What to Do If Your Indoor Cat Gets Loose
It just takes a second for your indoor-only cat to slip out. Maybe the neighbor kids were coming through your back door to play, or you opened the front door to sign for a package. Determined kitties who want to seek adventure and fresh air will take advantage of almost any brief opening to get their freedom.
The problem is, your indoor cat isn't used to being outdoors. And you've done that for a reason—indoor-only cats are typically safer and live longer than their outdoor counterparts. But when cats used to being indoors are suddenly free outdoors, they are vulnerable to other cats, dogs, wildlife and disease. You need to get that kitty safely home, fast! Here are ten tips for finding your feline friend:
1. Stick close to home.
Cats can roam, and a few do, but most will stay nearby. When focusing your search, keep it within a few blocks of your house. Search yourself and tell neighbors that you need their help keeping an eye out.
Most indoor-only cats are nervous and scared to be outside. Their natural reaction is to hunker down in a safe spot and stay quiet. You'll need to use your detective skills, peering under bushes and in any crevice where a cat could comfortably fit. Ask your neighbors if you can put your skills to the test in their yards; most people won't search for your cat as carefully as you can.
2. Spread the word.
You can put up the traditional posters in your neighborhood—don't forget a photo, description and the phone number where you can immediately be reached, like your cell. When someone spots your kitty, you'll want to be able to take action right away.
Also make sure to communicate in these ways:
- post on your social media accounts so your friends can keep a lookout
- post in neighborhood and city chat groups on Facebook
- put a free ad on your city's Craigslist board
- run an ad in your local newspaper - often, lost pet ads are free
- contact your local vet's offices and your humane society in case a good citizen finds your cat and brings him in
3. Scatter items with the smell of home.
Make it easier for your cat to find her way by leaving out items that have the scent of your home, like blankets and towels. Some expert kitty finders recommend scattering a scoop or two of used cat litter around your yard to further appeal to your cat's sense of smell.
"A scoop or two of used cat litter scattered around the yard may be all it takes to lure your lost kitty back home safely." TWEET THIS
4. Leave smelly cat food outside.
You do risk attracting area wildlife, but at mealtimes when your cat might be hungry, set out a particularly pungent dish of moist cat food or tuna fish. The smell could lure your cat back home. Step it up a notch by microwaving the food for about 15 seconds to ensure maximum stinkiness.
5. Keep your garage door open—just a bit.
Cats like to be sneaky, and sometimes crawling under a cracked garage door will appeal to them. You'll have to check your garage frequently to make sure other critters aren't coming in, too.
6. Use a humane trap.
Most humane societies have cat-sized traps to rent for a few days at a reasonable price, or you can purchase one at your local feed or outdoor store. Put your pet's favorite treats inside, but avoid the catnip, as your cat may get enough of a whiff to play outside the trap rather than go inside. Drape a blanket over the end with food to make it seem safer and more cave-like.
7. Check the shelter regularly.
Each state has a set number of days according to law before the shelter can adopt out an unclaimed pet, and it's not too long—as little as 3 days in some locations. You don't want to risk not finding your cat in time. Call or visit daily to check in. While you're at it, call other local shelters and check their websites just in case someone picked up your pet and took it elsewhere.
8. Hold your conversations outside.
Cats don't especially enjoy your whining, pleading, "please come home" voice. But they do like hearing you speak normally. Take your cell outside and call everyone back you've been playing phone tag with, set up board games with the family at an outdoor table or chat with neighbors so your kitty can hear.
9. Stay alert from dusk to dawn.
Cats do a lot of their prowling at night, so set things up so a member of your family could hear kitty scratching at the door at 3 a.m. Sleep in the living room, open the windows or set up a baby monitor so you'll be able to hear the slightest sound.
10. Make sure your cat has a microchip.
One of the best ways to help make sure your cat is identified is to microchip them. This way, when someone finds them and brings them to us, we can find you. We have a terrific set of community bulletin boards that are very helpful in finding and reuniting pets with their families.
Once your cat has been found and safely returned home, a vet check is a great idea. Cats can get in fights and sustain wounds that are hard to spot until they get infected. Call us today if you need a health check or microchip for your adventurous pet.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.