We have spent a lot of time searching for, and finding, lost cats. Most often, they got out after a window, door, cat flap or balcony was left open. This is why we really emphasise the importance of making your home secure when you’re caring for a timid cat, have just adopted a cat or have an inside-only cat.
Below, we share some real-life lost cat recovery stories. We hope they help you stay motivated to keep searching for your cat. Don’t give up. It is extremely likely that they are out there somewhere, alive, and close by. They really need you to stay the course and keep looking for them.
If you would like help finding your missing cat, please contact us.
On this page
- Prompt action brings Poppy home in three days
- Three-legged Katsu falls three stories – and survives
- Eight years a lost cat
- The secret life of Nailah
- Luana gets lost in dense bush
- Hilbert cuts an interstate holiday short
- Ginny jumps from two storey roof
- Amarisa does the seeming impossible
- The Great Topaz escape
- A Mexican standoff and a grumpy dog
- Wildlife camera helps us find Latte
- Fleur’s eyes shine brightly on a mobile phone
- Friendly Noah finds his wild streak
- An unsecured balcony leads to tragedy
- Balcony claims another life
- After sixteen months, Hank is finally found
Escape point: Window
Time missing: Three days
Recovery methods used: Wildlife cameras; trap
Keys to recovery: Immediate action by adopter and foster carer; wildlife cameras; trap
Distance from home when found: 15 metres
An open window led to newly-adopted and timid cat Poppy making a run for it at 8:20pm on a Wednesday night. Thankfully, her adopter, Kayla, sought help from Poppy’s foster carer, Kazi, immediately and Kazi contacted us.
The next afternoon, Kazi and Kayla drove across town to pick up wildlife cameras and a trap from Poppy’s rescue group. That meant we were able to get wildlife cameras set up on Thursday night.
Poppy’s likely hiding place
Kayla lives in #8 at the back of a unit complex on a busy road. The people in #9 had seen Poppy run past their unit when she first got out. From looking at Googlemaps, we thought it most likely that Poppy would have headed for properties at the back of the complex, where there were gardens, rather than staying in the unit complex which is mostly concrete.
So we had an idea of where to set the equipment up.
Fluffy cat appears on camera
Early on Friday morning, a wildlife camera captured a blurry photo of a fluffy cat. Photos aren’t as helpful as videos, but at least we knew there was a fluffy cat in the area. Kayla thought it was quite likely Poppy.
The next night, video confirmed that it was definitely Poppy, thanks to her unique tortoiseshell markings. She had quite a good sniff of the camera when she approached the area – it would have had Kayla and Nazi’s scents on it. Huge relief to Kayla and her partner.
There had been quite a bit of rain and Poppy’s fluffy tummy was clearly wet from wading through grass to get to the food in front of the camera. But she had found shelter, somewhere, as the rest of her was dry.
Will she go into the box trap?
The next night, Kayla put a trap out, tied the door open, and put a camera inside the trap, to see how far Poppy would go inside. (Sometimes, cats will only put their head in and need to be ‘desensitised’ to it before they’ll go all the way in and can be trapped). The trap was covered with a tarp, due to the rain.
Yes she will
Poppy didn’t seem too hesitant so, on Saturday night, the trap was set. At about 1am, she was brought back to safety, with much relief amongst the five-person team that was helping her. And with wet paws and tummy.
Poppy is a timid cat, having been rescued from a stray cat community. But she wasn’t so timid that she had to be trapped. This made it easier to trap her as she wasn’t trap shy, unlike two-time lost cat Sammy (link).
Glad to be home
Once she got home, Poppy miaowed all night and has been much more affectionate towards Kayla and her partner than before her unplanned adventure. We see this quite often – sometimes, a cat who has never sat on someone’s lap does so for the first time when they come home after being lost.
We never know what lost cats have experienced while they were missing, but the fact that they are very often more affectionate than before they were lost might indicate that it was a frightening ordeal for them – and one which we should prevent by keeping our homes secure at all times for inside-only cats.
Three-legged Katsu falls three stories – and survives
Time missing: Three days
Distance from home when found: Three metres horizontally and three stories vertically
Methods used: Searching along streets; neighbours searching back yards; personal searching from rooves
Keys to recovery: Personal searching from rooves
When Katsu got out from the deck of his three-storey apartment, he got a lot more than he bargained for.
His person, Annie, initially believed he had climbed up a lattice to the roof, walked along neighbours’ rooves, then climbed or fell down to ground level – somewhere.
People on a lost pets Facebook suggested that night time searching would likely help, so she spent two entire nights walking along footpaths and calling for him in the busy suburb. She also asked neighbours to search their back yards, but they didn’t see him.
We encouraged Annie to do the searches herself, which she then did. She lives in an inner city suburb, where buildings – and rooves – are close to each other. So she climbed on nearby rooves and looked into backyards, whilst calling for Katsu.
