My cat came home! (Yay!) Now what?
March 13, 2015 5:51 AM   Subscribe

Should I be concerned about my cat's health and behavior after he was gone for about three days?

My cat ran out of the house unexpectedly Tuesday morning. There was no sign of him for three days, until this morning. I was leaving the house, and I saw him walk across the driveway. After some coaxing, I was able to approach him, and take him into the house. I'm glad that ordeal is over.

My concern stems from what he might have gotten himself into while outside for those three days. I don't know what he ate or drank. I don't know what he might have come into contact with. He seemed a bit skittish, but he's already letting me pet him again, and I'm hoping he'll feel more at home as time passes.

Should I take him to the vet, just in case? What about getting him a flea bath at a groomer (or could I do this at home)? Is there anything I should be on the lookout for regarding his behavior or health?

I'm glad he's back, but I guess I have other worries since it feels like he was away for so long.

Any advice is appreciated.
posted by Big Chief Little Pants to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
If you have not already scheduled a vet checkup for kitty, please do so. There are so many things your kitty could have gotten into, and the vet can give you an idea of what to keep an eye out for.
posted by bilabial at 6:02 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes, definitely get the little guy to the vet, especially if he is typically an indoor only cat. The trouble with cats is they are so extremely good at covering up illness and sickness that by the time they show any symptoms, things have already gotten to a bad state. The vet can give him a once over and give your way better advice on what to be on the lookout for than askMefi can.
posted by cgg at 6:17 AM on March 13, 2015

Thirding "vet", just to check him out.

Although, I have to ask - has he been spayed? If not, you....may want to do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on March 13, 2015

When I was a child living in the suburbs, my family went out of town for a week, with out next-door neighbor feeding our indoor/outdoor cats (whom we thought were both inside before we left town). On the first day, he saw one of them outside and tried to lure her in with an open can of food. She promptly took off. He called us to let us know, but there was nothing we could do from however far away we were. When we got back, she was there in the driveway, mildly pissed off but otherwise 100% healthy.

This is just a long winded way of saying everything is probably fine. In order of my personal concern would be: flees and other surface insects (probable), cuts and scratches that might get infected (possible), rabies (unlikely). As EmpressCallipygos mentioned, if your cat is unfixed that would be another issue. If your cat hasn't been to the vet recently, now is as good a time as any to make an appointment, but if he seems to be back to his old groove, I would personally not be super concerned. Also, if he is not microchiped, now seems like a good time to do that. Ask the vet ahead of time to make sure they do it.
posted by Phredward at 6:48 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Coming into close physical contact with another cat or another cat's waste would be my biggest concern. But it would take at least three days for my indoor cats to even come out from their hiding spots if they were locked out accidentally, let alone getting anywhere near another cat. So I wouldn't be too worried. But I agree - a checkup from a vet is a good idea. Try and bring a fresh litter box nugget with you.

I wouldn't worry about a flea bath right away. Is he on a monthly flea medication? If not, you might ask your vet about that. Keep checking him for beasties, keep an eye on his grooming habits.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:14 AM on March 13, 2015

My cat did that once and came back pregnant. At least you don't have that problem here. =)
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:21 AM on March 13, 2015

Yes, a vet check is a good idea just to be safe. You're probably fine without it if you check him over carefully for bites/scratches, but if you can swing a vet visit it'd be better.

If your cat brought fleas home, your vet will have some meds that kill fleas within 30 minutes. That plus a month of flea/parasite treatment should get your indoor kitty (and house) back to a stable flea-less condition.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:23 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, echoing that he's probably fine. And he had the time of his life partying, I'm sure.
posted by Melismata at 7:25 AM on March 13, 2015

This is definitely worthy of a quick trip to the vet. Vaccine boosters may be warranted, in addition to just needing a overall physical to check for wounds or other injuries. There are also other parasites/pathogens to consider that may vary depending on your location (ticks, leptospirosis, etc.) and your local vet is the person to ask about those.

bookdragoness: "If your cat brought fleas home, your vet will have some meds that kill fleas within 30 minutes."

