never thought I'd have to worry about losing my cat to the outdoors.
She's an indoor-only cat, extremely pampered purebred (Grand Champion
mom and dad, no less!), we're very conscientious about her safety
how could she ever get lost?
6:30 am on June 2, 2000 our beautiful little indoor-only Russian
Blue cat slipped out through a loose window screen, presumably
in the hopes of a great adventure outdoors. For four weeks, we
searched for her using many of the usual search techniques
as well as a few unusual techniques. It was the information that
pet detective Kat Albrecht gave us on indoor-only cat behavior
and how to trap yes, trap a pet cat in a humane trap
that finally brought our little kitty back home.
When Sage slipped out that morning, she probably had visions of
better things beyond her screened indoor world. The only problem
was that for all of her 9 years, she had never before been outside
on her own. When I spotted her through a window, even though she
could not have been out more than 10 minutes, it appeared that
she changed her mind about that great outdoor adventure. What
I saw was my indoor-only kitty frantically pacing back and forth,
desperately trying to reenter the same screened window she had
adventurously slipped out of. But by this time, the loose screen
had flapped back closed and there was no way for her to reenter.
went outside, crouched down, and softly called her towards me,
but Sage was so focused on the same window and avoided me, as
she continued to paced back and forth, reattempting over and over
to get back in the window. I didn't want to frightened her more
by chasing her so I went inside to remove the screen that was
blocking her way.
the large screen must have frightened her even more because she
dashed away. I never saw her again for 27 days.
husband and I immediately began looking for her. We went out calling
for her for an hour, shaking some dry food, then stayed home for
an hour to give her a chance to come home on her own. We placed
food and water in the front and the back yard, and left several
windows open. We left socks and kitty bedding around our yard.
All day was spent looking and calling, then waiting at home. Noontime,
she hadn't returned so we started making flyers. By dinnertime,
two neighborhood blocks had posters.
the week we went door to door checking yards and garages, as well
as putting up more flyers on posts and leaving flyers under doormats;
a four block area was now covered. We had the help of so many
wonderful people, family, friends, and even some complete strangers,
who passed out flyers as well as searched the neighborhood. We
left flyers at nearby veterinarian offices, visited the Humane
Society every other day. We went out at night when it was very
quiet and the time when wild animals come out for food. How could
our protected indoor-only kitty survive on her own?
the end of Week 1, my husband discovered an article by Kat Albrecht
cat behavior and how their behavior is quite different from
outdoor-access cats, so search techniques are different when they
are lost. Indoor-only cats often need to be trapped because they
go into a completely frightened mode and won't meow back when
you call. There was a link to Kat Albrecht's organization that
used search and rescue dogs to find lost pets. I immediately called
Kat. She agreed to come out the next day. We got permission from
our neighbors to search on their property with the dogs. I made
a map of the neighborhood. We referred to it Saturday to quickly
see which houses we had permission to search, which houses had
dogs or cats, heavy brush hiding spots, and locations of sidewalk
construction that occurred on the morning Sage disappeared.
morning, Kat and her pet detective team, Cheryl and Judy, arrived
with their pet search and rescue dogs. She also brought in high
tech equipment, an infrared device that detects heat sources in
dark areas a flashlight cannot penetrate and a listening device
that amplifies sounds. They worked all morning. There were a few
houses that the dogs seemed to show some interest in but no sightings
of Sage. With indoor-only cats, the dogs are prevented from getting
too close if they begin to show interest, for fear that it would
send the kitty running even further. Kat advised us to set traps
in these three areas. After one week of our cat being away from
home, I was no longer concerned about frightening my cat further
with a humane trap. Since we had thus far not found her (nor had
anyone else definitively spotted her), the only other alternative
was that she was likely slowly starving to death.
We trapped in neighbor's yards and garages every night for one
week, moving traps from house to house. One cat was caught and
was released in 5 minutes. Record hot temperatures of 109 degrees.
We left containers of water everywhere in our yard. I continued
to go out every other night calling for Sage at 2 am. A seven
block area was now postered and flyered.
had trapped at all our neighbor's houses that Kat advised us,
so we began trapping just in our front and back yards. We caught
3 opossums; they were released immediately. I began gardening
barefoot to leave my scent. I continued to go out every 2-3 nights
calling for Sage at 2 am.
continued trapping at night just in our front and back yards.
We caught 2 more opossums; they were released immediately. We
began to leave canned food out during the day. I reread Kat's
article, her case studies on her website and reread my notes that
I had taken when Kat was profiling Sage. I referred to the same
map I had made a long 2.5 weeks ago. The ideal place for a hiding
cat is a backyard with no resident cats or dogs, but with access
to food and water.
at 2 am I went out calling for Sage with a can of cat food and
her carrier. Instead of going from house to house as I often would,
I searched the bottoms of backyard fences for gaps that a cat
could crawl under and looked for gray cat hair. A few houses down,
I saw some gray hair so I began to call for Sage. A very small
cat about the size of Sage darted past me and scooted right under
the fence in front of me. I didn't have time to get my flashlight
out. I stayed there a long time continuing to call softly. The
cat did not match the description of any other neighbor cats in
the area. The house whose back yard this cat entered is 5 doors
down from our house and has no resident pets. Next door is a house
that has 4 cats and food and water is often left out. Even though
I went home with an empty cat carrier again, and a can of cat
food untouched, I was hopeful because I was using search techniques
that I hadn't before. I went to sleep and dreamed that we found
our Sage along the back fence line. Later that week I had the
same dream again.
Tuesday night for the first time in three weeks, I was too tired
to set the traps. There was wet food left around in the same spots
as we normally would trap, but no traps.
night I set the traps as usual and set my alarm for 2 am to call
for Sage. For some reason I didn't hear the alarm. I awoke at
5 am Thursday morning disappointed that it was too late to call
for Sage because the birds had started up already and traffic
would soon be noisy, too. I went out to the yard to bring the
traps in. The back yard trap's door was shut. I was sure it must
be another opossum. I got closer and saw a gray tail. Must be
someone's cat. It was a small extremely thin, solid gray cat.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It looked very much like
our Sage but I wanted to be sure. Sage has a distinctive bump
on her nose. And there it was Sage was finally home June
recognized me immediately and yowled to get out. I brought the
trap to our bedroom and we shut and locked every window and door.
Then we let her out. She had some food and water, and then began
the longest purring serenade I had ever heard. She was completely
unafraid. The "complete cover" mode that had prevented
her from calling back to me and making her presence known was
now gone. The sweet kitty mode had taken its place as quickly
and mysteriously as it disappeared. For the next 3 hours, she
only wanted to sit on my lap or be carried, which I was only too
thrilled to do. I still could not believe our good fortune.
I took her to the vet, Sage weighed only 4.2 pounds. Her normal
weight is 6.6 pounds. She had lost 36% of her original body weight,
was hosting a flea party, was dehydrated but mostly very healthy
considering her 27 day ordeal.
with the knowledge about trapping, our kitty is safely back at