The following is an excerpt from Petfinder’s monthly Ask the Experts Q&A on Facebook. Like our Facebook page to learn about upcoming Q&As.
Q: Are there specific places lost cats are likely to hide? What would you say is most important to do in the first hour when a cat’s disappeared? —Julie S.
A: Probably the most critical thing to do within the first few hours of losing a cat is to start getting permission from your neighbors to enter their yards to search for the missing cat.
When Indoor Cats Get Lost:
- Determine the escape point: When an indoor-only cat escapes outside, the best technique to use is to determine the escape point, like perhaps a door found cracked open.
- Follow the edge of the house or building: A panicked cat will typically follow along the side of the house, rather than risk slinking or bolting out into the open. However, this depends on what happens the moment that cat escapes — if the mail man is walking up the sidewalk the cat could bolt and run directly across the street. But most times, indoor cats will either slink left or slink right following the edge of the house.
- Look for the closest hiding spots: Following the edge of the house to the right, look for the first hiding place — deck, access under a house, shed with opening, open garage, etc. — and focus on that area. Then do the same to the left.
- Place humane traps, cameras or food in those spots: If you don’t see or find the cat, you can put humane traps there, wildlife cameras, or even a plate of food at first to see if it vanishes.
The case of a lost cat is an investigation. The investigative question with displaced indoor-only cats that escape outside — or even outdoor-access cats that bolt in panic — is, “where is the cat hiding?”
When Indoor-Outdoor Cats Get Lost:
When an outdoor-access cat vanishes, it is very different. The investigative question for outdoor-access cats that are missing is “What happened to the cat?” It means something has happened to the cat to interrupt her customary behavior of coming home. The cat could be:
- Transported out of the area
- Taken by predators
- Intentionally removed by a cat-hating neighbor.
We call these “probability categories” and there are eight of them. (See all eight on the Missing Pet Partnership website.)
Missing Pet Partnership