Yes, if they don't immediately recommend it, you should ask your vet about a dose (plus maybe one to take home to administer in a week or so) of Capstar.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:14 AM on March 13, 2015

I would take him to the vet to check for any wounds at the very least. If he's got any broken skin at all, it's likely they'll want to give him a rabies booster.

If you're in the US, be aware that vets may be required to report your cat as a rabies risk if there are unexplainable skin injuries - even if your cat is up to date on rabies shots. Even if the injury is not clearly from a bite. Then, your cat may need to be quarantined in your home for a while. For ours it was 45 days, because she was up to date on her shots; it could have been 6 months, I think, if she hadn't been.

I make this point NOT to discourage you from going to the vet - you absolutely should - but to let you know what to expect when you get there.

It's not a problem if the cat is an indoor cat usually, but it was quite a trial for our indoor/outdoor kitty when she got a cut sometime last spring and ended up inside for most of the summer!
posted by kythuen at 10:41 AM on March 13, 2015

Response by poster: Returned from the vet just a bit ago. No problems detected; he got the treatments for fleas/parasites/etc. and the vaccine/rabies booster. He had no discernible cuts, scrapes, or injuries. I'll be monitoring him and taking him back for a check-up in 3-4 weeks.

Thank you for the quick responses and information.
posted by Big Chief Little Pants at 2:07 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

My kitty used to sneak out now and again, and it always scared the dickens out of me. (I'd usually find the little bastard a day or so later on the street outside, and when he saw me he'd let out a mew and come running to me like, "I was trapped outside and looking for you, the whole time!" Yeah, right!)

I'd always give him a very thorough exam for any cuts or signs of fighting, and I'd watch his behavior carefully for a few days. He lived to 16, and that was with a history of CRF. Other folks are suggesting a vet and that's probably a good idea, but if you can't afford a vet I'd say he'll probably be fine with a close watching for a few days.

As for what to look for, just watch for anything out of the ordinary. How is his energy level? Is he moving OK, or does he seem hesitant to jump up on things? Is he visiting his box too much, or not enough? After an adventure like this cats can be super-clingy or nervous and solitary, but watch for behavior that seems truly out of character.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:26 PM on March 13, 2015

No. Just enjoy your cat. My cats lived in my friend's back yard for two months, enjoyed the wild neighbor cats, and raccoons. They were fine and glad to be my full time cats again.
posted by Oyéah at 8:02 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're not already aware, his world has expanded, and after he processes it, he's probably going to go adventuring again (and again...) and may become increasingly independent of what you consider his home.
You're presumably being more careful about inadvertantly giving him opportunities. Keep being careful :)
posted by anonymisc at 11:22 PM on March 13, 2015

My #1 concern would have been worms--lord knows what he ate out there. Worm medicine is cheap and not particularly intrusive so if you didn't already get it from the vet, you might ask about it when you go back.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2015

If it'll ease your heart- then take him- but it shouldn't be necessary. He's a cat, he's meant to be out an about town on his own- regardless of how we personally feel about it. I would feel just the same as you if my cat disappeared for a few days, but he should be fine.

To tell you a story, growing up we had two cats who were both 'indoor and outdoor'. One cat never stayed out over night, while the other would disappear for days and sometimes weeks at a time and just walk through the front door whenever she felt like it. The oddest part about this was that she would always return after a week of being gone with a little extra pooch around her belly (she was fixed), and with her fur still as neatly groomed as the day she left.
One week she'd be gone, the next she'd waltz right in through the doggie door and eye every one coolly while settling back into her favorite nap haunts. It continued like this for several years until my sister and I passed one of our distant neighbor's house while out jogging and saw their children out on the lawn petting OUR cat who was supposed to be on one of her MIA spells. It turns out that she had found herself a second family where she liked to divide her time between their home and ours! Heaven only knows how many 'side families' she had for herself, you know how neurotic and welcoming us cat people can be!
Nothing ever happened to her other than the occasional case of mange, (buahaha) that cat died happily of old age.
posted by nephilim. at 4:05 PM on March 31, 2015

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