NEW Feral (or Born of Feral Mom)
If your missing indoor-only cat was at one time a feral (or was born to a feral mom), your kitty will be: 1) more familiar with the outside world; 2) less likely to be afraid of the outdoors; and 3) less likely to go into complete cover. A kitty previously feral (or born to feral mom) will be more skittish around humans however, so you'll need to tailor your search techniques.
What is a "Kitty Buffet"?
A Kitty Buffet is a lure YOUR kitty's favoritest things in the world to lure YOUR kitty to you, to your trap, to your home. Fellow pet detective Jenne of Catprofiler.com coined the term "Kitty Buffet" when she was looking for the ever elusive and finally recovered Katka. Chez Jenne's offered delectables such as Jack Mackerel, tuna, and three different kinds of dry chow every night neighborhood kitties and doggies never had it so good!
The idea of the Kitty Buffet is to advertise to critters everywhere (and in particular to your pet) that there is a wonderful food bar open, always at a certain time, always at a certain place, guaranteed to be delicious. Pick a safe quiet environment for your Kitty Buffet. Provide a selection of yummiest smelling food & fresh water. Spray the area with Feliway and liberally sprinkle with catnip and used kitty litter.
The Kitty Buffet is used to lure the kitty to one location. Then Simply Sitting outside or a Trap is used to contain the cat.
The Kitty Buffet + Sitting
For Feral Walkabout Cats it may not be necessary to trap. Simply Sit outside quietly near the Kitty Buffet at mealtimes so that your cat has positive associations your presence. Sit far away at first until your cat becomes used to your presence. Day by day sit closer and closer, until you are able to "befriend" your cat.
mom of feral born Toulouse, brought up the fact that a feral
born cat may have had previous traumatic experience with a trap
as a kitten. A cat with this history might avoid a trap at all
costs. If that is the case, sitting next to the Kitty Buffet
rather than trapping might be the best method.
The Kitty Buffet + Trapping
If your neighbors regularly spot your Feral Walkabout cat, but your pet runs from humans the Kitty Buffet plus trapping may be the best method. What you want to do is establish a Kitty Buffet food supply to attract your cat to a single location.
To disable a trap, tie it up securely.
Place a disabled trap (door secured open; see photo above) near the Buffet so that your kitty becomes used to the trap's presence. Once your cat begins to show up regularly, begin to place the food gradually closer and closer to the trap. Eventually put the food inside the (still disabled) trap. After your kitty has successfully entered the trap to eat, set the trap for real the next day at the usual mealtime. If your cat still balks at entering the trap, withhold food one day, then trap the next day. The extra hunger will probably be enough to overcome the wariness.