Do cats dream of traveling to the unknown? Some furs have definitely considered it once or twice, but staying in a cozy house, with constant hooman service, unlimited access to a full bowl and a whole lot of things to do, running away is surely not on their radar. However, wilder things have happened on Truant’s Day and as cat Carers we definitely prefer to be prepared for every unexpected feline adventure. Today, dear fabCats, we’re checking out why cats choose to wander away from the safety of their house, how we can protect them from such escapades and what we can do if we notice our cat is missing. Would you like to join us?
When your cat plans for an escape
A cat getting out of the house without our control is always a high risk situation. Led by their curiosity, raging hormones, the inner need to chase the prey or to find a quiet hideout, cats can sneak out of the house unnoticed and give a big scare not just to their Carers, but themselves as well. Going missing can happen both to the cats who typically stay on the couch and those who are allowed to go out and walk the neighbourhood freely. Unfortunately, coming back home is often not that easy for either of them.
But why would cats even be interested in going out, leaving their cozy homes and exploring the unknown?
Plain curiosity. It’s often curiosity that makes cats use their Carer’s lack of attention for their own, wicked plans. And since so many new smells, sounds and foreign sights await behind the closed door, it’s no surprise even the laziest of cats get curious.
Nature calls. Non-spayed male cats are probably one of the biggest groups of cats who run away quite regularly. The reason is simple – when female cats are in heat, all the raging hormones in a male cat’s body tell them to go looking for a partner. The only thing in their way is the door of the house! A ready-for-romance male cat can easily see the opportunity in their hooman’s inattention, having no idea that there’s so many dangers waiting outside.
Chasing the prey. A bird flying by, a fly, an insect, a mouse – cats who saw a prey and had the chance to observe it for a while can jump into a chase without thinking about any consequences. Situations like this give a cat no time to consciously think about leaving the safety of their home – they run ahead, sure that they can easily go back once they’re finished. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case.
Stress. Cats generally avoid stressful situations and those can happen even in the safety of their homes. A sudden loud noise, aggression from one of the other tenants in the house or a direct live threat (e.g. during a fire) can make a cat run away as far from the danger as possible. What they don’t expect is that outside of the house, there’s no Carer to comfort them – instead, they often have to fight for safety on their own.
Boredom. Cats need proper stimulation to satisfy their natural needs, even if they seem to be lazy and not interested in anything. If we don’t give them enough attention, playtime, a proper hunting cycle and their space lacks things to scratch, climb or sleep on, a busy and unknown outside world will surely seem like a massive playground. And as we know, curiosity and a promise of great fun can be deceiving.
Running away can be in books not just for the adventure cat, the one that always looks for trouble and a way of getting their hooman’s attention. Among the cats who make it onto the “missing” posters are often ones who are the typical couch cat – they just happened to find themselves on the wrong side of the door one day. Unfortunately, a big group of missing cats consists of the felines who were used to getting outside and “always came back”. This is why it’s so important to prepare, as a cat Carer, for any possible situation, regardless of the cat’s character.
How to react when a cat runs away?
Fear, panic, immediate search, but also staying calm and collected – just as many cat Carers there is in the world, that’s how many possible reactions to a cat’s disappearance there can be. There’s no one right way of going about it to get the best results – successful search for a missing cat depends on the circumstances of their escape, how well they know their surroundings, the cat’s character and the overall state of the surroundings they get themselves into. Below are some key elements that may make it easier to find a missing cat.
- Act fact, because the sooner you start looking for the cat, the bigger the chance of them not walking too far away from home. It’s quite important as we often don’t know when did the cat get out of the house and how long have they been outside. Every minute counts.
- Look around the house. Cats can go far, but during the first few hours, they often stay relatively close to the house. It’s always good to start looking in the nearest neighbourhood, including your own house. Maybe the cat is stuck in some tight spot or has found a new spot behind the fridge and simply fell asleep? If there’s a big chance the cat did actually get out of the house, the first potential hideouts to look into are: the basement, the attic, nearby shrubs, tight nooks, cars in the parking lot.
- Use your voice and snacks. A cat who has been away from their house for a bit is probably terrified of the new reality they found themselves in. Because of that, their instinct will probably be to find a safe hideout which will allow them to have control over any danger that may approach them. By calling your cat by their name, you have a chance to get their attention – they know your voice and trust it. You can get a meowing answer or see their head popping out of their safe space. You can also get their favorite snacks that will make it easier to get the cat out of their hiding spot.
- Make posters. It’s good to have them on hand almost immediately – prepare some traditional, paper posters with your cat’s photo and your phone number people can contact you on, but also make sure to post on social media and local groups. Someone has probably seen your cat around – they may have even caught them and brought back to their own house whilst looking for you. Setting a prize often works in your favor, encouraging the search among people. Make sure to put up the posters in spaces where people can see them, at eye-level height, and inside a plastic sleeve to protect it from the rain.
- Call the vet and your local shelter. When a cat goes missing, it’s good to notify your local vet clinics and shelters, because this is where people often take the animals they found to verify their details from the microchip or when the cat had an accident and needs medical help.
- Be proactive. Besides looking around the house and putting up posters, it’s good to start looking online for any information about missing cats, as well as ask friends and strangers you meet on your search. Your cat may have wandered far away, making it almost impossible for you to check every possible spot they could be hiding in. When your cat is found a few kilometers away from the house, the chance of the person seeing your poster are low. Expand your search and don’t give up on it, even if there’s seemingly no success at first.
Prevent instead of searching – ensure your cat’s safety at home
Many unplanned cat escapades can be stopped right at home if we properly prepare ourselves, our houses and our cats. After all, it’s easier to find a missing cat with a registered microchip than one who, for a passer-by, looks just like another cat and can’t be identified by any vet. Because of that, it’s important to take care of:
Securing our windows and balconies with a safety net. Many cats escape through the window or the balcony which they use regularly to observe the surroundings. Though some people explain the lack of security nets with their cat “knowing it’s too high to jump” or “knowing they won’t fit through”, the strong hunting instinct that cats have often wins with their common sense, especially since a fly or a bird passing by is quite the tempting target. What’s more, falling out of the window or the balcony is often not because of the cat deliberately jumping, but because of them slipping on the surface. For your own sake and the safety of your cat, it’s better not to risk it. A balcony with a net or a secure patio decked out with shelves, scratchers and cat beds is a fantastic way to control the cat’s curiosity of the world.
Supervised walks. The need to stay in touch with the outside world is quite strong for some cats, but even they can stay safe while having the opportunity to engage with their surroundings. A walk around the block, a park or a forest while wearing a harness? Why not! It’s a great way of blowing off steam and providing a cat with necessary enrichment (as long as the walk is not stressful for the cat). Walking a cat on a harness, we also minimize the risk of them attacking wild animals – domestic cats are an invasive species and they negatively impact the population of small animals so if we can, we should reduce this kind of impact on the environment.
Easy identification with a microchip. Every microchip has its individual serial number which, once registered, makes it easy to identify a cat. It’s the first thing that the vet or a shelter will check for when a cat is found. It’s important to register the microchip in a national database and remember to update the data in case you change your address or the cat changes their Carer. A chip can be implanted in kittens (most breeders do it as a part of prepping the kittens for adoption) as well as adult cats – you just need to go to the nearest vet clinic. The procedure is quick and almost painless for the cat, so there’s really no excuse not to do it.
Have your cats ever tried an Prison Break style escape, fabCats? Share your stories in the comments and be sure to drop your tips on how to look for a missing cat if you think they may help.