It is every pet owner’s worst nightmare. The day begins to dawn and there is no sign of the usual waggly tale and purring puddy cat anywhere. You shake the bag of dried food, go out into the garden in your slippers, check the usual kitty hidey holes but still no sign of your four-legged friend. He is usually there by the door, or waiting on the window ledge, pawing at the glass. Where could he be?
Before you begin to panic and round up the search party, or call the local news station and offer a cash reward for any information which leads to your feline friend, there are a couple of things to consider. Hopefully, you’ve anticipated and prepared for this scenario before now. Having a cat spayed or neutered will reduce its urge to wander, and microchipped cats are much easier to reunite with their owners than unidentifiable ones. If your cat is tolerant enough of wearing a collar, make sure there is an up-to-date phone number on the back. Cat owners should have a recent photograph of their pet handy to share in instances like these. Make sure it is a full body shot so kitty can be identified by a stranger from afar.
Facts: Cats can travel surprising distances at night. A suburban cat might roam up to half a mile away. Your friend is most likely on his way home and got distracted by a slow shrew or maybe he stopped to maim a mouse along the route. A farm cat can go much further in just one evening. The spring and summer months bring increased daylight which also keeps the little furry hunters busy outdoors for longer hours.
But when it becomes clear that kitty is not coming back, what next?
First, check around the parameter of your property. Try sheds and outhouses and glance up trees in case he is trapped nearby. Walk around the block a few times with a bag of dry food, shaking the bag to create that irresistible rustling noise all cats seem to hear instinctively from miles away. Some experts suggest leaving a piece of well worn (as in not clean) piece of clothing hanging in the garden, the wind might pick up its scent and help moggy find his way back. Other advice says to leave his litter tray outside for the same reason, especially if it is dirty. Don’t forget cats do recognise their own names so now is the time to regret your choices as you pace the streets calling for him!
So you’ve checked the property thoroughly and tried the food bag bribe, and still no kitty. What next? You could contact the local SPCA and see if anyone has reported a stray. Give them a detailed description of size, age, gender and any identifying marks. If there is an animal warden in your area, contact them too. They are often the first to know if a kitty is wandering lost or if there has been an accident reported.
While you wait for news from the warden, hit up your local community groups. Whats App and Facebok are great places to share the news of your missing feline friend. Make up a digital “LOST” poster with a recent photo of your buddy, when he was last seen and where, and share it in every group you can think of. Our own Facebook page will be happy to help as will the other SPCAs in the county!
Your local vets office will hang a lost poster on their notice board and they are a valuable resource in your search. Inform your neighbours and the wider community and if he hasn’t returned for more than a day, try widen the circle of your search to the next town or estate, and the next vet and SPCA.
Sometimes cats return after a long night or two, bedraggled and starving, and desperate to sleep it off in their warm beds. We may never know where exactly they have been or what they have been up to! Sometimes cats wander off and find themselves hopelessly lost, or they get into fatal accidents, and it is sad to say they may never return. But don’t lose hope right away. There are stories of cats, dogs and other domesticated pets travelling hundreds of miles to reunite with their owners. Cats are extremely capable creatures and even if you don’t get to see him again that doesn’t mean he is not coping just fine somewhere else. It may help to soothe a child whose pet has wandered off to think they may be reunited one day. Who knows, if you use smart and sensible preventative measures like having him microchipped, maybe you will!