What To Do Before, During and After
Your Inside Cat Gets Outside
Author, Dorinne Whynott, Owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
If you own an indoor cat, one of your greatest fears is that the cat will get out. Cats are not like dogs when they get out. Most cats will hide and they are very good at it. Cats know they are considered prey for many animals even though they are hunters. Most cats also hide because of fear. They are in unfamiliar territory, so they want to observe from a very safe, enclosed space. Many times, your cat may be a few feet from you but because your cat is very scared, they may not even move from that safe spot for days. Almost frozen in fear. So, what can you do.
Prevention is First
Step 1 – Collar Your Cat
Get a collar that’s comfortable, and one that your cat can not remove easily. Collars for cats are going to be different then dogs. Cat collars must be able to slip off their head or breakaway if a cat climbs on something and the collar becomes stuck. You do not want the collar to harm your pet, so it must come off. Collars do help, but you do not want to rely on just a collar to get your cat back.
Your cat should always wear some kind of identification. This will make it easy for anyone to notify you if they found your cat. Collar/tag should have your cat’s name (some people leave the name off), your name, your street address, and your phone number. Some tags are just fine with two phone numbers. The second phone number can be a friend or relative.
We suggest an engraved tag that slips onto the collar, rather than a tag that attached via a metal ring. Metal ring tags can get caught and fall off.
In case tags fall off, you can write some information on the collar using a permanent marker. Collars can also be embroidered with information as well but since cat collars are so small, you may just be able to get a phone number.
There are some GPS tags out there that people like. These tags will let you know if your cat has left a certain area. They can get you pretty close to where you cat is using an app on your phone.
Step 2 – Microchip Your Cat
In today’s highly technological world, tracking your lost cat has never been easier. Thanks to microchip technology, many people have been reunited with their lost pets because of microchips. A microchip is a tiny implant between a cat’s shoulder blades, and it contains identifying information which an animal shelter or veterinarian can scan and find whom the cat belongs to. Some pets that have been missing for a very long time have found their way back to loving owner’s. Another good thing about a microchip is once it is registered in your name, if there was ever a dispute that you owned your cat, a microchip could be used as proof of ownership.
Check your information with the microchip company at least once a year (especially if you move or change phone numbers). If you have made a birth date, do it every year on your pet’s birthday. You can make one even if you do not know the exact date. Take the estimated age at time of your pet’s adoption, that will give you a year. Choose a month and day. Now your pet has a birthday!!
Step 3 – Harness/Leash Train Your Cat
Your cat would love some outside time but you never want to let your cat roam free. It is our responsibility as pet owners to keep our pets safe at all times. Cats that roam freely unsupervised are never safe from cars, wildlife, people, dogs, and other cats! Their possible loss of life and safety are not worth it.
However, cats can easily be trained to go outside with you on harness and leash. Always take them out through a door that you do not use for going to work. For example if you use your front door or garage door to go to work every day, do NOT use those doors. Use the door you go out to your back yard. Why? You want to train your cat that going out is only through that one door. This way your cat will not try to go to work with you every day! In fact you want to discourage your cat from using those doors.
You want a harness that fits snuggly and prevents your cat from slipping out or backing out of it. A vest harness is best and fits snuggly around your cats body. They come in all decorator colors now.
Never tie your cat outside and never leave your cat outside without you. Cats can jump down or up on things and end up getting themselves in very harmful situations.
Why is this a good thing to teach your cat to be on harness and leash and go outside with you? Well, it is nice for them to get some fresh air and sunshine, but also to get used to the sights and sounds when outside with you safely. That way, if they ever do get outside by themselves, it will not be so traumatizing. They will be calmer and most will run out and then stop waiting for you to come get them rather than running out , getting scared and taking off to hide.
I have trained my cats to be outside in my fenced in area.
Feel free to read the Two Ways To Keep Your Cats Outside Safely.
Step 5 – Train, Train, Train
Yes, all cats can be trained. Just like dogs, use repetition. Every time you feed your cat, use your cat’s name and come or come here or supper time. It really does not matter what you say, as long as you say the SAME thing for the same action. This is because you want your cat to come when called. That way if he does get outside, you can use the words they know and understand.
The best thing that can ever be trained is the recall.