And there he was – behind next door’s water heater, curled up in a drain, the heater keeping him warm during a cold snap.
Annie now thinks Katsu actually squeezed through a 6cm gap on the apartment deck, rather than climbing up the lattice, and fell from the third storey roof into the backyard – having three legs, his balance is a bit compromised.
Being behind the water heater, he wasn’t visible at ground level. Neighbours had looked in their back yard, as had Annie’s partner, but they neither saw nor heard him. Perhaps Katsu was still in shock at his situation and feeling extremely unsafe. Had Annie not searched from rooves, he likely would have been there for longer before being found.
‘All the advice was so accurate’, said Annie.
‘We initially kept looking all over our suburb but it turned out he was exactly as the info says – right next door, hiding’.
‘The advice to search yourself, rather than others looking for you, is absolutely right. If I had have searched that backyard on the first day, I likely would have found him sooner’.
Katsu slept on Annie’s head after being found and is now banned from the deck! When they move to the country, they’ll be building him an enclosure to prevent any more stressful adventures.
Eight years a lost cat
Unless you find your lost cat’s body, never give up. They are likely nearby and doing OK.
During the search for her own lost cat, Willow, Julianne noticed a gorgeous champagne cat living under a community hall. A local had seen him there for at least a year.
Over a number of months, she befriended him, then trapped him so she could get him scanned for a microchip. He was comfortable being stroked while he was eating under the hall, and very calm and curious in the trap – all signs that he had grown up with people and likely once had a family.
Success! He was desexed, microchipped, his microchip details were up to date and he lived close by. However, his family chose not to have him rejoin them.
Julianne spoke to nearby businesses, to see if anyone was caring for him. Sure enough, a kind barber shop and a librarian were. During an 11 week Covid lockdown, they made sure he didn’t go without.
At some stage during his ‘eight years a lost cat’, he had fractured a leg and hip, likely after being hit by a car on one of the two busy roads nearby, and had an unusual gait as a result. But he’d survived.
Just a babe
Jasper was only about 12 months old when he was lost. He was nine when recovered. This beautiful guy, who once had a family, had been on the streets for most of his life.
His sad story tugged at the heartstrings of Vicky and she adopted him. He is now living in the lap of luxury, his days of eking out a living on the streets, and keeping safe from cars on two major roads, behind him.
Never give up
Always remember: unless you find your lost cat’s body, never give up. Keeping going is hard. But your cat could well be like Jasper – very close by and managing well on their own.
The secret life of Nailah
Escape point: Back door
Time missing: Five days
Recovery methods used: Trap; heat-detecting scope; doorknocking
Keys to recovery: Doorknocking; confident cat; friendly neighbours
Distance from home when found: One house (front yard of next door)
Most rescue groups require foster cats to be inside-only, to prevent them from becoming lost or injured.
When we were searching for ‘very timid and almost untouchable’ foster cat Nailah, it took a few days before we learnt that Nailah was leading a secret life. She also wasn’t timid.
What we thought
We initially understood that:
- she had got outside, for the first time, through an open back door
- after the arrival of a new, bouncy 11 week old puppy, she ‘voted with her feet’ and ran away from her foster home of three months
- we probably had many stressful weeks or months ahead of us before we found her, as she was very timid.
We began the all too familiar process of searching for a timid lost foster cat.
Trap and heat-detecting scope unsuccessful
Nailah’s carer set a trap on her property for two nights, with no luck.
Doornocking begins – at an unusual time
We developed fliers and identified the priority areas for doorknocking – close to where timid Nailah was likely hiding.
It was a Wednesday in mid-May. Doorknocking after work wasn’t possible, as it would be dark by the time volunteers finished work; people are often reluctant to open their door after dark.
So daytime, mid-week doorknocking was the only option, before Nailah had a chance to travel further. Normally, this would be pointless, as most people would be at work, but Nailah became lost when Covid was still ruling the world. Many people were working from home.
Natasha and Hannah both asked to start work late so they could doorknock those blocks.
People were lovely and most were happy to have a wildlife camera on their property. Fliers were left under the front door of those who weren’t home, so they wouldn’t get lost amongst junk mail.
Sightings quickly come in
It only took a few hours before the sightings began to come in.
‘She’s in the back yard of #11 – three houses away!’
Natasha secured her place in the Employee of the Month awards when she asked to leave work early, a few hours after arriving late, to hopefully trap Nailah.
Another resident a few houses down also called with a sighting,
Frustratingly, by the time Natasha arrived at #11, Nailah had moved on.
A resident at #6 in the adjoining street – and next door to the foster carer – then called.
‘We see that cat a lot and feed her,’ they said. ‘She’s often at our back door asking for food. She’s lovely – our cat quite likes her. We’ll call you again if we see her.’
They sent us a photo of Nailah under their house from a previous night. They also said they could pick her up.
