Between the neighbor’s dog and the busy street, there’s a lot that can happen to an indoor cat that gets outside. Keeping your kitty indoors is really the only way to protect them from these unpredictable dangers, but even the best laid plans can go awry. It doesn’t matter that your cat has everything they could possibly desire inside the safety of your home. If they see a cracked window or an open door, the temptation for an adventure might take over. Don’t take it personally, it’s natural for a cat to want to explore. And a lot of kitties dash through doors when they’re spooked or scared. What matters most in this situation is what you do to bring them home safely. If your cat gets outside, there are several things you can do to bring them home.
Here are a few tips to help you find your indoor cat if they ever end up in the unfamiliar outdoors.
Calmly check the area directly surrounding your home
This sounds obvious, but it’s important to point out the word “calmly” here. If your cat has lived their entire life inside, suddenly being outside will be a shock to their system. Grass! Dirt! Traffic! People! There’s a lot to take in and be nervous about. Frantically running around screaming your cat’s name will not help the situation. It will most likely make your cat feel even more afraid, and they might run farther away or hide from you.
Instead, walk calmly around your house softly calling your cat’s name. If they’ve never been outside before, they probably won’t go far in the few minutes after their escape. Their first instinct after realizing running away was a big mistake will probably be to find somewhere to hide. Focus your search efforts on bushes and other areas that could easily conceal your cat.
Let people know
While you’re out searching, take time to talk to everyone you see. Tell them your cat is lost and provide a good description. You can even show them one of the many pictures you have on your phone. You want to talk to as many people as possible and enlist as much help as you can get. Knock on your neighbors’ doors (even if you don’t know them) and tell them what’s up. If your initial search doesn’t bring your cat home, you can also post flyers on community bulletin boards.
While talking to people in person is a MUST, social media is also a valuable tool in finding lost pets. Post about the situation on your own social media pages to inform your family and friends. It’s also important to find pages and groups that are specifically meant to reunite lost pets with their families. Trying searching for your town’s name plus the words “lost pet.” It’s also helpful to post on other community-based pages like a neighborhood Facebook page or pet page. The more people who know your cat is lost, the better your chances are finding them.
Use your cat’s sense of smell to lure them home
Cats have an incredible sense of smell, and if they’re lost outside, they can use scents to find their way home. First, you can use your own scent. Take clothing that you’ve recently worn, or even a favorite blanket, and put it outside your house. Hopefully your cat will catch the scent and follow it back into your arms.
Your cat will also be attracted to the scent of their litter box. You think the litter box smells gross, but your cat is keenly familiar with that specific odor. And if your cat has been inside their entire life, there’s a good chance they’ll be looking around for their litter box the first time they get the urge to do their business while outside. A lot of cat owners have had success with using the litter box to lead their cats back home. It’s definitely worth a try, so put your cat’s box somewhere outside near your house.
Search at the right times
There’s a reason why your cat does random sprints down the hallway at 3AM. Cats are crepuscular animals, which means they’re most active at dawn and dusk. They sleep during the day and save their energy for those times of low light. If your cat gets outside in the middle of the day, there’s a good chance they’ll find somewhere to hide/sleep until the sun starts to set.
If you’re calling your cat’s name during the day, they might be asleep and not hear you. It’s a better idea to start your cat searches early in the morning or right when the sun is starting to set. A lot of people also recommend setting up trail cameras that can detect movement. So if your cat is hanging around, you’ll at least have photographic evidence that they’re nearby.
Check your local animal shelters
If your friendly kitty ends up in someone else’s yard, there’s a good chance a Good Samaritan will take your cat to the local shelter. It’s a good thing, because it’ll keep your cat safe, but there’s also risk involved. If your cat doesn’t have a microchip, they could be put up for adoption after a designated hold period. And if the shelter doesn’t follow a no-kill philosophy, something even worse could happen to your cat.
When checking your local shelters, it’s best to call AND visit in person. Shelters are always busy with animals constantly going in and out. The person you talk to on the phone might not be up to date on recent intakes. It’s best to go in person to look at the cats yourself. If you don’t see your cat, leave your contact information behind and check back every few days.
When your indoor cat gets outside, it’s always scary. You worry about what could happen to them and wonder if they’re cold or hungry. But with perseverance and the right strategy, you can have your cat back home safely. And if you haven’t already, consider having them microchipped. It’s really the best way to keep them safe.