Step 6 – Spay/Neuter your pets
All pets should be spayed/neutered. Unneutered pets are going to escape to do what their hormones are telling them to do. These pets can become lost in their quest. They will roam long distances to find a mate. Spaying/neutering not only makes a happier pet but healthier as well as keeping down over population.
Step 7 – Take Pictures of Your Cat
Today it is very easy to keep our pet photos up to date. Take full body shots, head close ups, and any special markings. Make sure the pictures are clear and crisp for identification. In case your cat goes missing, you will need these pictures to create posters and flyers. Include distinct identifying traits in the pictures so as to distinguish your cat from similar cats. Once you have taken the pictures, consider sharing them with family and friends, in case your computer crashes or phone is stolen. Facebook and icloud also make a good place to store photos.
Step 8 – Treat Training
Buy a can of treats or use a plastic Tupperware container filled with very small treats. Find a container that makes some good noise when the treats are shaken in it. Then every time you give your cat a treat, shake the container and say treat time (or whatever you choose, just use the same words). This will train your cat to come for a treat when he hears the shaking treat container and also your words – treat time!! This can be used outside as well.
Try to do this at various times, so it is never a routine time that you give treats. Why? Because pets get very used to routines and when they get out, it is never at the time we want. So, create a treat time whenever. We want them hungry for treats so they come fast.
Step 9 – Make a Plan BEFORE to Act Fast
You have a better chance of finding your cat if you have a solid plan AND to have a solid plan when you are not upset and in crisis because your pet is lost.
Create a plan BEFORE something happens. Know who to call and where to go. Make a list of the town you live in and all border towns. The Humane Society of the US recommends notifying everyone within a 60 miles radius.
Know every animal control officer and police station, list phone numbers. Find out all Animal Hospitals, Animal Shelters and rescues in the above towns, with their contact information.
Make a complete description of your pet in writing, even create a lost poster. Take your time, research what is beneficial to place on posters. Create this poster to have on hand to print and go. You probably have a photo app that you can create and keep on hand, just changing the photo every now and then. Create your poster to stand out. Include your cat’s picture, breed (if purebred, if not choose DSH or DLH – domestic long/short hair), color, sex, age, weight, special markings and such other specifications. You can also include contact information like your name, phone number and email. Have an area on the poster to fill in a few things last minute, such as – Date your cat went missing, Street and city where cat was last seen, description of collar, is your cat dragging a leash or has a harness on. If your cat is very shy or has any behavior issues.
We suggest not putting your cat’s name on the posters and you may want to include – Do not chase, please contact owner. Why? Some people may want your cat, so let’s not have your cat go to them by name and if your cat is frightened, having people chase after him will make them more frightened. It is better to have people contact you with a sighting so you can go and calmly find your cat.
If this cat was adopted – contact the shelter you adopted from. Many shelters do adopt with microchips and they may be contacted if the cat is found.
Your Cat Has Disappeared Outside, now what
In case your inside cat has gone missing, there are steps you can take to ensure a safe return of your beloved pet. In this article, we will highlight the steps you need to take to in order to find your lost indoor cat.
Step 1 – Check entire house, inside and out
Once you have established that your inside cat is missing, it’s natural to feel upset, but getting into a panic mode will not help you find your cat. However, taking immediate action can mitigate your anxiety. If you conduct a thorough search immediately, there is a good chance you will find your cat close to the area where it was lost. If more time passes, the cat will have a higher opportunity to roam further from your home.
Flashlight – bring a flashlight with you. Why? This is your secret weapon because you can shine it is dark places and the cats eye will shine back at you!! This works great in dark closets or anywhere at night. Just remember that other animal’s eyes will shine back at you as well, so make sure it is your cat!!
Step 2 – Check even the smallest places
Cats are very brilliant at keeping quiet, and many missing cats have been found in very unusual indoor hiding places. Make sure everyone has a flashlight as mentioned above. Cats can get into very tiny spaces, and can find extraordinary places to hide, which makes it rather tricky to find them. Before you head out, make sure you carefully check every cupboard in the house, including those you rarely use. Also check the inside of the washing machine and cozy places like in wardrobes and under the beds.
