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Scoonie's Story: Chapter I
October 26 - November 27, 2002 — missing 32 days.
Confident indoors, but timid outdoors, indoor-only Scoonie escapes for over a month.



Scoonie (left) and his brother Hobbes

Pauline,

If it weren't for your website we probably would not have our cat Scoonie home with us today.

He somehow sneaked out the door October 26 — we didn't realize he was missing until the next day. By then he had gone into hiding. We caught glimpses of him the following 2 Sundays but he ran when called. We went door to door with flyers, checked with the humane society, put ads in the papers... but we couldn't figure out why this beloved and lovable cat wouldn't come home to us. I kept putting food out, knowing that a variety of pet cats were eating there.

Then I started looking on the web and when I read about the psychology of missing indoor cats, it fit our situation perfectly. Our neighbors would report seeing Scoonie sneaking into a shed or under their porch, so we knew (after 3 weeks had gone by) that he was staying within a few houses away. Based on the additional instructions about trapping, I decided to buy a large-animal trap last Friday. We caught a tabby one night, a raccoon the next... then it snowed and last night (November 26) we caught Scoonie.

He meowed pitifully at first but then seemed at home and very much wanting to be held or at least touching one of us. I checked with the vet who didn't think it necessary to bring him in unless there was an obvious problem (other than underweight). Now I'm wondering if there's any study of cat psychology AFTER the missing pet returns home. Will he want to get back outside again? etc.

In any case, I send our family's heartfelt thanks. I hope you can continue to get this message out.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Pat G.,
Ohio, USA

Thanks so much for emailing me -- you don't know how lovely that is to know another kitty was able to come home. It will be a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sage was somewhat hesitant about windows and doors for the first few months after she returned from her adventure. She rarely sat on the window sill which she escaped out of, though she sat near other windows. During that time just after she returned, I think she really could remember how awful it was "out there." After a year or so, I think the memory faded. And this year (2 years after) I think the memory is completely gone. A month ago, our kitchen door blew open and I spotted her slowly slinking out. . .grabbed her just in time. I think the desire to pursue new territory (like exploring a rarely opened closet) is always enticing to a cat. Of course once outside, it becomes a whole different story and I'm sure she would freak out just as she did in the summer of 2000. I really don't think she learned much in the way of survival skills, unfortunately.

I asked Pat to describe Scoonie's behavior after returning home:

As far as behavior after Scoonie returned: he meowed a lot for an hour or so, and wanted to be held. His smell seemed to repel the other cats; two young males are just now sniffing him without hissing. Scoonie runs away whenever the door opens and has yet to sit up on the couch by the window, which was his usual sunning spot. He also avoids the back door where the other cats like to watch the birds and squirrels. And he eats too fast! Fortunately, he remembered how to use the litter box.

And would Scoonie be described as a timid cat?

No, Scoonie isn't particularly timid around strangers but never showed the same degree of affection as to his family. However, since his return he's been friendly to visiting family and friends as well.

So interesting how different cats react. What a cute name for a cat — "Scoonie"!


Scoonie's Story: Chapter II — Allure of the Pampas Grass NEW
February 8 - March 15, 2003 — missing 35 days.

Indoor-only cat escapes for over a month — AGAIN — this time into snow and 9 degree F temperatures.



Scoonie (what handsome markings — look at that tail!)
"...Scoonie happens to be the "hugger" of the group and is very affectionate..."

Hi Pauline

I thought this was a chapter from the past, but guess what---Scoonie slipped out again Saturday night, into snow and nine-degree temperatures! And we thought he'd "learned his lesson!" We had company in and out that evening so we didn't notice that he was gone until feeding time Sunday morning, the very same pattern as before. He hadn't been hanging around the door or whining to go out, so we didn't expect this at all.

We put our trap back on the porch right away---even adding a heating pad---and we thought he'd turn up the first night, but no luck. The last time he escaped, he was spotted going into a neighbor's shed and under another porch for shelter, so I expect he's doing the same thing now.However, our family is not very optimistic this time around about his ability to survive the weather. We'll keep you posted------more anecdotal data about crazy cat behavior! Keep your fingers crossed.

Thanks,
Pat

Ohhhhh noooooo poor you and poor Scoonie!!! :(

Last week I got a product called Feliway. It has a substance that mimics the calming face rubbing pheromones that cats put on their territory. Sage — who has been really stressed and rude to our second cat — calmed down within a day. Maybe spray some on the trap, around your house, and around the spots he hid last time? I have no idea whether this product will work for trapping kitties, but when it calmed Sage down, I immediately thought of the possibility it might help scared lost kitties. It's available at Petco, Petsmart etc.

