If your cat 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!
When an indoor-only cat escapes outside (or when any cat is displaced into an unfamiliar area), the cat is likely hiding (usually near the escape point) in fear. That is because cats are territorial and your cat’s territory was inside of your home. Once a cat is transplanted into unfamiliar territory, it seeks shelter because it is instinct tells it to. Cats that are afraid (and cats that are injured) will seek areas of concealment such as under a deck, under a house, under a porch, or in heavy brush and they will not meow! Their instincts tell them that meowing would give up their location to a predator. Their behavior has nothing to do with whether the cat loves you, whether it recognizes your voice, or whether it can smell you–it has everything to do with the fact that a frightened cat will rely on instinct and hide in silence!
One method pioneered by Missing Pet Partnership that has resulted in the recovery of thousands of “missing” indoor-only cats (and displaced outdoor-access cats) is the same method used to capture feral cats–the use of a humane trap. We call this “trap-and-reunite” or “TAR.” These wire cages are available for rental from your local shelter or veterinarian or for sale at hardware stores, pet stores, or online. Humane traps have a trip mechanism that when triggered by a cat (or other small animal), will shut the door and contain a cat inside.
Sadly, cat owners are told to post flyers and to drive twenty miles to check the animal shelter cages but they are not instructed to set humane traps in their yard or in their neighbor’s yard where their indoor-only cat is likely hiding in fear.
Find out more about using Humane Traps here.