cat

PET FBI FOUNDER LOSES HER CAT!

“CHUCK” FINALLY RECOVERED AFTER 172 DAYS.

Chuck first showed up on our deck as a scrawny feral (wild) kitten. We took him in and gave him lots of attention and affection, but he never overcame his primal fears and would always run from us, unless we were tucked away in bed under the covers. He felt safe then and would knead and purr and delight in being petted and rubbed.

Last Spring, after three years as an inside cat and contented companion to our other felines, Chuck slipped out through a door that had accidentally blown open. I think he went through that door more out of curiosity than any desire to escape, but once outside, all his wild instincts were awakened and it was hard to get him back in.

The Pet FBI website often states that anyone can lose a pet, and we should not condemn the pet’s family. In almost twenty years as Executive Director of Pet FBI I have seen many cases of people who find lost pets, think that the family must have been careless, and use that as an excuse to keep the stray and not try to return it. But from painful personal experience, I can say most emphatically that ANYONE can lose a pet and should not be blamed for it.

Be aware that cats hang around for a while and hide. To lure Chuck back, we tried every tip and trick recommended on the Pet FBI site, all to no avail. If we tried to leave food for him, the raccoons got it as soon as we put it out. We finally found a way to outwit the raccoons by extending the legs of a table, making it possible for a cat to jump onto, but too high for a raccoon to climb.

You may have to trap. When a pet is lost its instinctive fearfulness kicks in and it may not always come to you. We bought an inexpensive security camera to monitor our deck to see if Chuck was still around. The security camera caught an infrared photo of a cat that looked like Chuck who came every night and jumped on the table to eat the food we had set out. We set a trap and caught it! We were jubilant until we took the trap into the house and into the light and saw it was not Chuck – just a tabby look-alike, undoubtedly a neighbor’s free-roaming pet, so we released it. That was the first of seven Chuck look-alikes we trapped over the six months we spent looking for him!

Take advantage of web-based resources, including social media. We used the Pet FBI database, Nextdoor.com, Facebook, and Craigslist. That resulted in many sighting reports.

Flyers are very effective, and Every Door Direct Mail may be even more helpful. We hung flyers everywhere and mailed postcards to 1,400 homes in our neighborhood through an inexpensive program run by the postal service called Every Door Direct Mail.

We had this 5×7 inch postcard made up by a local printer that also handled the EDDM mailing.

Print out an aerial view of your neighborhood. To determine what carrier routes to target for the EDDM mailing we studied an aerial view of our neighborhood (maps.Google.com) and reasoned that since Chuck is rather fearful, he would probably not venture beyond some busy streets and or the railroad tracks that bounded our neighborhood. The aerial map also enabled us to identify wooded areas and small streams that might be attractive to a lost cat.

The web-based reports, the flyers and especially the EDDM mailing produced over one hundred sighting reports.

Keep a record of sightings. People were so helpful! We kept a careful record of the sightings: who called, when and where. We plotted the sightings on the aerial map we had printed out. When there was a promising report or a cluster of sightings, we would set up a food station and a trail camera.

Follow up on sightings, using a trail camera if possible. We were fortunate to be assisted by two women who volunteer to help people recover lost pets with the aid of a trail camera. Trail cameras are motion activated and send photos, including infrared night photos, to a mobile phone via the cellular network. Then the volunteer who is monitoring the camera transmissions sends a text or an email with the photo to alert us. That was how we discovered and trapped all the wrong cats. Gray tabbies are all so similar!


An infrared photo from the trail camera. We monitored this cat for several days before we trapped him. It was not Chuck but sure looked like him! He was definitely feral but the neighbor who had reported him was willing to become his caretaker, so we took him to a special vet and had him neutered and returned to his territory. “Tiger” as he is now known has a nice shelter and is being well fed.

This is another cat we trapped thinking it might be Chuck. She looked thin – another feral. We took her to be vetted and discovered that she was lactating! Fortunately, the neighbor who had told us about her had just that morning discovered where she was hiding her kittens. We rescued them as well and took them to a shelter that accepts feral cats, which is very unusual. From the neighbor we learned that this kitty had been around the neighborhood for several years and had produced many litters. We think there is a strong possibility that she is Chuck’s Mom and that the neighborhood Chuck look-alikes that we trapped were her offspring that had survived.

