Going the Extra Mile to Find Your Lost Pet
With the Australian wildfires raging, we can't help but think of the family pets killed or displaced when disaster strikes. Are you prepared? Cats have an uncanny ability to hole up in a snug safe spot and survive the initial catastrophic event, but would you be able to locate them afterward? In several recent stories on the Cat's Meow, cats have gone missing after house fires.
Last year in New Zealand, Catster Darwin (aka "Mr D" pictured at right) was lost for six months. He wasn't initially lost in a fire or other disaster, but because his family became experts in lost-cat-tracking, I asked Mr D and his mom to share some tips on what you can do to bring your lost cat home safely. If you think the answer is telephone pole flyers and newspaper ads, you've got a lot to learn.
Mr D's mom went so far as to rent a cat suit and stand by the side of the road with a ginormous flyer. Wacky, eh? Well, it worked. It's a remarkable story, and you can read it in the Catnip Chronicles (highly recommended reading!)
So I think you'll agree that Mr D knows what it takes to find a lost cat. Catster members gave his mom lots of suggestions along the way, and Mr D's mom agreed to share what they learned:
The best way to get your message out there is to talk to as many people as you can. That means DOOR KNOCKING, going to the VETS in person ( I also took biscuits around each time I visited them and they in turn kept the flyer on the wall and also told me if anyone commented on the flyers. If they mentioned any location they may have seen him). You have to visit the SPCA in person as they don't really describe the cats that well and they are very busy themselves.
Ideas that the group has mentioned:
- Use cat traps (especially helpful if your cat is an indoor scaredy cat).
- Making up a smoothie of smelly cat food and leave a trail leading back home.
- Use motion-activated cameras.
- Create food stations.
- Leave food and water outside, with smelly clothes ( with your smell on it).
- Look in unexpected areas, i.e. on the roof, in the ceiling or in drains. If you can't see into these areas use a camera at arm's length or on a stick with time delay so you can take a photo and view it on the computer.
- Post FLYERS everywhere.
- Cook smelly cat food on a BBQ ( the heat makes the food smell stronger).
- Walk the streets calling them -- especially at dusk, dawn or 4 am in the morning when most cats are more active.
- If you see a cat food bowl outside, leave a flyer near it.
- Check vacant houses and garages (they could be locked in).
- Any cat hoarders around? Check 'em out.
- Check stray cat feeders and feral colonies. Talk to the people who maintain those colonies.
- Cats don't normally travel more than one mile from your home, so get a map and draw a one-mile radius around your house. Concentrate on searching in that area.
- A large sign on your front fence, or even dress up in a cat suit or something else to attract attention and stand next to your sign or hold it during peak hour traffic. (This is what Mr D's mom did.)
- Have any neighbours had removal trucks around or service people around? Your pet may have gone for a ride. Check areas (stop signs, stop lights) where your cat may have jumped out of the truck.
- If using cat traps, use a baby monitor to moniter the traps.
- You could also try using signage on your car, or a poster affixed to the back windows.
Here are some other places to post your lost cat:
Here are some sites to check for more info:
There are many more links for a few other countries in the Catster group Alfie and Mr D's Purrs and Woofs for the missing. And we welcome any fur that would like to add to the list or be keen to join our group. We welcome all cats and dogs.
The MCA (missing cat assistance) group is a group for missing cats on Yahoo where there are a few people actively looking for their kitties. Its a great place to bounce ideas off each other.
Thanks, Mr D!
We'd like to add some emergency preparedness tips:
- Even if your cats are indoor cats, tag and microchip them. This is not a belt-and-suspenders exercise. Sometimes well-meaning people will keep found cats in their homes, and will wait to see if a lost cat ad appears in the newspaper (which could take several days). They won't think (or bother) to take your cat to a vet or shelter to be scanned. Tags ensure a quick reunion, and microchipping is a backup when the collar is lost. Indoor cats do escape, and if you're not home when disaster strikes, the cat could survive the disaster but be lost to you afterward. Wouldn't you like Fluffy returned to you as soon as possible?
- Take several GOOD well-lit photos of your cat at several angles. Upload high-res versions to an online photo-sharing site. If your home computer is destroyed (or you're barred from returning to your home for several days), you'll still have a backup photo to give to shelters and put on flyers.
- If your cat is on medication, scan the labels (black out personal info) and upload them to a photo sharing site. Keep a copy of the info in your wallet or at work. If your community experiences a disaster, your vet's office may not be open (or records could be destroyed) and your home might not be accessible. This ensures you have ready access to prescription info for your pet.
- Put a decal on a front window alerting firefighters to the presence of animals in your home.
- Got a multiple cat household? Make sure you have one cat carrier for each of your cats. We keep extra fold-up cardboard carriers in case of emergency.
- Keep an emergency stash of food and meds (if feasible), and refresh as necessary. A minimum 3-day supply is recommended. And don't forget water or purification drops. We live in earthquake country, so we keep kits in our cars with a stash of thyroid meds and canned cat food (which comes in handing when you encounter strays). Here are some emergency preparedness products for pets.
- Get a Pet First Aid Kit and a book on Pet First Aid and keep in an easily accessible place. And crack open the book before disaster strikes.
- Got an emergency plan? What would you do in case of fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc? For example, our home has two floors. If we were trapped by fire in our bedroom, we've talked through how to escape via the balcony, and how to get back into the rooms where the cats are likely to be (not recommended by firefighters, but who among us is likely to leave their cats in a burning home?)