The secret life of ‘indoor-only, very timid and almost untouchable’ Nailah was a secret no more. She was a confident cat. She was outside a lot. And she was friends with next door’s cat!
More work disruptions
Later in the afternoon, #6 called again – Nailah had arrived.
Volunteer Leah dropped what she was doing at work to hopefully secure Nailah. And she did.
‘She was just sitting at the front door of # 6, with their cat, waiting to be fed,’ she messaged. ‘She came right up to me and I easily got her into the carrier.’
All of us, except perhaps Nailah, breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Nailah’s secret life of charming the neighbourhood was over, but she was now able to find a person to love her for life, with no pesky 11 week old puppy.
And we didn’t have to search for nine months to find her.
Luana gets lost in dense bush
Escape point: unlocked dog flap
Time missing: 14 days
Distance from home when found: 190 m
Search methods used: Searching; wildlife camera; doorknocking; humane trap
Keys to recovery: Dedicated people; doorknocking; wildlife camera; humans leaving their scent
Most of the lost cats we help are from urban or semi-rural areas; areas where buildings, fences and roads may be landmarks for cats.
So when we saw where Luana was lost, our hearts sank. It was dense bush, with steep embankments that are largely inaccessible to humans, and some houses. This was new.
Luana had lived in a new home for seven days. Although she’d shown no interest in the dog flap, on Day 7, it seems she followed the dog out through the flap while her person was at work. No Luana in the house when she came home.
Luana’s person, Antoinette, did the right thing and immediately advised her foster carer, Claire, who contacted us.
Antoinette looked around her property and did actually see – and touch – Luana, who was hiding near a water tank right by the house. Unfortunately, she left her hiding place before Antoinette could bring her inside, likely by climbing up the lattice.
And she wasn’t seen again.
Wildlife cameras to help
We recommended using wildlife cameras, as this wasn’t a case of buildings being the only possible hiding places for her – there was a whole forest to search. A thick, impenetrable forest and treacherous terrain.
By day, Claire and Antoinette searched the property as best they could, trying to scale the steep and challenging embankments.
By night, for several nights, Antoinette set the cameras and feeding stations on her property, and under her house, but they yielded nothing. Antoinette’s dog also didn’t act unusually during walks on the property. It seemed Luana had left the area.
It was time to raise local awareness of her and reach out to neighbours.
Thermal imaging camera added to the lost cat tool kit
With the bush being so dense, Luana could have been sitting a few metres away and wouldn’t have been seen. So Claire bought a thermal imaging camera (FLIR Scout TK Pocket-sized Thermal Monocular), which detects animals’ body heat.
Even at night, if Luana was in nearby bushes, she could be located.
Delivery was going to be two weeks, which was a problem, but it actually only took a few days. Although she was found before it could be used, it would have been a huge asset to the search.
Doorknocking begins – and Luana is located
We arranged for 600x900mm coreflute signs to be printed and Claire and Antoinette were going to erect them in the closest streets. But they weren’t needed.
On the morning of Day 12, before the signs were put up, Antoinette doorknocked people in the nearest street, with Luana’s flier.
There was immediate success. People at both #4 and #6 said they’d seen Luana. She had, in fact, been at #4’s for several nights, and they’d put food out for her.
#4 has two indoor cats and also puts food out for magpies and kookaburras. Luana probably hung around there as she could eat the meat meant for the birds.
#6 also has cats – fellow gingers, in fact – as does #3. Cats have a knack of locating houses with other cats.
Tip: If you’re doorknocking for your lost cat, one of the questions we recommend you ask people is if they live with animals.
If they have dogs, especially if they’re outside a lot, it’s perhaps unlikely your cat will be there. But if they have a cat, it’s very likely that they’ll feel safer where other cats live.
It’s also likely that their cats may show a sudden interest in looking out windows, which is just what #4’s cats did.
Antoinette searched #4’s backyard thoroughly, but didn’t see her.
Wildlife camera put to use again
Antoinette and Claire set a wildlife camera and food at #4 that evening and, the next morning, were overjoyed to see footage of Luana on it, clearly identified from her collar and specialty bell.
This is one reason we strongly recommend that all cats – even indoor-only ones – wear cat-safe collars and ID tags: should your cat become lost, they will be distinguishable from any other similar-looking cats in the area. It makes it so much easier to find them.
The footage showed Luana very carefully approaching the camera, keenly sniffing it (it would have had both Antoinette and Claire’s scent on it), walking away and coming back several times before eating. It also showed her spraying nearby!
Antoinette was delighted. ‘There’s five vids of her staking out the food before eating, then returning for more. She looks good, very fluffy and dry.’
Time to bring her home
Being skittish, a humane trap was the quickest way to bring Luana home.
On the evening of Day 13/14, Claire and Antoinette set the trap up in #4’s back yard, then Claire stayed in her car to listen for the door closing, so that she could immediately cover the trap with a sheet and reduce Luana’s stress.