Step 3 – Try to See things from your cat’s point of view
Cats (even the neutered ones) are very territorial, and the cat’s territory was the inside the house. The moment your inside cat finds herself in unfamiliar outside world, she will get frightened and her immediate response is to look for shelter and hide in silence.
Remember, cats are prey as well as predator, so hiding is instinct for safety.
A cat is likely to find shelter within a few meters near the escape point, like under a porch, in the garage, inside the shed, in crawlspaces, or in a bush. The cat may also head upwards, onto the roofs or tree branches. You should let your neighbors know about the cat’s absence, and ask permission to look in their sheds, gardens and garages. If your neighbors have windows which face your home, you can ask them to keep an eye out for your cat.
Step 4 – Take your time looking and try to stay calm
When looking for your cat, take your time and call out your cat’s name, circling the area the cat was last seen. That said, do not assume the cat will respond to your voice as it normally does. Most lost cats are usually terrified, and might not want to leave their hiding spots even for you. Call quietly for the cat, using a gentle voice. Do not be too loud, as you run the risk of startling and frightening your cat even more. Many cats are so scared, they go into survival panic mode and freeze in a safe small space.
Here is where the treat can comes in handy. If you have worked with your cat to come for treats, this just may break the trauma mode and your cat will come out. If not do not give up on the treat can. Try the treat can every few hours or so. If your cat keeps hearing it, they may feel comfortable enough to come out.
You can also bring along the cat’s favorite toy. If the cat has a beloved toy on a wand or string (like a stuffed mouse), you can take it with you when doing the search. Make the toy very visible, like you want your cat to play with you; doing this may help allay fears, and can bring your cat out of hiding. This helps if you know your cat is way under a porch but you can not get to them. Sit quietly and keep playing with the toy, sometimes after a while your cat will focus on the toy instead of the fear and come out. If it is dark enough, don’t forget the laser light. That light cat shine far and may get your cat to forget they are scared and come out.
As you walk around, remember to stop and listen regularly. A cat that’s trapped, hungry or hurt may meow. Whether you are searching with a group or by yourself, take a couple of minutes in every location you search to carefully listen for your cat’s meow. Pay close attention to sheds and garages where she might have been locked in or got stuck.
Step 5 – Hear is where your planning comes in handy
Call your local veterinary offices and the animal rescue centers with a clear description of your cat. Make sure the details you give them are up to date, and ask them if they would mind putting up a poster, or posting something on their social media profiles or website to help to find your missing cat. You should also consider checking the local animal shelters in person, at least once a week because even though you have given a description, many times your description and someone else’s may not be the same. Best to see in person.
Step 6 – Print out and hang those posters
Print the posters and flyers that you made while you were preparing a while ago. Make sure all information is up to date. Distribute and post flyers wherever your missing cat was last seen, and throughout your neighborhood. You can also drop in places like post offices, shops, gyms, pubs and the local store, and ask them if they would mind displaying your flyer to help you find the missing cat.
Step 7 – Use Social Media & Document Sightings
Use various social media platforms to tell people you know that your cat is missing. You can add a post to the “Pets” and “Lost & Found” section on Craigslist; this has actually led to lots of reunions between missing cats and their owners. You can also use other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; this gives your neighbors and friends a visual reminder of the kind of cat to look out for.
Keep careful documentation of all sightings. Set out to put flyers in areas of each sighting. All animals will cross roads, highways, ponds, rivers, etc to get to wherever they think they are going or away from whatever may be chasing them.
Step 8 – Familiar Smell & Video
Most cats are generally still close to home and cats have a very good sense of smell. Let’s use that and make your home outside familiar with their litterbox, cat bed, etc.
If you can open the door a little on the porch or garage, put all of these things in there to make it safe. Buy an outside video camera or trail camera(at Walmart) and set it up to see if your cat is coming in. Seeing your cat will go a long way for your peace of mind. You can also set up the trail camera in places that your cat may be sighted.
Step 9 – You see your cat
Once you see your cat, do everything to get him to come to you. Do not chase him, he may panic and run into traffic or farther away. Shake the treat can. Sit on the ground and toss treats out, use toys. Try to stay there until your cat feels safe to come to you. This may take a while, hours even, so be patient. Try to not invade your cat’s space too much which may make them move. They are much quicker then we are and you do not want to lose sight of them again.
