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Recovery Tips - Displaced Cat Behavior

© 2007 Missing Pet Partnership. All rights reserved.

In general, any cat that is transplanted into an unfamiliar territory is a DISPLACED CAT. The majority of these cases involve indoor-only cats that accidentally escape outdoors. However, outdoor-access cats become displaced when they escape from their carrier while at the vet's office, escape from an RV while traveling on vacation, or escape from a vehicle during a car accident. We've even discovered that some outdoor-access cats can become displaced when they are chased from their territory, ending up hiding ten houses down in a neighbor's yard, yet too disoriented and afraid to come home! In these circumstances, even though the cat is technically an "outdoor-access cat," it is a DISPLACED CAT and you should use the advice found on this page.

When an indoor-only cat escapes outside (or when any cat is displaced into an unfamiliar area), the cat is likely hiding (usually near the escape point) in fear. That is because cats are territorial and your cat's territory was inside of your home. Once a cat is transplanted into unfamiliar territory, it seeks shelter because it is afraid. Cats that are afraid (and cats that are injured) will seek areas of concealment such as under a deck, under a house, under a porch, or in heavy brush and they will not meow! Meowing would give up their location to a predator. Their behavior has nothing to do with whether the cat loves you, whether it recognizes your voice, or whether it can smell you--it has everything to do with the fact that a frightened cat will hide in silence!

The method that Missing Pet Partnership has pioneered that has resulted in the recovery of thousands of "missing" indoor-only cats (and displaced outdoor-access cats) is the same method used to capture feral cats--the use of a humane trap. We call this "trap-and-reunite" or "TAR." These wire cages are available for rental from your local shelter or veterinarian or for sale at hardware stores, pet stores, or online at www.animal-care.com. Humane traps have a trip mechanism that when triggered by a cat (or other small animal), will shut the door and contain a cat inside. We highly recommend the Tru-Catch brand of humane traps (the brown trap shown on the right - which is the size "30D" and fits small cats like this 10 pound gray tabby). Order the size "36D" if your cat is larger). Compared to other traps (like the one on the left) which close loudly when shut, the Tru-Catch is much quieter and is less likely to panic a cat when initially trapped. Most likely, you won't find these traps at the local hardware store but you can order them on-line at www.trucatchtraps.com.

Myron in humane trap

Sadly, cat owners are told to post flyers and to drive twenty miles to check the animal shelter cages but they are not instructed to set humane traps in their yard or in their neighbor's yard where their indoor-only cat is likely hiding in fear. Animal shelters are not providing this information because they are not trained in this new information! Missing Pet Partnership hopes to provide training in lost pet behavior to animal shelter staff and volunteers so that more cat owners are given information that will help them know how and where to search for their missing cat. You can help us by telling the volunteers or staff at your local shelter about our organization and website!

To read an encouraging story about how a cat that was displaced for over five months and was recovered due to MPP advice, a wildlife camera, and humane traps, read the Li'l Miss Kitty Story.

To read an second amazing, encouraging story about how a cat named Bebe was displaced in a neighborhood for four months and recovered by MPP volunteers due to wildlife cameras and a feeding station, read the "Bebe blog".

Additional Resources

If your cat is lost, be sure to read our Lost Cat Behavior page and our Posters 5+5+55 page for additional tips and information that can help you use the proper search and recovery techniques! If you'd like professional assistance then you might want to Find A Pet Detective to assist you. Other than that, here are additional resources that may help you in the recovery of your displaced cat:

Cats In The Bag - Hannah Banque's site catsinthebag.org is a great resource for how and why you should humanely trap a lost cat.


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