But Luana had other ideas. While Claire was monitoring the trap, to Antoinette’s husband’s great shock, Luana walked through the dog flap back into the house, the dog flap through which she had exited 14 days before.
Claire drove straight back to Antoinette’s.
‘‘We couldn’t believe it,’ said Claire. ‘She walked right in and sat at a table to eat. We were both lying on the floor under the dining table with a big fluffy blanket, giving her pats. After two weeks of stress, we were so relieved that she was safe.’
Wanting Luana to stay put, we asked Antoinette if the dog flap had been locked.
‘Yes, and it has a security guard, ten tonne safe in front of it and barbed wire.’
Why now, after 14 days?
How, after two weeks, did Luana suddenly find home, just when she’d been located at a nearby street?
We believe it may be due to scent: Antoinette and Claire’s scents were on the camera, which Luana sniffed intently; Antoinette left her scent while doorknocking the street; and Claire and Antoinette left their scent when searching the bush at the back of Antoinette’s property – as best they could, given how dense and steep it was.
Perhaps this was enough for Luana to ‘join the dots’ and make her way home. Or, as Claire puts it, ‘perhaps the scent reminded her of being happy and warm at Antoinette’s place’.
Alli and Romi, two other cats we’ve helped, also seem to have followed their person’s scent back home. It’s why we recommend including what we call ‘walking, talking and sitting’ (info to come) in search efforts.
Luana had lost a bit of weight, but was otherwise in good health.
As with so many cats, she was found very close to home, even though she’d been lost for two weeks. As the crow flies, or cat walks, #4 is just 190m from Antoinette’s home.
After this stressful experience, Claire decided to adopt Luana. She’s loving life, back with her old friends.
Hilbert cuts an interstate holiday short
Escape point: Front door
Time missing: Three days
Distance from home when found: 90 m
Search methods used: Doorknocking, early morning walks, fliers on poles, visualisation
Keys to recovery: Doorknocking; fliers on poles
A week’s holiday in Adelaide was abruptly cut short for one Melbourne family, when their cat Hilbert became lost. Just two days into their holiday, he snuck through the front door at 4am when the housesitter opened it.
Driving back to Melbourne to find him was the beginning of a very stressful few days.
Start with the basics
Before contacting us, Hilbert’s person, Maddi, had implemented some of the known lost cat recovery methods, including speaking to neighbours (not letterboxing) and early morning walks, so there was some local community awareness of his situation.
Sightings from one street away
During her first day of doorknocking, a neighbour one street away said they’d seen him on their nature strip.
Nadi then received another sighting from the same street, a bit further away.
This is one of the good things about confident cats being lost: they’re more likely to be seen by people, as they hide less than timid cats.
The down side is that these adventurous souls are more likely to travel further from home, making the search area larger.
We were in the process of making up artwork for big signs [link] to make it easier to reach more people, including drivers.
But they weren’t needed.
Day 3 – Found!
At about 10.30pm on his third day missing, a neighbour in the same street as the previous sightings made contact. Hilbert was in their front yard!
Running down the street in her dressing gown and slippers, with tears streaming down her face, Maddi rushed over to the house and there he was. The neighbour is a cat person and ushered Hilbert into their carrier. He made no struggle at all and Maddi carried him safely home.
The front yard where Hilbert was hanging out is just two houses – 90m – away, as the crow flies, from his home, but on a different street.
This is just what lost cat research shows – that most lost cats are found within a 3-5 house radius.
A missing cat is very traumatic
For Maddi, a very empathic person who helps people for a living, the hardest part of Hilbert’s time missing was imagining what he was going through.
‘I imagined that he was freezing cold somewhere, crying for his brother and very scared,’ she said.
It was also difficult as she was doing all the searching on her own. Her husband was more pragmatic – ‘he’s a cat; he’ll be OK; he’ll be having fun’ – and didn’t share Maddi’s level of distress. And her kids just wanted to go shopping for toys at Kmart!
How she reduced the stress – a little
Maddi has a scientific background and found it comforting to read the evidence-based methods and statistics of lost cat recovery.
When she didn’t find him on the first day, she read that he would be hungrier by Day 3 and would be more likely to come out of hiding then. She also read that the starvation period kicks in after two weeks. Mentally, she set a time of two weeks.
Each of the success stories she read about, including a cat who was found after three months, gave her hope.
This is why we write about some of the cats and people we have helped: so that more people know that lost cats are found and they are likely very nearby, despite what friends and family may be saying. It takes effort, time and determination, but is very do-able.
To help dispel some of the fear and stress, we encouraged Maddi to visualise seeing him back with her, in her arms, safe. She was actually doing this to calm herself as she went to sleep on the third night – at the exact time the neighbour made contact with the amazing news.
