My cat got outside for the first time since we took her in, what are the chances she returns?

RickCMC

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Found her 2 years ago under the shed, she was feral. Decided to keep her. She had never been outside since then. Last night one of my other cats somehow pushed the storm door open and the other cat escaped. Looked everywhere for her around the house and throughout the neighborhood. I put some food, her bed, and a litter box out on the front patio but still no site if her. It’s been almost 24 hours and I'm really worried about her. What are the chances she would eventually return and what other things can I do to help get her back home? Thanks
 

maggie101

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Can you start putting up posts with photo? Post her on nextdoor if your in the US. Or fb. My cat was taken as a stray 5 weeks old then came back a year old so it is possible. When she comes back get her microchipped
 
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RickCMC

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Can you start putting up posts with photo? Post her on nextdoor if your in the US. Or fb. My cat was taken as a stray 5 weeks old then came back a year old so it is possible. When she comes back get her microchipped
Thanks, did a post on Nextdoor.
 

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Help! My Cat Is Lost! – TheCatSite Articles
Lost Cat Behavior
Lost Cat: Action Plan | Pet FBI
(last two courtesy of M MackerelTabbyStripes )

Welcome to The Cat Site although I am sorry about the escaped cat. Given that she has lived inside for 2 years, she has had time to understand and make the decision that this is home for her. She may be more local than you think.

See if the above suggestions will work for you. The TCS member I mentioned ultimately caught her escaped cat in a humane trap. Try anything that might work given your area, property, and cat. Use any food that is smelly enough to attract her, put out scent markers like your clothes, her litterbox ( some disagreement about this, but many do it), canvass the neighborhood, go at dawn and dusk with a flashlight and look for cat eyes.
 

maggie101

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Help! My Cat Is Lost! – TheCatSite Articles
Lost Cat Behavior
Lost Cat: Action Plan | Pet FBI
(last two courtesy of M MackerelTabbyStripes )

Welcome to The Cat Site although I am sorry about the escaped cat. Given that she has lived inside for 2 years, she has had time to understand and make the decision that this is home for her. She may be more local than you think.

See if the above suggestions will work for you. The TCS member I mentioned ultimately caught her escaped cat in a humane trap. Try anything that might work given your area, property, and cat. Use any food that is smelly enough to attract her, put out scent markers like your clothes, her litterbox ( some disagreement about this, but many do it), canvass the neighborhood, go at dawn and dusk with a flashlight and look for cat eyes.
Having a carrier would scare my cats. Only if you can not make a sound with it. If you see her speak her name quietly If she's scared don't walk towards her. Crouch
 
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RickCMC

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Update: one of my other cats was curiously looking out a window at something and I noticed it was my missing cat out on the sidewalk next to the house. I went outside and tried to get her, she at first came near me but then scurried off and jumped the backyard fence and I think she went underneath the shed she was originally found under but I can’t get her to come out. It’s after 1 am and it’s freezing cold, I don’t think I can stay out here all night but I don’t want to leave her either. Do you think she’ll still be in the same spot tomorrow?
 

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Chances are that this is where she knows she was safe before. I had a similar escape. The thing is that they sort of get so scared, they revert to their survival instincts that the knew before. Can you leave any garage door, window or anything open for her to return on her own without another cat getting out? I know it is cold and you must stay safe too but they are sometimes braver going back in if they are not feeling pursued. It’s easier to lead them back at times than to try and catch them. I tossed little food treats she loved to lead her out too. Another cat she knew walks on a harness and she felt safer following him than following me at first. You could try something scented by you or, if she has a cat she loves, use something that carries their scent to lead her home. If you put that on something warm, she may go there to find comfort. I have used many tactics to get ferals or lost cats. Shelter is something she has found so I think it will just take convincing her to feel safe coming into open territory to return. Don’t chase her. Get a trap if you can. Most shelters and animal control
Places lend or will let you use one for a small deposit. Baited with good, you should be able to get her. Most places like tractor supply and Home Depot carry traps too. Just don’t give up! They do want to come back, they just go back into survival mode. Please keep us updated!
 
