Finding a Cat Who Has Escaped

Losing your cat to the great outdoors can be scary and stressful, but there are strategies you can use to help your cat find his way back home.

By: Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue
Is your cat an escape artist? Learn how to find a lost cat. By: Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue

Donna and Bill had just gotten all 4 of their Burmese cats safely down to their new winter home in Florida.

But on their second day there, they woke up to every cat lover’s nightmare: Webster the cat had somehow got out.

The couple swung into action immediately. “The first thing I did was to make up a sign and put it up in the community clubhouse,” Donna recalls. They then went off in different directions to comb the neighborhood.

Donna was pushing Saba, another of their other cats, in the cat stroller and talking to everyone she met about Webbie.

“I was making people aware,” she says, “so that they would be mindful that he might try to get inside somewhere because he’s not used to being outside.”

She and Saba did the stroller walk twice a day, morning and evening.

Know Your Cat

This is when you really need to start thinking like a cat — like your cat, to be specific.

Basically, you need to build your recovery plan around your cat’s personality. Webbie “was not a cat who had previously seemed inclined to go outside.” In fact, he had been “very apprehensive, very tense” the few times he’d gone out in the cat stroller. Donna and Bill also knew that he “was not a cat to approach people.”

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He was also “very food-driven.” So, on the second day, when their new neighbors said that they thought he was in the crawlspace under their house, Donna and Bill went over with his favorite snack food — a bag of potato chips.

Getting the Word Out

Posters, fliers, signs, word of mouth — whatever it takes.

Whenever Donna and Bill ran into somebody during their search, they told that somebody about their missing “little brown cat with yellow eyes. I told them not to approach him because he would probably run. Had it been one of the other cats, I would have told them to tailor that to the cat. Saba would walk over — Nevis would roll over and ask for a belly rub.”

Donna was not “a known entity” in the area. Otherwise, she would’ve contacted the local animal control person and vet(s) in case someone had brought in a “stray.” As it was, she contacted their manufactured-home community’s management and sales office just in case anybody happened to walk in and mention seeing an unusual brown cat.

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See for Yourself

Check shelters first-hand instead of relying on what you’re told over the phone. To some folks, a cat is a cat is a cat: they might miss some distinctive marking(s) or old battle/surgery scars.

Plus, there’s a surprising amount of ignorance regarding cat breeds. I’ve seen people mistake Siamese — a distinctive breed if ever there was one — for Abyssinians, another equally distinctive breed.

Other Things You Can Do

Put out food and water and some things with familiar scents on them, such as his/her cat bed and your T-shirt.

Donna and Bill did this, though they went easy on the food by putting out “a scant teaspoon.” Set up a Havahart trap. Sure, you may get a raccoon or a stray, but the odds are just as good that you’ll end up with your own cat.

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Last, but not least, don’t forget the heart connection. Petfinder advises that you “try to communicate with your cat. Imagine their face, call their name and connect heart to heart. Try to tune into where they might be…reassure them that you will help get them home.”

Along these lines, you can also contact an animal communicator or animal Reiki person. Donna called me during her search and asked me to send Webbie Reiki.

Here’s a guy who spent $5,000 to get this cat back, going so far as to cash in his 401(k):

The Prodigal Burmese Returns

On the third day, they got word that Webbie had been sighted.

Donna grabbed Saba, put him in the stroller, and headed out…only to see the missing Burmese coming toward them. Saba miaowed, and his buddy trotted over. They were “nose to nose” when Donna nabbed him.

Webbie did go AWOL again shortly after his return but was apprehended the next morning. Donna and Bill found and boarded up his escape route, and Webbie went back to being a house Burmese.

T.J. Banks

View posts by T.J. Banks
T.J. Banks is the author of several books, including Catsong, which received a Merial Human–Animal Bond Award. A contributing editor to laJoie, T.J. has also received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association, ByLine and The Writing Self. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul and A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love, and T.J. has worked as a stringer for the Associated Press, as an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School and as a columnist.

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