The story goes something like this.
We recently had workmen come to the house for repairs and our kitty got scared and ran out the door. I’ve been calling for 3 days but he hasn’t come back yet. What else can I do to find him?
Like that kitty, most fixed cats do not leave home unless they become too afraid to stay. As this article from Maddie’s Fund explains, lost cats do not behave like they do in your home.
The clock is ticking when your cat is missing. Never assume that cats will come back on their own, as many cats will be too afraid to find their way home without help.
Happy Cats recently got a call from some people who had found a cat and wanted to have him scanned for a microchip. When we did, we found he had been one of our cats as a kitten. We contacted the owners, who had been looking for Taco for a month. He had gotten out and became terrified during a snowstorm and was found over two miles away from home.
While we hear stories of microchipped cats being found weeks or months later and then reunited, a microchip is no guarantee of that. Microchips are only useful if your cat finds its way to a responsible human and then only as good as the person trying to read them. If the handler is too rough or assumes the cat can’t be handled, that microchip may not be scanned or found. Our Humane Society doesn’t even mention microchips in their Lost and Found pages.
- Pet cats can act wild
A frightened cat quickly moves into survival mode and may act like its wild ancestors did. A recent study by the ASPCA put both pet cats and feral (unsocialized) cats in an unfamiliar shelter-like setting. Both groups acted so frightened that researchers couldn’t tell the difference within the first 3 days. Since that is all the time most cats have at limited-admission shelters before being either rehomed or euthanized, you must act quickly to find your pet.
- Ask your neighbors if you can search
The most important thing you can do is to involve your neighborhood. Make large neon flyers with a good close-up photo of your cat and hang them everywhere within at least a half-mile radius, including local veterinary offices. (Tap here for a good example of one.) Go door to door and ask people if you can check any small spaces they may have in their yard or garage. Do this yourself; do not depend on your neighbors to get down to cat level and check everywhere. If your fist can fit in the space, a cat can too. Indoor cats are usually found within two houses of home, so your cat could be holed up under a deck two houses away and too afraid to come back home.
- File a Lost Pet Report
If you have a neighborhood association or watch, file a lost cat report there. Contact HSPPR and turn in a Lost Pet Report. That will stay on file for 10 days, so don’t forget to repeat it. They recommend going to the shelter and looking through their found reports, checking kennels and asking to see cats in out-of-view rooms to make sure you check everywhere.
- Use social media
Submit your pet to the Facebook page Colorado Springs Lost Pet Alert and Craigslist Lost and Found. Be specific about where your cat went missing. If you are members of NextDoor or another online neighborhood group, let your neighbors know about your missing cat there.
- DO NOT SET UP LURES
Putting out food and water to draw your kitty back to your yard is debunked bad advice. It will probably bring in predators that could kill your cat. Also do not put out clothing or litterboxes for the same reason. Your cat will also probably be too scared to come to you calling for him.
- Set up a web camera
- You need to be able to find your cat to get him back. A web camera can help, as can neighbors’ trail and door cams. Once you know where your cat is, you can set up a trap to get him back.
- Humane traps
Scared cats take 10-14 days before they get so desperate their hunger overcomes their fear. At this point, someone in your neighborhood should be spotting your cat. The word “trap” may sound harsh, but it may be the only way to get a frightened cat back. You can set up a humane trap with food and water in your yard which may lure him or her to the trap. Traps can be loaned out with a deposit by either HSPPR or Happy Cats, depending on availability. We can help you with instructions about how best to set the trap to catch your kitty. Please call us at 719-362-4600 or email us if you need to borrow a trap.
- Don’t give up
Our Board member and premier cat trapper Barb Jones says this is the most important thing to remember. Your cat could be out there, waiting for you to find him or her. We’ve heard amazing stories about kitty rescues months after they were lost, including these about Rado and his sister Rida here in Colorado.
- Finding Rover
This is an app that uses facial recognition software to match a photo of your cat to sightings of cats that have been turned in. So far, this technology has proven to work much better for dogs than cats.There are two main reasons for this. First, inside cats who find themselves suddenly lost outside know instinctively know how vulnerable they are. As they say, dogs roam but cats hide. Most lost cats simply don’t survive all the perils of being outside long enough to be found. That’s why it’s so important to quickly kick in old-school legwork and flyers to reach out to the people who are most likely to help spot your kitty: your neighbors.
Second, even the most exotic cat breeds (which make up less than 3% of all pet cats) do not look that different from a regular domestic cat. If your cat has a distinctive color pattern right on front of his or her face, the software might find it. But if your cat is a solid black or a brown tabby or a tuxedo or any common color, chances of any software making a match are pretty slim.
Finding Rover is fine as an adjunct but nothing replaces actively searching for your cat as soon as he or she gets lost!