CATch Me If You Can!
July 5, 2008 9:21 AM   Subscribe

My cat refuses to be caught. The problem: we've moved out of state. Help!

My wife let our cat out the morning of the day we were scheduled to move out of state (we planned to leave that afternoon). Our normally cooperative and friendly cat usually comes back within an hour or two of going out, but this time (maybe due to the weirdness of the house being empty, us hustling about, etc.) he refused to come back in.

We had to make the difficult choice to leave him behind temporarily, because we both had to be at the house closing for our new home first thing the next morning (one of the few circumstances that would force our hand, I promise). We left notes with all our neighbors asking them to notify us if they were able to corner our cat, with no luck. That was three days ago.

Obviously, we wanted to get back ASAP, before our kitty got the idea that he had been abandoned forever. My wife was able to go back yesterday; the neighbors reported plenty of sightings, and the new residents at our old house graciously agreed to let her camp out on the back porch to wait for the cat (they're away for the weekend).

My wife did see our cat soon after arriving, but he's still refusing to come within a few yards of her, even after we put his favorite foods all around the porch. One of our former neighbors had a box trap, which was set up last night, but the little bastard figured out how to get the bait without springing the trap.

Long story short: my wife doesn't want to spook him any more than necessary by continuing to call and follow him. Animal control is closed until Monday. No vets we can get a hold of do house calls. My wife can't stay camped out forever-- she has to come back tomorrow at the latest.

I did see this post about catching a stray cat, but I think this is a somewhat different and higher-stakes situation. Any ideas?
posted by Rykey to Pets & Animals (18 answers total)
She needs to round up as many people as she can and try to hunt him down. There's not a lot else she can do if she's got to leave soon. It's hard on the cat, but what are your alternatives at this point?

Call back some of those vets and ask for the names of rescue people in the area (or she could go in to the office and look at their bulletin boards). Local animal lovers would probably be willing to come over and help for the afternoon. Also call local shelters. They may be able to spare a volunteer to come help (who otherwise is dealing with cats who have been abandoned in similar circumstances by owners who don't care, unlike you.)

Where is she now? If she's in the Chicago area, I'll go help her.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:34 AM on July 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much for your kindness, SS, but she's in Madison, Wisconsin.

She needs to round up as many people as she can and try to hunt him down... It's hard on the cat, but what are your alternatives at this point?

I should have been more clear-- we're not so much concerned about traumatizing the cat by catching him (he'll be OK, I'm sure). We just want him to forget she's after him if at all possible-- he'll usually come up on the porch to be pet if he doesn't think we're trying to catch him.

But thanks for the tips-- I'll pass them on!
posted by Rykey at 9:44 AM on July 5, 2008

If you can, ask the new residents or perhaps a trusted neighbour to put some food out for your cat once a day, not much, he needs to be a bit hungry and obviously you provide the food. That way, he'll be keen to stick around and come on a regular basis to one place. This will make it easier for someone to live trap him. This is where the rescue people that SuperSquirrel mentioned come in. They can be very skilled at trapping when time is of the essence. Contact them.

Good luck.
posted by Arqa at 9:48 AM on July 5, 2008

Has the person who bought your house been cooperative? Your wife should try standing back inside your old house with the door open like she used to do when you lived there. After a few days of running around outside after being freaked out with the move, the little guy might just want to come home. And home isn't being camped out on the neighbor's porch. Cats are all about routine.

(When I was a kid, we used to have to hide our suitcases when packing for trips, because even the sight of them would send our cat out of the house refusing to come nearer than 10 feet away from us. He was always, though, a sucker for those felt mice. If we dangled one, he'd leap up to it and we could catch him. Worth a try as well, at this point.) Good luck!
posted by meerkatty at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Try renting a humane trap...our local shelter will probably have one. I know here you can rent them for like $10/day. You put food in them, so the cat goes in, trips the door closed, and is safely stuck inside.
posted by radioamy at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2008

Response by poster: Your wife should try standing back inside your old house...
The new residents are away for the weekend.

And home isn't being camped out on the neighbor's porch.
She's not camped on the neighbor's porch. She's camped on our old porch.

Try renting a humane trap...
Have trap, hasn't worked so far.

*tap tap* Is this thing on?
posted by Rykey at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2008

I've seen litter attractant at the pet store, maybe it could help lure him into the trap?
posted by sunshinesky at 11:31 AM on July 5, 2008

Yeah, not being able to get into the house is a major, major problem. I agree the animal trap won't work as cats are wary of confined spaces, and multiple people chasing the cat around may just scare it up a tree or under a house.

What I'd be looking at doing is getting a large wire crate, like this at Tractor Supply or Petsmart (make sure it's returnable), the largest you can get. Do not install floor pan, as it will make the cat apprehensive. Put 5 or 10 tins of open tuna inside... and have multiple redundant strings attached to the door and threaded through the cage, going to several places where your wife might be so that she can pull the door closed. A few of these strings should go 50-100 ft from the cage so the cat is not alarmed by having someone hanging around. Cat goes inside, pull the door shut, voila. Return crate for refund if you have no moral objections about it.

Aside from that I think this is certainly a tough situation. Let us know what happened.
posted by crapmatic at 12:21 PM on July 5, 2008

OK, is the back porch more like a deck, with something overhead, like a lattice or something? Because what if she got a big net or some kind of canopy that she could loosely attach - maybe using masking tape or something that would give with a strong tug. Tie strings on it such that she could sit on a chair in the middle and hold the other ends. Wait for kitty to come on the deck, pull the strings, and poof! netting comes down, trapping kitty.

Of course, the problem is this will no doubt terrorize the kitty so much that he would never come near that porch again, so it would have to work the first time.

Or, she could hold the net and try to throw it over him when he comes near. A big beach towel might do the trick too?

Has he ever had catnip? If she could put some catnip into a treat that he likes (throw it out into the yard so he doesn't have to get too close), maybe he would eat it and get so mellow she could grab him.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:04 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Catnip, or his favourite (smelly, wet) food on the porch. Then have your wife go away from the porch. He is likely to stick around long enough eating or getting high that he can be trapped.

I'd maybe try this on a friendly neighbour's porch first, so she can go inside and watch for him. Did any of your neighbours ever feed the cat?

This might take longer than a day or two, so be sure that the new owners have your contact info (and maybe some food), just in case.
posted by jeather at 1:33 PM on July 5, 2008

Ugh! Cats are such little bastards! He's probably up in a tree smugly watching your wife worry about him. :) Especially after feasting out of the cat-trap!

Has she been reading newspapers or doing other things he might like to get involved with?? (I dare say he's real close by.) Little shit, wring his neck for me when you catch him :)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:06 PM on July 5, 2008

It is a very good thing that the cat went into the trap and got food. It means he will go into the trap again. Keep messing with the trigger mechanism until you can get it to work.
posted by LarryC at 2:08 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for your great ideas. I'm passing them along...
posted by Rykey at 2:19 PM on July 5, 2008

I don't know if this is a good idea or not, but:

In my experience, there is nothing that will make a cat expend energy at a faster rate than a laser pointer. Shine it on the ground and get him to chase it around, and soon he will be pooped. A pooped cat is, I would think, significantly easier to walk over to and pick up than a freaked out non-pooped cat.
posted by Flunkie at 3:01 PM on July 5, 2008

Seconding Flunkie's laser pointer suggestion, and adding that a distracted cat is also easier to catch. Make sure your wife has a partner willing to either wield the laser or grab the cat.
posted by cooker girl at 4:15 PM on July 5, 2008

This may or may not help, but if/when someone gets close to the cat, a good cat catching tactic is to throw a large blanket or bath towel over the cat, and then swoop in a wrap them up in the towel. Being covered by the towel stuns them for a second or two, enabling a puny human to get close enough for the grab.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:05 PM on July 5, 2008

Response by poster: ...and humane trap wins it. He finally triggered the box trap.
Thanks so much everyone-- just having a team of AskMeFites on the case made us feel so much better :)
posted by Rykey at 5:44 AM on July 6, 2008

Yay! Glad to hear it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:46 AM on July 6, 2008

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