For almost 21 years, I had an indoor cat, Bailey, who fortunately never developed any interest in going outside. Like, ever.
In fact, he turned his nose up at the prospect. He had the uppity, elitist presence of a Kardashian and the laziness of a sloth with an opiod addiction. If it wasn’t a comfortable, climate-controlled environment with easy access to a pile of laundry to nap on, he wasn’t interested.
I always counted myself lucky he never had the wandering eye — though it did make me a little careless when it came to things like leaving the back door open so the dogs could come in and out. But even then, he’d sometimes walk right up to the edge of the open door and just look outside with a smug look on his face (he always had a smug look on his face, but still).
It was as if he were saying, “Ew. There’s dirt out there. I can’t even. I just can’t.”
So he didn’t. Thank goodness.
Part of his disinterest in the outdoors was Bailey’s vain, narcissistic desire to be a member of the Royal Family. But it was also because of his fear of deviating from what he knew and that with which he was comfortable.
Cats tend to be creatures of habit. So for Bailey, he was content with his normal daily routines and playing it safe.
That isn’t the case for a lot of cats, though.
At Pasadena Humane, we advocate for cats to be indoors, and only outdoors if you have an outdoor catio, an enclosed patio that has all the benefits of being outside without the option to roam out of the neighborhood or be a target for predators.
We realize, though, that some people prefer to give their cats the option of being outside freely because indoor/outdoor cats tend not to travel far. They like being near their safe space and having access to their own food and water. If you’re one of those people, you need to be extra vigilant.
Cats seem to have a sort of homing instinct, which in some cases have guided cats to travel great distances back to their home. While an adventurous indoor/outdoor cat is more likely to roam, a scared cat may not trust his inner compass, get confused and get lost. Once a cat has wandered out of her comfort zone anything can happen to scare her further: barking dogs, wildlife, loud traffic noise, teasing school kids, the list is endless.
Because cats are more stealth and independent than dogs, cat guardians are less likely to find their cat. Based on a survey by the ASPCA, only about 74% of cats are recovered, while 93% of dogs are recovered. For this reason, it’s even more important to act quickly.
If you believe your cat has wandered off out of his comfort zone, or if you exclusively indoor cat has somehow gotten out of the house, here are some tips for reuniting with your beloved feline friend:
- Not all missing cats are lost or want to be found. Cats are notorious for hiding in impossible places. Before you assume kitty is missing, make a thorough search indoors, around the porch, garage and yards armed with a flashlight and the tastiest, smelliest treats.
- Don’t waste time. If you know your cat is missing, immediately post photos and a description of your cat, including the neighborhood you live in on NextDoor, Facebook and any other social media platform you use. The more neighbors and friends who are aware, the more eyes you’ll have looking out for your kitty.
- Think like your cat. If you were a cat, where would you go? Begin around your house and spread out to the immediate neighbors on all sides. Where does your cat normally head? What is the most likely escape route? What are her favorite bushes or hiding spots? Crouch low under porches, scan high on roof lines and tree branches. Could something have recently happened to spook them? Construction or a new neighbor’s cat or dog?
- While you’re searching, ask pedestrians, knock on neighbor’s doors and show a photo. Ask if you can check their garage, sheds, under the porch. This is no time to be shy.
- Leave a missing cat report with your vet, all the other local vets, shelters and rescue groups. If you live in one of our animal control service cities*, make sure to check out “lost and found” section of our website (pasadenahumane.org) regularly. We update our site every hour.
- When you return home, leave food and water outside your door. Fearful cats will often slink out after dark. Leaving a baby monitor near the food may detect faint meows. Also consider searching late at night when the rest of the world is asleep.
- Enlist family and friends to help post flyers and spread the word. Have push pins, tape and a staple gun, depending on the surface. The best posting spots include street intersection poles, local bulletin boards at grocery stores, library, laundromat and community center.
- If you’ve recently moved, extend your search to your old neighborhood.
- Persevere! Cats have returned weeks and months later. Keep networking, and asking neighbors if they’ve noticed anything. Keep your fliers or posters fresh with a “Still Missing” header.
Remember, you seriously improve your chances of finding your lost cat if your cat is microchipped and is wearing identification on a collar around their neck. I know I’ve said this a thousand times. Let’s face it, I’ll probably say it a thousand more. It’s that important.
So what do you do if you find a cat who appears to be lost? Well, let’s cover that next week — because that’s a tricky topic, and as usual, I’ve run out of space this week. Clearly, I’m not a man of few words.
Have a beautiful week, and stay safe out there!