
posted by lobakgo at 1:11 PM on October 8, 2005

When we first got our cat and brought her home to our new flat, she pushed up a window that was open just a crack, busted out through the flyscreen and went on the lam. We found her down a street drain, but couldn't catch her. Food on the front doorstep brought her home after about three days. She was an accomplished outdoor cat, though.
posted by flabdablet at 10:11 AM on October 9, 2005

Emily Littella filter:
After searching and flyering and waiting, my wife actually sprayed her own urine all over the neighborhood (with a squirt bottle, that is).

Nonmyopicdave, is there a website where a distraught pet owner can buy a bottle of your wife's ... essence?*
*What, what? You mean, use a bottle of your own urine?? ... Never mind!"
posted by rob511 at 4:02 PM on October 9, 2005

Response by poster: Just in case anyone cares, my sister's cat came back! She followed your advice in putting some of her clothes in a cat carrier on her doorstep and found him in there 3 days after he ran away.

Thanks everyone for your help!
posted by tastybrains at 7:05 PM on October 13, 2005

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