News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 20, 2011

PAW PRINTS: Cat’s temperament will influence how far it travels when lost

Niki Laviolette
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — There are three types of missing cats: displaced indoor cats, displaced occasional outdoor cats and lost outdoor cats. If your indoor cat has escaped to the outdoors, it is probably not lost. Your cat is most likely hiding in fear near the area where it has escaped. Cats are territorial, and when their territory is inside the home, they will seek shelter when displaced.

When a cat is afraid or injured, it will search for areas to hide, such as under a house, under a porch, under a deck or under bushes. A fearful cat will not meow, as meowing will make them vulnerable to predators. Even a very loving and friendly cat that is frightened will hide in silence. The best method for recovering indoor-only cats is to set a humane trap in your or your neighbor’s yard (where he is most likely hiding in fear).

A cat that has been allowed access to the outside who then becomes lost, could also be hiding somewhere in fear. A cat can find itself in unfamiliar territory when it is chased off by another cat or dog. Cats often are immobilized by fear and can often be found hiding only a block or so away from home. Many cats that hide in silence will eventually return home or enter a humane trap.

A cat’s temperament and past experiences will influence how far it will travel when lost and whether or not it will respond to humans. The temperament of a displaced cat can vary from behaving boldly to acting feral. If the missing cat is skittish, it will more than likely be hiding in fear, and a humane trap might be needed to help recover it. A gregarious cat could easily travel several blocks or miles. To recover this type of lost cat, you’ll need to knock on neighbor’s doors, post fliers and check the local humane shelter.

An outdoor cat that is missing usually means that something has happened to interrupt its behavior of coming home. As cats are territorial, they don’t just run away from home like dogs do.

Checking the local shelters and putting up posters are helpful but an active search in your and your neighbors’ yards is vital. It could be that your missing cat is injured and is hiding silent under your neighbor’s deck. Your cat could be trapped in a basement, under a house or inside a shed. Look for your cat yourself in every conceivable hiding place in your and your neighbor’s yards.

Don’t rely on your neighbor to look for your lost cat. The neighbor will call you only if your cat is sitting on the front porch. Remember “The Silence Factor” (cats hiding in silence) kills cats every day.

Other circumstances that could have happened to your cat includes your cat being stolen, your cat is sick, injured, or even dead. Cats are sometimes killed by vehicles or predators such as coyotes, Great Horned Owls, hawks, etc.

Your cat could also be displaced from having beenchased out of its territory. Not conducting a thorough enough search is why most displaced cats are not found by their owners. Cats are sometimes transported intentionally (by your cat-hating neighbor) or unintentionally (cats jumping into cars) out of their areas.

Keep in mind when searching for your lost cat (unless it has been transported out of the area), that it could be somewhere within a five-house radius of your home. Sick, injured or trapped cats are often found within their territory. A displaced cat could have been chased several houses or blocks away from home.

A cat will sometimes travel up to a mile or more from its territory, and cats that end up the farthest from home are those that have been intentionally or unintentionally transported from their home. As a result, they are the most difficult cats to recover.