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RickCMC

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Chances are that this is where she knows she was safe before. I had a similar escape. The thing is that they sort of get so scared, they revert to their survival instincts that the knew before. Can you leave any garage door, window or anything open for her to return on her own without another cat getting out? I know it is cold and you must stay safe too but they are sometimes braver going back in if they are not feeling pursued. It’s easier to lead them back at times than to try and catch them. I tossed little food treats she loved to lead her out too. Another cat she knew walks on a harness and she felt safer following him than following me at first. You could try something scented by you or, if she has a cat she loves, use something that carries their scent to lead her home. If you put that on something warm, she may go there to find comfort. I have used many tactics to get ferals or lost cats. Shelter is something she has found so I think it will just take convincing her to feel safe coming into open territory to return. Don’t chase her. Get a trap if you can. Most shelters and animal control
Places lend or will let you use one for a small deposit. Baited with good, you should be able to get her. Most places like tractor supply and Home Depot carry traps too. Just don’t give up! They do want to come back, they just go back into survival mode. Please keep us updated!
Thanks, unfortunately there’s nothing I can leave open overnight without fear of another cat getting out. I put her bed and some treats and food near the shed as well as her litter box. I put them in a path leading to the back door of the house. I’d stay up all night watching the shed but I can barely keep my eyes open. I just hope she stays there for a while. It was at least good to know that after a full day of being missing she was very close to home, so it seems like she’s not wandering too far.
 

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She is likely to stay nearby, especially since you know she is there and are feeding her. I have heard many stories of cats being attracted to the normal speaking voice of their owners when lost. The night I trapped my missing kitty last summer, I knew she was nearby and I went out in the middle of the night and just spoke into the dark for a good thirty minutes. We trapped her a bit later. It can take quite awhile for the cat to feel settled and risk coming out, but if you bundle up and go out in the evening when you switch her food, and just sit with a cat carrier near the shed and speak softly at intervals, she may come up to you. I'd probably bring something to read 'cuz it'll be a waiting game, you don't need to speak continuously either. No need to try to do this all night, but if you do it for an hour or two before your bedtime or very, very early (depends on your sleep schedule and which of these times is more natural for you), it just might work quickly!!

I would recommend getting a trail cam or moving / redirecting any security cameras you have to try to figure out when she is moving around, and when she eats the food. We used an arlo system at our house that sent immediate phone alerts to movement when recovering my missing cat last summer, but those can get pricey. Non-cellular trail cams are much cheaper just to get off of amazon, and work quite well, but you have to check timestamps after the fact to learn her pattern, and can't directly respond to activity.

Local feral cat Trap/Neuter/Release organizations are likely to have cat-specific humane traps that can be borrowed. You could purchase your own, but they can have long shipping lead times and be pricey. Hav-a-heart wildlife traps can also work and are much easier to find locally and commercially. Other types that are super cheap can injure a cat, so try to get at least one of the larger hav-a-hearts or a borrowed trap.

Once outside former feral cats frequently revert back to their fear-based instincts and aren't likely to approach you in the day or try waiting to ask to come back in a door, so trapping is a very good option, especially if you don't have immediate success with the carrier / speaking voice attempts. This behavior is deeply instictual, and has nothing to do with what the cat wants or imply that if brought back inside it won't be happy. My missing cat was utterly thrilled when she got back in, but it was SUCH an ordeal trying to trap her, because she was so incredibly nervous and scared while outside and very trap-shy.

You want to maximize the information you have, and a camera when you're asleep can really help. She is likely to stay in your yard for several reasons, especially when receiving food, but you do kind of want to figure out when she is likely to be eating the food and try to avoid leaving it out during times she's not at all active, when it might do nothing but attract wildlife or other cats which may be territorial against her. It hasn't been long at all, so that isn't much risk yet.