It might sound ‘woo woo’, but professional athletes use visualisation extensively to help them achieve their goals. There are neurological reasons why it works.
Maddi’s advice to others
Maddi said that doorknocking and ‘pounding the pavement’ was critical in finding Hilbert.
She also recommends taking care of yourself.
‘If you don’t look after your own wellbeing, you’ll lose heart and hope and stop looking. Make sure you’re eating. Try to get sleep.
The night he was found, I was close to giving up. I didn’t feel I could keep doing this every night. Receiving messages of support and encouragement from ScaredyCats was really helpful.’
Maddi also suggests recruiting friends and family for support and not doing the searching on your own.
We know how emotionally gruelling it is being the only one still working to find a lost cat. Some people we have helped have described the experience of their cat being lost as more traumatic than their parents dying.
Step by step, until they’re home
When we could see the stress Maddi was under, we suggested she think of every single thing she did to find Hilbert as bringing her one step closer to him being home: every neighbour she spoke to, every flier she gave to someone, every early morning walk she did, the big signs we were preparing etc.
Every evidence-based action you take to find your lost cat adds up to recovery.
‘This gave me more of a sense of control,’ she said. ‘I looked at what was in my control and what wasn’t. I could control the early morning walks and the big signs. I couldn’t control that we went on holiday. I tried not to blame myself.’
Who are you? You smell weird
When he came home, Hilbert’s brother, Chomsky, complained that he smelt ‘weird’, and hissed at him. This is quite common, as cats are such scent-focused beings.
But with a good re-introduction process, they were friends again before long.
Welcome home, Hilbert! You may be getting more walks on your harness and lead from now on, with your brother. But just remember not to become a door dasher. You can’t put your Mum through this again.
Ginny jumps from two storey roof
Escape point: tearing flyscreen on slightly open upstairs window
Time missing: Six weeks and three days
Distance found from escape point: 230m (five houses, across two streets)
Recovery methods used: doorknocking; wildlife cameras and feeding stations; big signs; humane trapping.
Keys to recovery: big signs; wildlife camera; humane trapping; one volunteer’s dedication.
- Even though Ginny is a confident and very friendly cat, it was five weeks after she jumped from the roof before we received a sighting. For timid cat, Romy, it was more than four months before we received a sighting. This highlights how ‘guarded’ cats can be when they’re initially displaced.
- Flyscreens are not cat-safe unless they’re Crimsafe
- If you have an opportunity to get a lost cat inside a secure area like a house or secure shed (no gaps, no open windows, no cat flaps, preferably no chimneys), seize it. If the balcony door was very slowly and quietly opened when Ginny was on it, it’s possible she would have run into the house, instead of jumping from the balcony. She could have then been trapped inside the house and brought back to safety five weeks sooner.
A child opening a window to give foster cats some fresh air led to a very prompt ‘lost’ status for very friendly foster cat, Ginny.
At her new foster home for less than 12 hours, she pushed the flywire out of an upstairs window frame and jumped onto the roof overnight.
Wildlife cameras and feeding stations were set up in the nearby area, but no Ginny.
Six days later, Ginny was seen on the next door neighbour’s roof, miaowing, seemingly for help.
Ginny was on this roof for six days
From a cat’s point of view, the rooves of her carer’s home and next door’s are almost connected.
Just like her carer’s home, the neighbour’s was a large two storey house. It seems she had been on the steep roof – or that of her carer’s – the whole six days, unsure how to get down.
Bring in the pro’s
With the roof being quite steep, a professional rescue service was asked to help. We thought we had ‘the cat in the bag’.
Ginny is a very friendly and confident cat, but cats behave differently when they’re lost – and frightened.
Ginny was very wary of the rescue person when he approached her on the roof. After jumping onto the neighbour’s balcony, then back onto the roof, running past him, then back again towards the balcony, she made a brave leap from the two-storey roof and into another next door neighbour’s back yard.
Searching of that yard, unfortunately, didn’t find her. She had made a very quick getaway.
Back to square one
Very frustratingly, we were back to square one. And Ginny’s carer was unable to assist any longer.
Another rescue volunteer, Lauretta, kindly stepped up, doorknocked neighbours in the area and erected the usual 600x900mm coreflute big signs we increasingly use to help find lost cats.
Neighbours were all very friendly and helpful and were happy to have wildlife cameras and feeding stations at their properties.
Unfortunately, again, these yielded nothing over several weeks. With no Ginny on the cameras, and no reports of sightings from the big signs, we began to fear that she had badly injured herself from the two-storey jump and was deceased somewhere.
Ginny’s foster home was near a park which also had a large, densely-vegetated reserve. We wondered if she may have headed there, but cameras yielded nothing there, either.
Six weeks later, a breakthrough
Finally, more than six weeks after Ginny got out, a breakthrough text message came through:
The photo of a ginger and white cat sitting on their fence looked very, very much like Ginny. There was much, much happiness amongst the three of us who were working to find her.
