Your Cat Got Outside and Wandered Off… Now What?
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on August 14, 2018
Posted in Parent Help
Most pet owners put their furry companions first, often relating them to children. You treasure your cat, making them a part of the family. They even have their own plate of ground turkey at Thanksgiving and a chair at the dinner table! But now, your cat is lost, and you believe they may have gotten outside. What are your next steps?
The first thing to know is that this is nobody’s fault. Cats are naturally curious animals, hence the saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” Don’t worry though, cats are also known for being lucky and their nine lives can come in handy when they get into a bind! If your cat is lost outside, take a deep breath and move forward pragmatically. By keeping your cool and thinking logically, you’ll have a better shot at locating your fur baby.
Check favorite places
You know your cat better than anyone. You know when they’re scared they head for the closet and when they’re playful they play hide-n-seek from underneath the coffee table. Your first step in locating your cat is being certain that he or she is not simply hiding in one of their favorite haunts.
The same goes for other hiding places in your house. Check nooks and crannies, even if your cat doesn’t frequent them. For example, your cat may have found their way into your food pantry and you have accidentally closed the door with them inside. The fact is, some cats are not vocal and will not voice their displeasure at being locked in! It will be up to you to discover your cat, most likely sleeping quietly in a dark area.
It’s in their nature
Cats are curious and can be distracted by birds, bugs, other cats and so on. Once you have done a thorough search of your home, move the search outside. Are there parks near your home? Do birds gather in a particular area in your neighborhood? Start with these areas, making sure to check out all bushes or low ground-cover shrubs. These are perfect hiding places for a cat.
You can also bet that a scared cat will most likely avoid busy streets or areas with a lot of people. Start with areas that are low-traffic and quiet, then move your circle wider.
Use your resources
Do you have a neighbor with an outdoor cat? Perhaps they have an idea of where your cat may be or may have even seen your cat outside with theirs. Make sure to talk to anyone and everyone who may have seen your cat—you may be surprised to find that a neighbor with a big heart found your feline, but did not know where they should be returned.
Sometimes your neighbors will do this for a couple of days before sending your cat to the shelter, in the hopes that someone will claim them. Because of this, it is also particularly important to post fliers around your home, to stop signs, light poles and the neighborhood board at your local café. Perhaps your cat’s temporary foster family will find your contact information in this way.
Another smart thing you can try is to put your cat’s litter box outside, near the door of your home. Cats have an amazing sense of smell and will recognize their own scent for up to a mile! The litter box is familiar to them and could pull them back in the right direction if they’ve lost their way.
Locating your cat
Chances are, if your cat has found its way outside for the first time in its life, it will be frightened. When you do locate your feline, it may be distrusting of even you. Take the time to speak softly and wait for your cat to come to you. Treats may be particularly helpful in this case. In fact, your cat may be very hungry or thirsty depending on how much time it has spent away from home. Try to entice them closer to you with food and water. Once they are close enough, have a crate or leash ready to put on your cat while they are distracted.
It is a very good idea after a cat has wandered around outside for any period of time to take them for a vet visit. This way you will have peace of mind that your cat has not picked up worms or anything else during their romp outdoors. If they have, your cat will have access to treatment and be on the road to recovery in no time at all.
A lost cat can be a scary experience for any dedicated pet owner, but it’s a situation that should be handled with care and level-headedness. Give the above tips a try, to minimize your grief and expedite the time it takes to bring kitty home.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan