If your cat has gone on a walkabout, the following tips can help you track him down and lure him home
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Anyone who has lived with them knows that cats are ninjas when it comes to slipping unnoticed out of doors and then hiding successfully from anyone searching for them. These little predators who live in our homes are hard-wired to remain hidden, and living a soft indoor life doesn’t dull their instincts. Trying to find a lost cat can be like searching for a specific grain of sand on the beach.
The first rule of success is knowing how to look. Cheryl M. Melton of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, vice president and western area director for Forever Friends Humane Society, became an accidental expert in 2013 after a family adopted a cat from her rescue group. The same night they took him home, he slipped out the door and disappeared.
“I was determined to find Thomas,” she says. “This was the jumping-off point for me in finding lost cats.”
Thomas was finally recovered. Since then, Melton has helped owners find other missing meowsers.
Even though you can’t see them, “lost” cats typically stick close to home. They may take refuge in bushes or a shed and hunker down for about 24 hours. They use their senses to gather information and won’t move until they feel safe. Then they will begin to search for food, water, shelter and, sometimes, other cats. If you have a neighbor who is known for feeding cats, check with her first, Melton advises.
“I have found that cats do not usually go further than 200 yards from the point of exit,” she says. “They don’t go in a straight line, and they don’t stick to roads like dogs do. They tend to slowly work their way around, and it seems like they always work their way forward. The cats I have found have been very close to home, not more than a half mile at most.”
Look for your cat at dawn or dusk. Cats are crepuscular, meaning those are the times of day they are most active. They like to hunt when it’s still cool or when it’s dark out.
Put up flyers. They are the number-one way pets are returned to owners, Melton says. Put a large color photo of your cat on the flyer, topped with the words "Missing!" and "Reward!" At the bottom, add other details, including contact information. Post flyers on street corners up to a half-mile from your home. Place them at eye level so the driver of a car can see them.
“Put one on your door for your mailman to see, and make sure flyers are distributed to neighbors, pet stores, feed stores, shelters and online,” Melton says.
Because at the time she didn’t know how to look, it took Melton a month to track down Thomas.
“Once I learned more about staying close to the point of exit, that made all the difference, and we got him within the week,” she says.
One thing Melton learned from the search for Thomas was that no matter how loving and friendly a cat is, being lost is a scary situation for him. Even though your cat knows you, he may be too afraid to come when you call. Be prepared to set and monitor a humane trap once you locate your cat.
“Don’t give up hope,” Melton says. “Your kitty could be found in a day or a month or a year. It all depends on the area, the depth of the search and, of course, the cat.”
Ways to manage
Q: My dog seems really stiff, and the veterinarian says he probably has arthritis. Is there anything that can be done to help him feel more comfortable?
A: I feel for him. My joints are achy these days, too. We know in both human and veterinary medicine that pain management is crucial for any condition that interferes with normal activity: For dogs, those things include getting up or lying down, walking around, getting petted and just the ability to feel good during the day.
It’s not possible to eliminate pain completely, but treatments and medications are available that can help your dog get along without suffering. Pain management is successful when a dog can engage in normal activities: eating, sleeping, going for walks or just moving around the house, and interacting with his humans or other animals.
Several types of medications can help. For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, for short) help to reduce inflammation and are often used to treat chronic pain conditions such as osteoarthritis. Your veterinarian may suggest a combination of drugs from different classes that work in different ways to provide the best pain relief for your individual dog or to reduce the risk of side effects.
If your dog is overweight, dropping a few pounds can relieve stress on his joints and decrease pain. Some dogs with lameness from painful, arthritic hips have improved with weight loss alone.
Some veterinary hospitals now offer complementary therapies in tandem with medication. Complementary therapies that may help to relieve arthritis pain include acupuncture, cold laser, hydrotherapy and massage.
Finally, you can make environmental changes that might ease his stiffness. Look for an orthopedic pet bed that offers good support for those achy joints. Some are heated, which is also soothing. Provide steps or a ramp to make it easier for him to get on and off the sofa or bed or into the car. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Don’t worry about
feline whisker woes
-- Does your cat have “whisker fatigue”? It’s been suggested that cats who don’t like eating out of deep, narrow dishes avoid them because they don’t like the feel of their whiskers brushing against the sides. While a cat’s whiskers are undoubtedly sensitive, it’s unlikely that repeatedly brushing them against the sides of a bowl is frustrating to felines. If your cat is reluctant to eat, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. The cat may have painful dental disease or some other mouth problem.
-- Students at Stanford University will be permitted to have approved support animals on two floors of West Lagunita Court, an undergraduate dormitory. The new policy goes into effect in the fall semester. Support animals are approved on a case-by-case basis. The policy defines a support animal as “an animal that provides emotional or other support/assistance that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.” The university already permits service animals such as guide dogs or seizure-alert dogs. Those animals may reside in any building not designated as animal-free.
-- Most dogs have dark brown eyes, but genetics can affect eye color. Amber eyes, which range in shade from light brown to yellow, yellow-green or gray, are usually limited to dogs with liver-colored or blue coats, but occasionally appear in dogs with black in their coats. Those dogs may have deep copper-colored eyes or a lighter amber shade. Other dogs have blue eyes, which can occur for different reasons. One is when a dog carries the gene for a merle coat, which dilutes parts of the eye and nose pigment. Dogs with large amounts of white around their eyes may have blue eyes as well, as can dogs with partial albinism -- very light coats, pink noses and blue eyes. Finally, some dogs, such as Siberian huskies, have blue eyes courtesy of a separate gene not linked to coat color. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.