I think that the most frightening thing that can happen to an indoor cat owner is to have their dearly beloved cat escape out the door. Whether it is an accident, where the cat broke through a screen, or someone leaving the door ajar and the cat’s curiosity got the best of it. It is an experience that can make even the bravest of cat owners fall to their knees.
However, accidents do happen, no matter how careful we are. So what should a cat owner do first? In some instances prepare yourself for a long day or night of endless searching and calling.
Many studies have shown that indoor cats often show certain types of behavior when they find themselves in strange and unknown territory.
Most often they will go into what is called a “”shut down mode”” which is a type of self-preservation mode due to the fact that they are frightened and overwhelmed.
Most indoor-only cats have never seen the new sights and sounds of the outdoors and the experience is not only over whelming, but also down right scary.
If you are lucky enough to see your cat escape, keep a watchful eye on where it is going if it is at all possible. A frightened cat generally will not come when called, and now that you are outside, you too, are considered a scary person by the cat.
An indoor-only cat’s first impulse is to hide somewhere that is why if you can keep your eye on the escapee you have a better chance of catching him/her.
A word of warning here, however, even if you know where Kitty is hiding, the chances of him/her coming into your arms willingly are slim and none.
First try offering food or treats, should you get no response do not be dismayed, as your cat may just be too frightened or distracted and does not realize you are its friend and not an enemy. If you try to grab the cat or make a fast motion toward it, you are only frightening it more. Talking softly and moving slowly will work better; again, keep in mind that Kitty is frightened and when you try to pick him/her up, Kitty may scratch or bite. This is a defense mechanism and has nothing to do with you. Remember how you would react if someone came toward you when you were frightened, how would you react?
If you know where Kitty is and if you can leave your door open, try to position yourself behind Kitty and sort of nudge the cat toward home territory. Again talking softly and no fast or sudden moves as you encourage the cat toward the house.
If you have not been able to see where Kitty has gone, the chances are good that your cat is within a 2 or 3 house area hiding somewhere. The scary part here is the longer your cat is gone the further it may wander.
I know we often will go about the neighborhood calling our cat’s name, that in itself makes us think we are doing some good, but kitty won’t answer 99% of the time. The best thing to do here is post flyers right away, talk to all the neighbors in close proximity, and search all the obvious and non-obvious places such as under porches, behind woodpiles, in sheds and under and in bushes. The next thing you should do is call the animal shelters and report your cat missing. Also ask to borrow some humane traps from the animal shelter and set them in your immediate area with food in them, with the hope that a hungry kitty and not a possum will find refuge.
There are two things that you can do for your cat before you have to ever experience this situation. They are (a) have identification on your cat or better yet have a microchip installed, (b) believe it or not teach your cat to come for food treats, this could save its life if it escapes outdoors. The thought here is if the cat has been taught to come when called for food; it will do so, indoors or out.
As a cat owner, I have been through this experience, thankfully with good results, as my cat came back. I know the anguish that one goes through when our 4-legged friend slips through the door and I pray you never have to experience it and should you, I hope these thoughts help.