Our condolences on the loss of your kitty. The good news is that you have a good chance of finding him/her. The bad news is that you may be looking in all the wrong places.
One of the most profound discoveries that we have made at Missing Pet Partnership is that the methods that should be used to search for a lost outdoor-access cat are much different than those used to search for a missing indoor-only (or a displaced) cat! So first, to find your lost cat, you need to understand how he/she will likely behave.
Important Lost Cat Behavior
One thing that makes Missing Pet Partnership’s work unique is that we’ve discovered that not all lost cat incidents are the same. An indoor-only cat that escapes outdoors is a very different situation than an outdoor-access cat that suddenly vanishes.
There are three basic categories of missing cats: displaced indoor-only cats, lost outdoor access cats, and displaced outdoor-access cats.
Indoor-Only Cats Who Have Escaped Outside
If your cat is an indoor-only cat and has escaped and is displaced outside or into unfamiliar territory there is good news — your cat is probably not lost at all! That is because it is likely that your cat is hiding and, depending upon the terrain, he/she is probably closer than you think!
In general, any cat that is transplanted into an unfamiliar territory is a “displaced cat”. The majority of these cases involve indoor-only cats that accidentally escape outdoors. Find out what you need to be doing HERE.
Lost Outdoor-Access Cats
By “Lost Outdoor-Access Cat” we mean that you are the caretaker of a cat that is routinely allowed to go outdoors, even for brief periods of time. When an outdoor-access cat disappears, it means that something has happened to the cat to interrupt its behavior of coming home. Cats are territorial and they do not just run away from home (like dogs do). Thus the tactics and techniques used to search for a missing cat should be different than those used to search for a missing dog. Find out what you need to be doing HERE.
Displaced Outdoor-Access Cats
If you’ve lost a cat that is allowed outdoors part-time or for brief periods of time and he/she has vanished, then it is possible that he/she is not missing but is hiding in fear. That’s because even outdoor-access cats can become “displaced” into unfamiliar territory when he/she is chased off (beaten up by another cat, chased by a dog, etc.) and he/she ends up in a yard or area that is total foreign to him/her, or a cat can become displaced when they escape from their carrier while at the vet’s office, escape from an RV while traveling on vacation, or escape from a vehicle during a car accident.
While some cats have the remarkable ability to use the homing instinct to work their way back to their territory, other cats who are displaced either don’t possess this skill or they’re too frightened to use it.
A cat’s individual temperament can range anywhere from a bold “clown-like” cat to the other end of the spectrum which is a catatonic “feral-like” cat. This temperament will influence how far he/she will travel and whether or not he/she will respond to human contact. Recovery techniques should be geared around a missing cat’s unique, individual temperament. If he or she is skittish, you’ll need to use the methods suggested for Indoor-Only Cats Who Have Escaped Outside. If he or she is outgoing and social, you’ll need to use the methods suggested for Lost Outdoor-Access Cats.
Excerpted with Permission. © 2007 Missing Pet Partnership. All rights reserved