Nothing succeeds like persistence. Days, weeks and then months went by and we were starting to get discouraged. Most of our flyers were gone. People take them down or they deteriorate. Sightings had gradually dried up. The weather was turning cold. I decided to do a second EDDM postcard mailing. We immediately got three sighting reports in one evening, all in the same area just up the street from us. One neighbor sent us a cell phone photo of a cat on her deck. This time we were 99% certain it was Chuck.
With that kind neighbor’s permission, we set up a feeding station and a camera on their deck. The next night we caught Chuck on camera at about 8 PM

He ate all the food. The following morning, we set the trap and waited…and waited…and waited. By 9PM he had not yet come. Marci, the woman with the trail camera who was helping us, suggested that we disarm the trap by 9:30PM for overnight or we would only catch a raccoon or a possum or worse yet, a skunk. So, we drove over there at 9:30 and discovered a raccoon who had just gotten himself trapped but had not yet had time to eat the food. We released him and scattered the food around on the chance that Chuck would come by and be motivated to continue returning to that deck. The camera had, in fact, caught Chuck showing up at 10PM, but we missed catching him because we had disarmed the trap!

Chuck at last! The trap is sheathed in plastic to avert suspicion and put in place without being armed for a few days until the cat gets used to going inside.

The next morning, we again baited the trap and waited for the call from Marci who was monitoring the trail camera. Late that afternoon we got the call that there was a cat thrashing around in the trap. We flew over there. As soon as we spoke Chuck’s name and made eye contact the cat settled down. We took a good hard look and confirmed it was Chuck!

Since he had been on the street for about six months, we could not just take him home and release him to mingle with our other cats. Fortunately, our vet was able to see him without an appointment. Chuck was very subdued, almost as if in shock. He seemed to be in pretty good shape. He had lost a few pounds, but he was not emaciated. They treated him for fleas, mites and worms, and we took him home. The vet advised us to keep him isolated for a few days, that it would be like introducing a new cat. But after two days Chuck was anxious to be liberated and have the run of the house again. It was like he finally realized that we were his benefactors and he didn’t need to be afraid anymore! Our cat-sitter, Char, pronounced him “the new, improved Chuck”!

At last the ordeal was over. No more dashing all over the neighborhood at all hours responding to sightings. No more going to bed wondering where he was and how was he surviving. No more waking up in the morning to the renewed anguish of knowing he was lost. So, we are sharing Chuck’s story to help others achieve a happy ending.

Here are some important takeaways from our experience:

  1. Like most inside cats that slip out accidentally, Chuck hung around for about two weeks, but he was hiding. We spotted him a few times, but he always ran from us. That is normal behavior for a cat in a strange environment. If it is safe and you can leave a door or window open, cats will often come back in their own good time. This initial period is the optimal time for trapping.
  2. We might have kept Chuck around if we had been able to make food available for him. Unfortunately, we were in the habit of giving leftovers to raccoons and they were always around ready to snatch anything we put out. By the time we figured out how to foil them, Chuck had moved on.
  3. Good photos are indispensable to recovery. Fortunately, we had several good photos of Chuck showing distinctive characteristics like the striping on his paws or the markings on his torso. Still, he closely resembled most other gray tabbies, possibly because they all came from the same mother as we later discovered. We used the best photo for our flyers and postcard mailings.
  4. We found Chuck through sighting reports prompted by social media (Nextdoor.com was particularly helpful), flyers and mailings. The flyers were effective only short term. Most people don’t notice them unless they have a pet themselves and often they get taken down. For example, after we spent several hours posting flyers all around a condo complex because there was a sighting, someone took them down the very next day.
  5. The EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) elicited the best response. I think we heard about every gray tabby cat in the neighborhood after our postcards went out! Several people said they posted it on their fridge.
    You can ask a local printer to help you create a postcard for EDDM. You do not have to spend lots of money on a for-profit commercial pet finding web site.
  6. Setting up a food station, monitoring with the trail camera and trapping were necessary follow-ups to sightings. If you do not have the use of a trail camera, just go ahead and trap although you risk catching the wrong cat. Even with the aid of a camera, you may still end up catching look-alikes.
  7. If you cannot afford or cannot borrow a trail camera, there are inexpensive home security cameras that will record comings and goings of people and animals. They may not send real time photos, but at least you will be able to determine if your pet has been coming around. So, in response to sightings you should; a) get permission to set up a food station and b) OPTIONAL: monitor the food station with a camera and c) once you think your pet is coming around set a trap.
  8. Most of all, do not give up too soon. As with almost anything we try to accomplish, nothing succeeds like persistence.

We should add that the method we used to recover Chuck worked well because Chuck did not go far beyond our neighborhood of several square miles. When searching for a lost dog or an adventurous cat, you need to exploit all means to elicit sightings far and wide: the Pet FBI database, all social media including Facebook and Nextdoor.com, Craigslist, and of course flyers. To be sure your flyers are the most effective, use the Pet FBI template and follow the suggestions for posting on our advice page.


