Lost Cat Tips

Lost Indoor-Only Cats: When to Search and When to Trap

Lost pet owners are often shocked at the personality change exhibited by their lost cat. They expect their cat to respond to their calls or come to them if they are near. Cats are hypervigilant in new situations and this is a great survival skill. But this edge often causes them to run from the very people they love and trust in their home environment. This is why it is important to consider your cat’s personality before going out to search. Sometimes, an aggressive search is the wrong tactic. There are two dangers to doing a physical search for a lost cat who is shy or skittish in new situations. One is that she may make herself even more invisible and stay hidden longer. The other is that she may be spooked out the yard. This makes the recovery more difficult because you now have a greater search area, the cat is less likely to re-enter the house on her own and it is more challenging to set and monitor traps on other people’s property. For cats like this, a humane trap may be a much safer way to recover the cat.

How can you predict your cat’s reaction to being lost outside? A good guage of your cat’s predicted “lost cat personality” is how she reacts to strangers and how she reacts when taken to the vet or to a new house. When strangers comes to visit, does she walk around with her tail up or dive under the bed until they leave? When she’s at the veterinarian’s office, does she march out of her carrier to check things out or stay tucked inside refusing to come out? If your cat is a confident cat who isn’t afraid of new people and situations, a thorough search and leaving your door open may be all that is necessary to get her back inside. But for a shy one, search with extreme caution and consider setting a trap before you disturb her hiding spot. You want her to feel safe and stay put.

Searching Tips

If you do an outdoor search with a shy or skittish indoor-only cat, the following tips may help you find her location without causing her to bolt. This will help you choose where to put the trap.

  • Search quietly. Don’t move items or make a lot of noise as you look.
  • If you talk at all, use a quiet conversational tone. Say words your cat associates with food and attention.
  • Avoid having strangers assist at this stage. Unless your cat is a confident and outgoing cat, a stranger coming close may make them hide longer or even bolt.
  • Bring treats and a pillow case to contain the cat if you are able to safely reach her. If she is spooky, don’t try it or wait until she is more relaxed.
  • Use a camera with a flash and take photos of dark areas. Look for eye-shine in the photos. Shining a flashlight in trees, under decks and into shrubs is also great for catching eye-shine. But remember not to intrude.
  • If you accidentally flush her out of hiding, DON’T follow her. Just watch where she goes. That is where you will set the trap.