How to deal - lost cat edition
April 5, 2020 1:45 PM   Subscribe

My cat got out over a week ago and I can't find him. Help me cope.

My cat got out over a week ago. He is a beautiful cat and a great source of comfort for me and I love him very much. I have done all the things to try to find him and get the word out and now I just find myself staring sadly out the windows. My house has a lot of windows. Please suggest specific actions I can take to help me cope emotionally.
posted by maddieD to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are his food dishes, beds and litter box[es] outside to promote his coming around to be seen / caught?
posted by Freedomboy at 1:49 PM on April 5, 2020

Best answer: I am so, so sorry. I have been in a situation similar to this and it's very sad and very hard. Sending hugs your way.

First, be gentle with yourself. Try not to blame yourself - this is not your fault! - but give yourself permission to feel sad. Express it through any medium you like. I always find it helpful to journal about my feelings. It does not have to be fancy- in fact, it can be a brain dump where you write non-stop for ten minutes (set a timer) with every thought passing through your head, stream of conscious, until it's all out. Or, you can make an artsy journal and use it for doodles and stray thoughts.

Second, if you have the resources, find fun but low stakes ways to distract your brain. A complicated baking recipe. Teaching yourself origami. Downloading Duolingo and doing the first few lessons of a language you've always been interested in. Watching funny Vine compilations on YouTube. Jumping Jack's or other fast-paced calisthenics to a favorite song. If you have a friend you can call or video chat with, do so. Tetris or another video game where you have to think and react fast.

The key is to keep your mind busy, at least part of the time. You may not necessarily be able to change feeling sad or how long you feel sad for, but you can find ways to distract your mind so that you're less likely to sink deeper.
posted by nightrecordings at 2:09 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Cats are fickle things. Assuming it's ok, it may be on a sojourn or it may have another family who think it's THEIR cat. Happened to me.
posted by Max Power at 2:09 PM on April 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I hope this doesn't sound too judgy but a week is not long enough before giving up on a cat. This person found their cat after they "searched every day for 3 weeks." As a young kid I personally saw a cat return on their own after being missing for weeks.

Maybe you have health or other concerns that make it difficult for you to pound the pavement every day for weeks looking for your cat, but if you live in a house and are spending time sadly staring out the windows, you could instead sit on your porch sadly staring out with some treats at your feet, or in different locations around your neighborhood. Distracting yourself with journals or Duolingo is something to do if you've given the cat up for lost, which, again, I think it's too early. Maybe your sadness is tied up with up with you feeling like you ought to be doing more, but aren't.

I'm sorry if this sounds cruel. I think even if you don't find your cat in the end, you will feel better if you spend this time out there looking instead of what you're doing now. I'm very sorry you're going through this and hope the best for both you and your cat.
posted by bright flowers at 2:32 PM on April 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

First, I am so, so sorry that you're going through this. I agree with bright flowers' advice to keep looking, even though it hurts. A friend of mine lost an indoor-only cat and even though it was still in the neighborhood, it was lost enough that it couldn't get back home. She found it by setting up camera traps (you can order them online) around her yard and (with permission) in neighboring yards and finally enticed the cat into a live trap (can buy online or possibly borrow from cat rescue people) after a month gone. Even if you can't be out searching in person, reviewing the footage would at least be something more proactive to do than looking out the window.
posted by LadyOscar at 3:42 PM on April 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have recent experience helping to look for a friend's cat. I researched the bejeezus out of this topic.

I'm assuming you've already created a Facebook page for him with your number, and placed listings on all relevant lost pet sites. If not, do so. Ditto putting posters up.

If you can offer a cash reward, indicate that in large font on your posters and online listings.

Displaced indoor-only cats often hide out for 7-10 days out of fear. You should absolutely still be out there looking. Take a flashlight and look nearby to your house at night, so you can potentially see his eyes shining. With permission, look under decks, parked cars, in tool sheds, etc.

Enlist neighbors, postal carriers, UPS drivers.

Continue to check shelters, including checking web sites of nearby counties.

Set up wildlife cameras in the area so you can see if he's around. Set up humane traps with cat food in them when you can be awake and nearby to check them every half hour or so.

The myth of setting out dirty litter or food just will not die. You should not do this because it will attract other more dominant, confident outdoor cats (and other animals) making it *less* likely your scared kitty will return home on his own.

When walking around looking for him, speak in a normal tone of voice. Don't let your anxiety about his disappearance show. Cats are more likely to come out of hiding if they get the cue from you that everything's OK.

Good luck.
posted by nirblegee at 6:59 PM on April 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I had a missing cat turn up after 5 weeks
What helped was putting posters everywhere and letter boxing. It led to a restaurant recognizing her as the stray hanging around looking for scraps.
posted by daybeforetheday at 4:48 AM on April 6, 2020

Let yourself feel upset. If you enjoy writing, write out stories about your cat (or type, if you prefer to go all-digital.) Look at photos of your cat, remember them.

In other ways to cope, make a list of household chores and force yourself to do one each day. Break bigger tasks down into smaller ones, so that you can spend am hour each day doing a task. (That keeps them from feeling overwhelming, so that you just don't start any of them.) As you do each task, cross it off or put a checkmark by it - it's surprising how much that helps you to know how much you have done, but it really does.

Do some light exercise every day: walk around your neighborhood, go outside and do jumping jacks, something that gets your blood moving and your heart pumping just a little more. It's a daily "thing to do" that can be part of your routine and help you cope.

Make sure to eat and drink. If it helps you, make yourself 6-8 daily reminders to eat and drink rather than having the normal "three meals a day". It breaks up the day more, and it means more you can cross off of your "done today" list - which can help you see that, yes, you are making progress through life.


Once, my eldest cat got out and ran off. Almost three months later, she found her way back home. (This was while I was living in a trailer park, so she had plenty of other peoples' outdoor cat food to eat and water to drink. She was just terrified, and I didn't know how to help her find her way back.)

Hang an unlaundered shirt of yours (something you've worn, something that smells like you) out on your patio or porch. That will help kitty re-find their home. Hang it up, though, don't necessarily leave it on the ground. Any breeze blowing through the shirt will help spread the scent your kitty knows - and something hanging up vs. something laying on the ground will help keep other critters from coming to "claim" the thing as theirs.
posted by Tailkinker to-Ennien at 9:08 AM on April 6, 2020

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