A more self-confident Chuck enjoying the comforts of home.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR STORY OF RECOVERING A LOST PET WITH US!
JUST SEND IT ALONG WITH SOME PHOTOS TO THE CONTACT LINK ON THIS

Why Microchip Your Pet?

black cat reclining

“SLINKY”: SAVED BY A MICROCHIP!

Slinky went missing during a move last summer and was reunited six months later, just prior to Christmas! A woman had been feeding him outdoors about a mile from where we went missing. Not wanting to leave him outside all winter she finally got him inside, but he wasn’t having any of it. He was miserable being kept indoors and he was making her miserable. She was so exasperated that the took Slinky  to a vet to be put down. Thank goodness the vet suggested checking for a microchip …..BINGO!

In any case the vet would have had Slinky put up for adoption if no chip was found. But not all vets are as compassionate. Under other circumstances, Slinky might not have been so lucky. Some vets are victimized by their compassion. We know of one who has a large farm in northern Ohio that has turned into a sanctuary for unwanted pets she was asked to put down. Currently she is feeding and caring for almost one hundred cats and dogs!

Slinky’s story is only one of many many we have heard – reunions that have taken place after months and even years, improbable reunions that would never have happened if the pet were not chipped.

OBJECT LESSON:
Microchips work! Have your pet chipped!
Microchips are not expensive and they are not painful to insert.

 

Long Missing Cat Reunited !

Spooky has been missing from his Delaware County home since September. Our Capital Area Humane Society volunteer Lisa R. recognized him from his Pet FBI Ohio post when she was checking out new arrivals at the shelter. Ten-year-old Spooky is now microchipped and on his way home to reunite with his kitty sister. Mom and Dad want to thank the Good Samaritan who brought him in.

Moral of the Story for Pet Parents:  Don’t give up hope too soon!
Moral of the Story for Shelters: Please take advantage of the lost and found pet database at PetFBI.org! Assign a volunteer to follow and post reports. People cannot get to the shelter often enough and long enough to assure recovery! 

You May Need to Trap Your Lost Cat!

kids and cat that had to be trapped

“Sam” snuck out but stayed close to home and could not be snagged. His Mom borrowed a humane trap and Sam was finally captured

Until you have actually faced the situation, you may not realize that your lost cat will not come to you readily. Inside cats that end up lost outdoors are especially likely to be fearful. In a strange environment, with new smells and unfamiliar surroundings, they suddenly revert to their wild instincts. Even you, their cherished “human”,  provider of food and comfort, will be perceived as a threat by a nervous lost cat.

Here’s an account of such a situation by Shain. He had tried all the tricks we suggest on our Tips To Lure A Cat Back Home page without success.

Ok sorry to bother you but I wanted to let you know I came home from work and went searching again. Mitty must have been stalking me. I was about to call it a night and as I turned around to come back there she was. Terrified. Would not let me near her; kept growling and making a loud breathing sound right before she would hiss. I let her smell my hands and she let me pet her head. But when I grabbed her she scratched but I didn’t let go and when I brought her to my chest she didn’t scratch anymore. Once we got home she started to calm down but not completely. She ran straight to her food bowl and is now still in predator mode watching every move me, my wife or our other cat makes. She’s giving me the soft slow blink though so she’s calming down. Thank you so much for your help and I hope your page helps many more cat lovers find their babies.

Later Shain reported that the kitty hissed and even attacked if he got close, but as soon as he went to bed she jumped up on the bed with him and and ran up to his neck as she used to, curled up and went right to sleep. Finally she is back to her old self.

lost cat recovered

Mitty, back home!

Shain was fortunate that his kitty let her presence be known and he was brave enough to hold on even when she scratched. For others dealing with a cat that won’t come to you, you may have to consider setting a humane trap. You may be able to borrow a trap designed to catch cats from a local TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) group in your area, or from your local animal control. If you are in a remote or rural area.consider ordering a trap online or buy one from a tractor supply or farm store or even Walmart. You will find detailed instructions about trapping in many places online.

Persistence Pays – The Story of Recovering a Lost Cat

Today we received a thank you message from a woman named Rosanna. She used our cat attracting tips and sheer dogged (why don’t people say”catted”?) persistence to recover her lost cat. Here is the story in her own words:

I lost my cat in Astoria Oregon on May 6th at 6pm at the Astoria Oregon Co-op grocery store.

cat in repose

Stella

I am from Seattle Washington but I have a vacation home in Gearhart Oregon, about 25 minutes away from the co-op where  I stopped  to buy groceries. I did not notice it at the time, but my cat Stella jumped from my car when I was loading the groceries.

When I got to my home in Gearhart, I was horrified to discover that Stella was missing from my car! I immediately went back to Astoria with my friends and looked everywhere for Stella.

