Once you’ve got permission from neighbours, it’s time to put on your detective hat and start your CSI-type search.
What do we mean by CSI-type search?
When we say ‘CSI-type search’, we’re not talking about walking along the footpath and glancing into people’s front yards. We’re talking about really thorough, hands and knees, crime-scene-evidence type searching, of not just the front yard, but the back yard, shed, under the deck, under the house etc.
A timid cat simply won’t be lolling about on a front lawn waiting for you to come along.
So you need to take your human eyes off and put your eagle eyes on.
Wait until dark
Wait until dark and when things are quiet – usually the later the better and definitely after dusk. Search thoroughly with a torch with a long, focused beam, looking for their eyeshine. Maglite and LED Lenser are good brands. They’re available from camping stores or online.
Where to look
Look in the same kinds of places you did on your own property:
- under houses (crawl under them if you can fit)
- under decks, even if they rest on the ground – any tiny gap will be enough for them to get into
- under, behind and on top of the hot water heater
- in sheds (remove all objects if possible)
- under shrubs
- in wood piles
- down drains
- in rafters
- up trees
- in rooves
- in gutters etc.
Basically, any tiny space a panicked cat could have squished into.
Leave a thank you note
If you don’t find your cat on a property, we like to leave a thank you note under the neighbour’s front door. It helps them know what’s happened and that you’re still looking.
If needed, expand your search radius
If you don’t find them from thorough searching in a three-house radius, expand your search area to a five-house radius, then a seven-house radius. Use Googlemaps to map out your target properties.
Look up trees
Yes, cats really do get stuck up trees. This is more likely for a confident cat than a scaredy cat, though – a scaredy cat will probably feel too exposed in a tree (unless a dog was chasing them!).
If you can see them up there, and tree climbing isn’t your thing, check out the cat in a tree rescue directory for help getting them down. Other tree loppers, your local fire brigade and SES may also help – this may depend on their workload and love of animals.
Even when you search thoroughly, it’s possible to not see them. They really do make themselves almost invisible when they are frightened.
When Kendra was searching for Fleur, she didn’t spot her eyeshine when she first filmed under the deck with her smart phone. When she had a second go, there she was.
Latte wasn’t found from searching, but she was found using a wildlife camera.
So even though you haven’t seen them, they may still be there.
The starvation factor
You know how cats often won’t eat for a couple of days when they move to a new home? Well, they can choose not to eat for much longer periods when they’re lost.
In fact, the Missing Animal Response Network has found that cats will often hide for one or two weeks after becoming displaced from their territory. Yikes! They wait until they’re starving before ‘breaking cover’, which makes things even harder for you. So don’t give up.
If you haven’t found them, it’s time to bring out the big guns and try other methods.