You can rent a Hav-a-hart trap from the Concord SPCA. They will give you instructions. If you do this, you must check traps every few hours from far away. If an animal is trapped inside, it is vulnerable to all kinds of harm and they can be more traumatized and scared. Use binoculars to check the trap from a far distance. Sometimes animals will wait to see that the trap is safe and not disturbed for hours before they get close enough to that yummy smelly food inside. So you do not want to be seen anywhere near it but do want to see if anything is inside. Hopefully not something you are not trapping!
Do not give up hope. Cats have been returned to owners years later. Especially if they have a microchip.
What To Do After Your Pet is Home
Step 1 – Take to the vet
After you have brought your lost cat home. Check them all over for any wounds. Make sure they look good. If they look like their normal self. Give them some water and half of a normal meal. If they have been away for a few days or longer, they may have not eaten very much and may eat too fast and throw it up. Then call your vet and get them in the next day. Your veterinarian may see or find things that you may not see. A hidden wound, will turn into an abcess. I would also suggest bloodwork, just to make sure everything is okay. They may have gotten into something or eaten something that was not good. Best to check everything out now and be on the safe side.
Step 2 – Eliminate Opportunities of escape
One of the most common ways a cat gets lost is bolting out doors. Teach your cat to stay away from all doors, especially front doors and doors to your garage. Use a squirt bottle of water if they run to the door when someone comes. Keep an eye on them as you open the door. If you do not have a screen/storm door, install one. This way you can talk to someone through that door without opening it.
Teach cats when people come, that after you let them in, go to the kitchen and shake the treat can. That way if they do get out, they know that treats are coming and may hopefully run back in for treats.
Never take your cat out those doors without being in a carrier. When going to the vet and they are in a carrier, Always make sure that carriers are secure. Sometimes, people obtain a small carrier when cats ar kittens, then they grow and weigh more and the carrier is too small and flimsy for an adult cat. Always make sure the fasteners are secure. You can make them more secure using metal screws and bolts or zip ties with the fasteners (not just zip ties which can crack and break over time).
Step 3 – Fence your yard and use a cat Invisible Fence
If you can afford it, get your yard fenced and put in a cat invisible fence. Invisible Fence is great but It does not PROTECT you or your cat. So, fence your yard with a 6 foot fence or higher. If you place that fence around the invisible fence, you can prevent your cat from going near the fence and climbing over or under. Using both fences will help keep your cat much safer. Also, you will be safer because most wildlife and dogs can not come in. Of course, never leave your cat outside unsupervised by you. Your cat will have a ton of fun running around, exploring. It is the best way to let your cat outside because they are safe.
You can also create catios. These are another way for cats to go outside safely. Just google catios. There are lots of them.
Step 4 – Make Your Home Welcoming and Comfortable
You should make your home a place your cat likes to be. You can make your home a fun and happy place by creating cat areas in your home. Lots of scratching posts in various shapes and sizes. Cat beds and lots of toys. Do not forget the catnip! There is also puzzle feeders for cats.
Create Kitty TV – put bird feeders outside a window. This way your cat can watch them coming and going. Just be careful if you have bears in your area. Otherwise the bears will rip them down. Birdseed is like bear candy.
Exercise – giving your cat as much exercise as possible helps to wear off that energy. Give them at least 30 minutes of fun exercise a day. Giving your cat regular exercise helps curb boredom and those who think about escaping.
What if I do not have the time? We all lead busy lives. Have you thought of hiring a pet sitter? Professional Pet Sitting Etc can come to your home every day while you are at work. We can play with your kitty and break up the long boring days. We have lots of different lengths of time to fit most budgets.
Step 5 – Train Your Cat
If you did not have time to train your cat before they got out, now is the time to start training. Train them to stay away from doors, on harness & leash, to come for treats. It takes most cats 2 – 4 weeks to train, if you are consistent, use the same gestures and words. Cats must have patience When you train. They take a bit longer then dogs only because they have to feel it is their idea. They are cats after all!!
Training gives both your cat and the owner more things to do together.
Simply said, training your cat gives you both a platform of communication. It gives boundaries and your cat will respect those boundaries when they understand them. It also increases the quality of the relationship when you both understand one another.
We hope that this article was informative and helpful to you. We want all pets to stay safe and happy.
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