The neighborhood around the co-op helped a great deal as did the employees of the grocery store.The local public radio station KMUN 91.9 began broadcasting announcements about Stella being lost.

In the meantime I was given your website from my daughter who lost her cat in Columbus Ohio.  I followed your advice and began doing all the things you recommended.

I got up at dawn,  went to Astoria and began searching for Stella and looking everywhere in the vicinity of the co-op. I scoured the community and put flyers everywhere and talked to many people. They were so helpful. I went to the area dawn and dusk. I printed flyers, put them up with her photo and posted on local FB pages.

I went every night to the co-op. I parked in the same place where I had lost her. I put out her scratch pad, cushion and a towel with my scent on it. I put out sardines and smelly tuna fish, to lure her back to the front of the store. I did this every day!

Items to lure a cat back

Items left to lure Stella out of hiding: her scratch pad, tuna, towel with Rosanna’s scent

I did not sleep at night. I was pretty exhausted and depressed. Stella is like a member of our family. She is very important to my youngest daughter who is a freshman in college. I had to find her!

I did this for four days and nights. On the fourth night I got a call from the Clatsop County Animal Shelter saying they had a sighting of her. I went to the spot, talked to the people and left photos and food.

I thought to swing by the co-op to see if there was any activity. There were sightings of Stella at night around 9:30. Then I saw two employees by the dumpster. They recognized me. They said they had heard a cat meow…they closed the gates of the fenced garbage area  and Stella came came out!!!!! We could not believe it!

woman and lost cat after recovery

Stella and Rosanna, happily reunited

I followed your advice and even went further and tried to be there waiting for her. The lesson I learned was not to give up – you were right – cats do not go far from where they are lost.

Thank you for your helpful advice. It worked!  I reached out to the community and they helped so much!  But it was by being tenacious that I found Stella.

Thank you, PET FBI!

Warmly,

Rosanna

10 Month Old Sally Enticed To Return With Familiar Scents

cat and little girl

Sally and her little girl

This beautiful kitty was the darling of a little girl. When Sally went missing the little girl resisted going to school. She wanted to stay home to await Sally’s return. Mom was desperate, suffering for both Sally and her grieving little daughter. Then she posted on the Pet FBI Ohio Facebook page. The picture and the situation tugged at the heartstrings of our ace admin, Char, who contacted the Mom. Char explained that most cats don’t go far, especially during the first few days, and the best strategy is to try to attract the cat back. She encouraged her to appeal to Sally’s sense of smell by using familiar and fragrant scents to entice her to return. There are some good tips on our web site page “Tips-to-lure-a-cat-back-home”.  It worked! Ten minutes later the Mom texted Char  that Sally had come out of hiding. When the little girl got off the school bus there was her Mom with Sally. You can see the love in her sweet face!

“Dash”, Chemical Abstracts’ Mascot, Back on the Job!

This is a message from someone helped by Pet FBI.

Hello,
I can’t thank you enough for your service that you provide! On September 23, 2015, our company’s cat “Dash” was reported as missing. Dash roams the grounds of Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) in central Ohio during the day, and is taken inside at night. When it was time to come in that night, there was no sign of Dash. He is very well cared for, including his vet visits and collar, but he had lost his collar and it had not been replaced.

Dash, lost cat recovered through Pet FBI

Back on the job!

I am an employee of CAS and was devastated when I learned he was missing a full week after it happened! I immediately started to brainstorm how we could bring him home. I posted a lost report on Pet FBI the day I found out, and ironically, Bryan, a fellow co-worker, found my posting and contacted me about Dash. We began to work together to locate him. I created a lost cat poster, and my co-worker put them up in the neighborhood around our property. On Sunday, October 11th, a neighbor contacted CAS and said that he had been in their care, and he is now home!

Dash is such a loving and wonderful creature, and he provided many services to the Employees of CAS, including love and stress relief. Thanks for your services to help find our pets! Without it, I am not sure that my co-worker and I would have found each other to help solve this!

Thank you, thank you!
Sincerely,
Molly
CAS Employee

How “Talking” Can Attract a Cat Back Home

Cat and Mom

Mia the cat went missing on Saturday. Her distraught Mom turned to the Pet FBI lost and found pet database at PetFBI.org and the Pet FBI Ohio Facebook page. Our devoted Facebook administrator, Char Reidinger, coached her about what to do. Most cats don’t go very far; they are just laying low. Mom was trying all the tricks when finally on Tuesday evening around 9:30 she tried the most unlikely tip. She grabbed her cell phone and sat outside talking. Mia came trotting right over like “Ho-hum…hiya, Mom…”

Click this link for more of Char’s tried and true tips to attract a cat back home.