Five houses, again
Their home is just five houses away (230m, as the crow flies) from Ginny’s escape point. This matches lost cat behaviour research, which has found that most cats are found in a 5-7 house radius of their escape point.
They first saw her sitting on their fence, at dusk at 5pm; at 10pm, she was under their deck.
Ginny is quite a confident cat, and her being out at dusk and sitting on a fence matched the behaviour of a confident cat. But, like almost all lost cats – even confident ones – she wouldn’t allow them to approach her. Lost cats go into survival mode, being wary of everything, and don’t trust people easily.
They were asked to put food out for her, to hopefully keep her in the area. Then, the cameras and feeding stations were relocated to their property.
Bingo! Ginny was on the camera!!
The hardest part was over
The hardest part of recovering lost cats is finding where they are. Once you know where they are, bringing them home is usually easy (unless they jump from a two storey house to evade a professional animal rescuer).
And so it was with Ginny.
A humane cat trap was set up on the property and Ginny was trapped.
Six weeks and three days after she became lost, she was finally brought back to safety.
We asked Lauretta to update the big signs with ‘found’ notices, so that neighbours knew she had been found, then took them down a few days later.
Commitment to finding lost cats is crucial
Ginny was only recovered due to the dedication of a single rescue volunteer who lived near Ginny’s escape point. Each night, Lauretta set up wildlife cameras and feeding stations, checked them in the morning and moved them to different properties after a few nights at that location.
She also helped erect the big signs.
We thank Lauretta, profusely, for her work in bringing Ginny back to safety. Sweet Ginny was adopted soon after, to someone who adores her. She spends every morning playing and zooming, and every evening snuggling on the couch and watching TV.
Amarisa squeezes through 5cm gap
It’s those lapses of concentration that can do you in. Amarisa is a timid cat who had just moved into a new home. True to scaredy cat form, she had stayed in the wardrobe and under the bed for the entire three days she had been there.
Thinking she would stay put, her carer left the front door open for a minute while she got something from the car. Amarisa quickly made a run for it – perhaps she sensed a change in air currents with her whiskers.
We searched her foster carer’s property but there were no possible hiding spots. There was a door to the under-house area, but it was too small for a cat to get through.
A team of five people did CSI-type searching of many neighbours’ properties over five consecutive nights. We found nothing.
On the fifth night, one of the searchers suggested we look under the carer’s house. It seemed impossible for Amarisa to have got through that tiny gap, but we had nothing to lose.
A moving paint splatter
While we were crawling on our stomach under the house, we spotted a splatter of paint on an opposite wall. As we moved closer to the splatter, it moved too. A possum, perhaps?
When we got to the wall, the splatter had disappeared. A peek into a gap too small for our head revealed the most amazing, most beautiful, most wondrous sight – Amarisa, in all her grey glory.
I’m not moving!
Despite having lived with her previous carer for 18 months, she wouldn’t move towards her, even for food, and even though she hadn’t eaten for eight days. It took five hours to get her out.
Read the Finding Amarisa Facebook page to see how we did it. We set this page up to find more people to help with searching, not to replace it.
The great Topaz escape
To foster carer Jenny, it was a day like any other day. To timid cat Topaz, it was the day she scared herself witless by squeezing through a new gap in her enclosure and venturing into the great outdoors.
Topaz’s cat friend Archie called out to Jenny to alert her. Panic! Jenny sought our help immediately.
Under houses make great hiding spots
Jenny thought she saw Topaz run under her weatherboard house – a perfect and very common hiding place for a frightened cat. We blocked all exit points under the house with sheets, towels and whatever else we could find. We then put a audio device that detects motion under the house to see if she was there.
After about an hour, the alarm went off. Topaz was there! We now had to get her back to safety.
Lifting floorboards gives Topaz a way up
We didn’t want to risk Topaz fleeing – if she was under the house, at least we knew where she was. So we lifted up floorboards in one room, put food down the hole and put a light in the room so that Topaz would realise she could come up into the house. No dice. A neighbour’s selfie stick and Jenny’s mobile phone enabled us to pick up cats’ eyes. There was definitely a cat under the house, but Topaz still wouldn’t play ball. Another anxious night loomed.
On day 2, she starts calling
Most timid cats will stay silent, but on Day 2, Topaz started calling to Jenny through the loungeroom floor – the opposite end of the house to where we’d lifted floorboards (of course). Jenny did some more unplanned reno’s and cut holes in the loungeroom floorboards.
Day 3 and she’s safe
On Day 3, Topaz finally came up through the hole.
Even though Topaz had lived with Jenny for a year, when she came up, she was very disoriented and frightened, acting almost as if she’d never been in the house before.
Jenny has now triple-checked the cat enclosure and Topaz, and Archie, have remained safe and happy.
