Three weeks ago, my inside cat
got out. One of the other cats opened the screen door and a group of them
got out. One came back that night. The other early the next day. The one
that is still missing was on my deck the next morning, and I opened the
door for him to come in. He was very frightened. I went out to get him
and he took off. I found him in a neighbors yard and that is the last time
I have seen him. There are a lot of woods behind my house. I have been
calling him and putting food out for him everyday. We have contacted both
local shelters and have signs up in the neighborhood. What else can I do?
You have an excellent chance of getting this kitty back home! I know that
it does not feel that way, since three weeks have elapsed, but it is TRUE!
Your cat is really not "lost" at all - it is displaced into unfamiliar
territory. The instinctive response for cats displaced into unfamiliar
territory is for them to HIDE and be SILENT. So just because you do not
see or hear this kitty does not mean that he is still not near by. It
likely feels like you are looking for a "needle in a haystack" but the
reality is that it is more probable that your cat is currently hunkered
down within a ½ block radius of your home and is simply not visible. When
you utilize the baited humane trap system (which is a service that we now
call "TAR" for "trap-and-reunite") then you are increasing the odds that
you will recover your cat. And just because three weeks have elapsed does
not change the fact that your cat is still out there and likely to still
be hiding within a ½ block radius of your home. We've had people humanely
trap their displaced cats six months after they escaped (the cat was
living under a neighbor's house four doors down)! Your cat would only be
inclined to travel if was chased by something (which caused it to run and
hide further out of the area) or it had a bold, gregarious and fearless
temperament - and that is NOT what you have described to me. So start
trapping close to home and then expand outwards.
You mentioned that you are putting food out for him - unless you are
putting that food into a humane trap, you are only facilitating his
displacement. In other words, your tactic should be to REMOVE all food
that is outdoors and replace it with food that is inside a humane trap.
Otherwise, you are only feeding your cat and given the choice between
eating food that is on a plate or entering a humane trap to reach some
food, the cat will opt for the plate!
Initially, your strategy should be to rent (or purchase) at least two
humane traps - setting and placing one in your own yard and one in that
neighbor's yard where you last saw your kitty. Set the trap in obvious
areas where a cat might be hiding - near the entrance under a house, deck,
or near heavy brush. Cats don't runaway like dogs do. They slink (or bolt
if startled) and they look for the first place to dive into or under that
offers concealment and protection. They will typically remain in that same
spot as long as they feel safe. As they huddle there, they deposit their
scent - they urinate, defecate, and THAT new area becomes their new
territory. Eventually, they will slink out to get food and water, usually
during the quiet hours in the middle of the night. So if you set a humane
trap and you are not successful then it only means that you have not
placed the trap within the immediate area of where the cat can smell the
food. You should then move the trap into the next yard or to the next
potential hiding place. You can either sit and monitor the trap during the
evening hours (lawn chair, mug of coffee, binoculars, cell phone,
flashlight, blanket) or you can set it over night and use a baby monitor.
The baby monitor will allow you to clearly hear when the trap has been
triggered and you have captured something.
If you have a cat that you are certain will not go into a humane trap,
then you might need to switch to a Drop Trap - a system where you place
odiferous cat food underneath a giant net held together with PVC pipe that
is propped up with a short stick with a long string tied to it. You would
sit and monitor the trap and if your cat came out of hiding and went under
the netting, you would pull the string and the trap would drop and trap
your cat. This really only works if you have seen your cat and know the
general hiding area but your cat just will not go into the humane trap.
Alley Cat Allies www.alleycat.org has great instructions on how to build a
drop trap if you need to go that route.