by Lambeth Hochwald
Even the most doting, attentive cat owner can lose a kitty. Just ask Jenne Mundy, the world's first "cat profiler," who now helps to reunite lost felines with their humans. The San Antonio, Texas-based Mundy got into this line of work after her own cat strayed. Since then, she has learned ways of preventing the worst from happening.
"The best place to start is to always make sure your kitty is wearing a collar and a license," Mundy says, "even if the cat never goes outside. But if your cat does escape from your home, you have to go out and search for it -- you can't wait for a kitty to return on its own."
Even without an expert at your side, it is quite possible to locate a lost cat. Here are tips from concerned pet owners with success stories to share:
When in doubt, lure a lost cat with food
"Minnie, one of my two cats, once crawled out a window through a broken screen and, according to my neighbors, slid down the awning onto the ground below," says Jennifer Ediger, a marketing manager in Los Angeles. "She took off at that point, having never been outside before. By the time I got down the stairs, she was gone. I was absolutely panicked! At the time, I lived on an extremely busy street in Burbank, California, and was imagining all the worst possible scenarios. I searched for her for 10 hours straight, the whole time absolutely terrified. When it started to get dark, I called the local animal shelter to see if anyone had turned her in and was fortunate enough to speak with someone who had been through a similar situation. He told me to walk around the perimeter of my house shaking something that she would identify with -- in this case, a bag of favorite cat food -- and she would likely come out to be fed. I did this for an hour and gave up only because my neighbors were getting tired of hearing me calling her name and banging a bag of cat food. I went back into my apartment thinking she was gone when I heard her meowing. It worked! There she was on the doorstep, waiting to be fed. I was so happy to get her back! She was cuddled, only mildly scolded and tucked under the covers with me at the end of the night."
Exercise extreme caution if your cat goes outside
"I got Charley, my female tortoise shell cat, from a private owner when she was about three years old," says Cincinnati real estate broker Tom Nurre, Jr. "The previous owner said she had never been outside so I was very hesitant to let her out. But I did and Charley got used to going outside, being especially fond of sunning herself. About two weeks after moving into a new place, Charley went out the front door and was gone for almost a week over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We searched for her, but since we live next to a couple of busy streets, I had just about given up hope of her returning. Then, after being gone for six days, Charley showed back up on the front walk noticeably skinnier than when she left and smelling like gas/oil. We've concluded that she went exploring in someone's garage and got locked inside while they left for the holiday weekend. She still likes to go outside, but since that time has never strayed from the front yard and will not stay out longer than about 30 minutes before yowling to come back inside. She seems to have certainly learned her lesson. Since she was still relatively inexperienced at being outside, I felt very guilty for letting her out and truly thought that I had killed my cat. It was with great relief that I saw her come up the front walk on the day she returned."
Rely on the fact that your cat knows your voice
"I took Windrew, my neutered marmalade tom cat, with me to visit my mother," recalls Nan Andrews Amish, a San Francisco-based business strategist. "Somehow he snuck out with my mother's cat and her cat scared him off. He was missing for 10 days. We called everywhere. We ran ads in the newspaper. Seems there were a lot of stray marmalade cats running around that week because we followed up about 14 calls. Finally, I got a call from someone less than a mile away. We drove up and she said Windrew had been in her garage but had snuck out after catching breakfast. We kept calling for him and he must have followed our voices because he was at my mother's house almost as soon as we arrived. Even if a cat is disoriented, he will try to get back to you, and your voice can lead the way. Just don't give up on calling him!"
Five Things to do to Find Your Cat
If your cat ever becomes lost, Mundy suggests taking the following actions:
Tell your neighbors your cat is lost. Distribute flyers with clear, color photos of the kitty and include your phone number(s).
Ask permission to search
If you think your cat hasn't strayed far, speak with your neighbors and get permission to search their property. It's possible your cat is injured and hiding, or is stuck in a place like a garage or shed.
Call the Animal Control or Sanitation Department regularly. They'll tell you if they've picked up your cat since they have records of any cats they have picked up or have been hit in the road.
Lost cats are likely to be frightened and nervous so, when searching, call for your cat soothingly and without panic. If the cat does come out of hiding, it's likely it'll come out very slowly and carefully. Be sure to be careful and try not to alarm it. With a little patience, the kitty should come to you.
Lure it to you
Place a bowl of your cat's favorite food outside. Sometimes this simple act does the trick.
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