A Mexican standoff and a grumpy dog
Two weeks after foster cat Sheridan bolted out the front door when someone came in, she took our breath away by showing herself to us one late afternoon. She was just two doors from her foster home, even though she’d been missing for two weeks. She had adopted a house that was under construction,
When we started very slowly approaching her, she ran to a very narrow, ‘only for cats’ gap between the house and the fence. We waited for three hours for her to move from the gap, one of us at either end, hoping food would tempt her. She wouldn’t budge.
Why go in a trap when I can jump over it?
So we set two traps – one at either end of the gap – and waited some more. She didn’t fall for it. She had grown up as a street cat and had been trapped at her original home, before coming into care. Perhaps she knew that traps meant change.
The last we saw of Sheridan was footage on the wildlife monitoring camera we use to help find missing cats. She deftly jumped over one of the traps.
Eight months later…
A long eight months later, we received a call from a shelter. Sheridan was there. We immediately drove across town to pick her up.
We were curious where Sheridan had been living all this time and how she came to be at a shelter so far from where she got out. So we went back to doorknocking and found the neighbour who had trapped her.
Sheridan had taken up residence in the lady’s beautiful Azalea garden, just 500m from her foster home. The lady’s dog didn’t appreciate this and issued an ultimatum – it’s me or the cat.
If her dog was more cat-friendly, the lady would probably have kept her.
Importance of microchipping and identification
Sheridan isn’t a super scaredy, and is also 100% lady. She would have been easy to scan at a shelter. Not all scaredy cats are like this, though, so a cat-safe collar and ID tag lets shelter staff know that they do have a person who cares about them.
While microchips, collars and ID tags are important, preventing timid cats from getting out of your home is the best thing of all.
Wildlife camera helps us find Latte
Like Sheridan, Latte became lost from her new-ish home when a door was left open. Over the next two weeks, a team of people doorknocked and searched the neighbourhood for her. Fresh from the Amarisa search, crawling under houses had become second nature, but we didn’t find her.
There’s no hiding on a wildlife camera
We also set up a wildlife camera at her new home, to see if she was coming for the food we were putting out.
One glorious night, a tortoiseshell cat appeared on the footage. Thanks to Latte’s unique markings, we immediately knew it was her. We then went about desensitising her to the trap, by tying the door open and putting food further inside it as she became more confident each night, using the wildlife camera to check on her progress.
Torrential rain on D-day
D-day arrived – she was going all the way into the trap (as were a lot of other cats!). So, we decided to trap her manually using the bottle and string technique, to avoid catching other cats. The weather gods turned on a real performance for us, with thunder, lightning and torrential rain.
Manual trapping protected neighbours’ cats
Sitting in a car in the driveway, with most of the windows covered with sheets so she would be less bothered by our presence, we waited for her to appear.
Once she was fully inside the trap, we pulled the rope. Success. She was finally safe. Wet, but safe.
But we searched there!
We think Latte had been hiding under the next door neighbour’s house, as we saw her jump their fence to get to the trap. We had searched there as best we could, but there wasn’t enough room for us to crawl under it, so we had to look from the outside. Looking for eyeshine with a torch, we saw nothing.
It highlighted that, even if you don’t see your cat, they could still be there. Using a wildlife camera, filming with a mobile phone and listening for motion on a motion-detecting alarm can help overcome this problem.
Fleur’s eyes shine brightly on a mobile phone
Foster kitty Fleur got out of her foster home when a housemate left a back door open. No sooner was she putting her paws on grass than she was being chased by her carer’s dog – talk about making a frightening situation more frightening!
It was about 1am when Fleur’s distressed foster carer, Kendra, reached out for help. Kendra did all the right things, acting immediately and searching through the night.
Gotta love a smart phone
During daylight, Kendra made technology work for her and used her mobile phone to film under a deck. Cat’s eyes reflect light and give off a distinctive ‘eyeshine’ when light shines on them. Filming with a phone in dark places is really helpful when you can’t physically get into the space.
When she first filmed, she saw nothing. Another try and she could see something. Fleur must have moved between the first and second filming.
“Do you think this could be a cat’s eye?”, she texted, with the video.
While waiting in a queue at the supermarket, we watched the footage and a big smile spread across our face. Yes, yes, yes, this was most definitely a cat’s eye. Fleur was one step closer to being recovered.
How to get her out?
Now that Kendra knew where Fleur was hiding, she had to get her out without giving her a chance to bolt.
It can be helpful for people who the cat knows best to be involved in their recovery – their fear may be slightly less (very slightly!) when they hear a familiar voice, smell a familiar scent or see a familiar sight (although Amarisa didn’t see things this way).
Matt and Clare to the rescue
So Fleur’s previous carers, Clare and Matt, trekked across town to help. Coincidentally, Clare and Matt helped with Amarisa’s recovery, as they lived in Amarisa’s neighbourhood.