My thinking is, even if it doesn't calm down Scoonie completely, it make take a notch down on his petrified state — enough to either come closer to home or enter a trap.

Good luck! I'll be keeping you and your family in my thoughts. . .

Pauline

Also, don't lose hope regarding the temperature. I know of a 10 yr old female survived 30 days outside, which the temps were sometimes in the 18-20 degree weather.

Thanks for the encouragement. It's supposed to go down to 12 degrees tonight, and an inch or so more snow. For some strange reason he seems to crave being outside----we probably should have raised him as an in-and-out cat. Now we have to try to outsmart him.

I'll look into the Feliway; in this weather the food smell isn't as likely to waft in the air. Again, thanks. I'll send you a progress report if and when.

Pat

 

Pauline

Here's a happy ending to the Scoonie story (again) which should provide encouragement to others. As I reported to you in February, Scoonie slipped out some time the evening of February 8. Since that time, we had at least 15 inches of snow in Columbus, which stayed on the ground until about a week ago, and temperatures in the teens or below. We kept the trap on our front porch, and caught 3 different cats several times, but we'd almost lost hope. My daughter thought she sighted Scoonie in late February but that was the only report---none of the neighbors saw him.

Well, the weather turned warm mid-week and Saturday morning, Scoonie showed up in the trap. He's very thin and I'm taking him to the vet today, but otherwise seems healthy....he wants to be held or be close to you at all times but oddly enough, is already showing interest in dashing out the door again. We will have to be extremely vigilant but it worries me that he will break away again, once he's fed, watered and loved.

Not sure how many of his nine lives are used up yet. This time he was gone 35 days (last time it was 32, October/November)----I guess even indoor cats have survival skills!

Pat

Oh my goodness!! You must be having heart attacks over all these escapes and reappearances!! If you're not, I surely am about to :D

Congratulations!

OK if Scoonie does not already have a bell on him, IT'S TIME TO PUT A LOUD BELL (or TWO) on the little escape artist. Once he is back on his feet and healthy again, you might want to try a little negative association so he continues to have bad feelings about going out.

1) Lock up the other cats in another room.

2) Have someone with an air horn (or some other very loud obnoxious thing) stand outside the closed front door (or whatever door is his favorite to escape out of . . .rolling eyes).

3) Put a secure harness and lead on Scoonie. Hang on to the lead while Scoonie explores the house.

4) Have the person outside open the door, then stay at a location that is hidden from Scoonie, but with a good view of the door opening.

5) The moment Scoonie sneaks out the door and crosses the threshold, the person outside should let the air horn go off. He should (if he is like most cats) run back inside. The harness and lead are a precaution. Repeat this every month or so to reinforce the negative associations.

Air horns are available in most sporting goods departments of discount stores (near boating equipment). Some cats don't mind the feeling of a harness. Some cats don't like the feeling on their body and roll around trying to get out. Simply put the harness on a few minutes each day before mealtimes. Cat will eventually associate harness with yummy food and walk around as normal.

Thank you for sharing the good news. I will add this chapter to his story. No more chapters though.. . .please. :o)

Pauline

NOTE Several people have shared stories of cats that stay hidden during particularly bad weather, but then show themselves when the weather clears up.

Pauline

I've talked about this behavior with other cat owners and with our veterinarian, and they all seem to find it weird that we have to trap our own cat. The information you post on your website about behavior of indoor cats still doesn't seem to be common knowledge.

We put a "safety-cat" collar on Scoonie with a little bell, so we know his whereabouts at all times — and he doesn't seem to mind at all. We finally figured out his reason for bolting out the door. There is a small patch of stunted pampas grass by our front door, which he loves to gnaw on (hence the "stunted"). When the door cracks open we've caught him dashing out to chew on the grass. He is not at all interested in going any further or in remaining outside. I'm thinking that his past two "getaways" resulted from his slipping out unnoticed, later at night, and then being locked out of the house overnight — so that he panicked and ran off. Now that he has a bell collar, we are able to catch him when it happens and there's no problem. So, I'm not looking for a part 3 to this story, but never say never! (I've tried putting a plant like that indoors, but it just doesn't seem to hold the same allure).

THANKS AGAIN

Ahhhh that explains it :D

I was beginning to think you needed to send Scoonie to kitty reform school, but couldn't imagine such a sweet cat having repeated truant behavior! It's nice to find an explanation for an otherwise angelic feline :o) and something I have been puzzling over.

The more people I talk to the more the behavior pans out as being very consistent. Thanks for helping spread the word to other cat owners in case it happens to them.

Pauline

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