Matt removed some boards from the steps that connect to the deck and created a large enough opening for Fleur to be recovered. (Luckily, Kendra’s landlord is her father).
Fleur has remained safe since then. And her human friends are more careful with doors.
Friendly Noah finds his wild streak
Noah, a friendly and confident foster cat, became lost after getting off a second storey balcony. His carer doorknocked the neighbourhood and searched their properties, after dark.
As he is a confident cat, he was more likely to be out and about exploring, rather than comatose with fear. So she also put up ‘big signs‘ around the area.
Success! Noah was spotted by a neighbour.
He’s friendly, he’s confident, he knows his carer, so getting him home should be dead easy, right? Wrong. Whenever his carer approached him, he’d run off, even when she had yummy food.
She had to use a humane cat trap to get Noah back to safety.
An unsecured balcony leads to tragedy
If you’ve never worked with timid cats before, you might be tempted to cuddle them soon after they come to you, to let them know they’re loved and safe. But this can be disastrous. And so it was with Ebony and Crystal.
Two young sisters, one black and one white, they had come straight from the streets. They’d never lived with humans before, let alone been touched by one.
A new record for becoming lost?
Very soon after they arrived, their foster carer tried to pick them up from their crate, which led to them panicking and getting out. They had been at their foster home for all of 30 minutes. Their escape route of choice? A balcony.
It had been very loosely netted in by the carer’s friend. but there were lots of gaps. The carer’s own cats didn’t try getting out. But Ebony and Crystal, two panicked cats in a new home, most certainly did.
A neighbour’s cat comes to the rescue
A team of volunteers, from near and far, started doorknocking and searching neighbours’ properties. Although there were no signs of Ebony and Crystal on neighbours’ properties, an exploring cat who lived next to the carer did bring good luck.
Cavorting In an alley, he was soon joined by another cat. A small, young black cat. Ebony!! Indeed, the Missing Animal Response Network (formerly Missing Pet Partnership) recommends trying a ‘magnet cat‘. We didn’t plan that to be his role, but were delighted when he offered.
Naturally, being a timid and displaced cat, Ebony wouldn’t come to anyone. And as quickly as she appeared, she disappeared.
We find her new home – a timber yard
Another night of searching and we spotted the distinctive shine from a cat’s eyes with our torch, in a timber yard on the other side of the alley. The next day, we spoke to the staff. They had, indeed, seen a small black cat when they first arrived at work, in the dark, but no white cat.
Wildlife camera and cat trap are put to work again
The staff were lovely and were happy for us to put a trap and wildlife camera on the site.
The wildlife camera worked its magic – yes, Ebony was living there. We fixed the trap door open then desensitised her to the trap – after all, she’d only recently been trapped at her previous home – and monitored her progress on the wildlife camera. Once she was going all the way in, we caught her. But where was Crystal?
Ebony and Crystal had a close bond. We were puzzled why they wouldn’t be together.
A white cat on the road
More doorknocking revealed that a neighbour had seen a white cat on the busy road outside her carer’s home the fateful night they got out. Tragically, the cat was deceased.
We called vets, shelters and the council to see if anyone had picked up a deceased white cat, without luck. However, we received other information indicating that this was very likely Crystal.
Searching and recovery takes time
Finding lost cats often needs a large investment of time. The search for Ebony and Crystal, and recovery of Ebony only, took a team of six people about 120 hours – three full time working weeks.
We were incredibly sad that Crystal hadn’t survived after they fled from the balcony. Ebony and Crystal were teenagers just beginning their lives. Once they learnt to trust people, which wouldn’t have taken long due to their youth, they had a bright life ahead of them. RIP Crystal.
Balcony claims another life
An unsecured balcony also claimed the life of newly-adopted Gizmo, a gorgeous but timid ginger kitten who had been lovingly raised by his foster carer from a young age. A week after he was adopted by a young couple in an inner city suburb, he was given unsupervised access to their balcony. He disappeared.
We searched and used the wildlife camera, but didn’t find him.
The rescue group that had originally saved his life soon received a call from an emergency hospital. An injured Gizmo had been brought in by a good samaritan. He had been hit by a car. He didn’t survive.
Once again, a beautiful kitten with his whole life to look forward to was taken from the earth far too soon. RIP Gizmo.
Finding cats is hard work; keeping them safe is easier
Many of these cats were inside-only foster cats. They became lost when doors were left open, or balconies unsecured.
Windows are the other common escape point for timid cats.
If you’re caring for a timid cat, you will save yourself and other people a lot of time, stress and expense by keeping all escape points secured.
This page is dedicated to Akasha, a very frightened cat who got out of her foster home in December 2014. Illegal fireworks are thought to have frightened her so much that she pushed the flywire out of the frame of an open window, then jumped from the first floor.
She hasn’t been found, despite searching for months.