Posting here was super hepful for me. fionasmom fionasmom 's regular replies to my updates and suggestions were absolutely golden in helping me keep my head straight and less freaked out, & her final tip on possible tricks for my trap-shy cat was what worked!
 
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RickCMC

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She is likely to stay nearby, especially since you know she is there and are feeding her. I have heard many stories of cats being attracted to the normal speaking voice of their owners when lost. The night I trapped my missing kitty last summer, I knew she was nearby and I went out in the middle of the night and just spoke into the dark for a good thirty minutes. We trapped her a bit later. It can take quite awhile for the cat to feel settled and risk coming out, but if you bundle up and go out in the evening when you switch her food, and just sit with a cat carrier near the shed and speak softly at intervals, she may come up to you. I'd probably bring something to read 'cuz it'll be a waiting game, you don't need to speak continuously either. No need to try to do this all night, but if you do it for an hour or two before your bedtime or very, very early (depends on your sleep schedule and which of these times is more natural for you), it just might work quickly!!

I would recommend getting a trail cam or moving / redirecting any security cameras you have to try to figure out when she is moving around, and when she eats the food. We used an arlo system at our house that sent immediate phone alerts to movement when recovering my missing cat last summer, but those can get pricey. Non-cellular trail cams are much cheaper just to get off of amazon, and work quite well, but you have to check timestamps after the fact to learn her pattern, and can't directly respond to activity.

Local feral cat Trap/Neuter/Release organizations are likely to have cat-specific humane traps that can be borrowed. You could purchase your own, but they can have long shipping lead times and be pricey. Hav-a-heart wildlife traps can also work and are much easier to find locally and commercially. Other types that are super cheap can injure a cat, so try to get at least one of the larger hav-a-hearts or a borrowed trap.

Once outside former feral cats frequently revert back to their fear-based instincts and aren't likely to approach you in the day or try waiting to ask to come back in a door, so trapping is a very good option, especially if you don't have immediate success with the carrier / speaking voice attempts. This behavior is deeply instictual, and has nothing to do with what the cat wants or imply that if brought back inside it won't be happy. My missing cat was utterly thrilled when she got back in, but it was SUCH an ordeal trying to trap her, because she was so incredibly nervous and scared while outside and very trap-shy.

You want to maximize the information you have, and a camera when you're asleep can really help. She is likely to stay in your yard for several reasons, especially when receiving food, but you do kind of want to figure out when she is likely to be eating the food and try to avoid leaving it out during times she's not at all active, when it might do nothing but attract wildlife or other cats which may be territorial against her. It hasn't been long at all, so that isn't much risk yet.

Posting here was super hepful for me. fionasmom fionasmom 's regular replies to my updates and suggestions were absolutely golden in helping me keep my head straight and less freaked out, & her final tip on possible tricks for my trap-shy cat was what worked!
Thanks for your input. Unfortunately I still haven’t found her after calling her name this morning. I’m not even sure if she is still under the shed. The food I put out hasn’t been eaten. Getting pretty worried.
 
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RickCMC

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I’m feeling really guilty and upset because when I saw her last night outside the fence I think I scared her by calling her name and moving towards her. I didn’t run toward her or try to grab her I just walked slowly towards her with a bag of treats and shook the bag while I called her name. She came running toward me but then as I moved closer to her she got spooked and that’s when she took off and hopped the fence and went under the shed. I wish I would have remained still and calm but I panicked when I saw her and thought I could get her back. I still haven’t seen her today.

The shed actually has a heater in it so I turned that on and put her bed, some canned tuna and a bowl of water in there along with a piece of my worn clothing. I left the shed door open enough so she could get in. I also opened a small basement window and shut the basement door inside so the other cats can’t go down there and get out the window. Maybe she come back through that window. When I first saw her she ran to the area of where those windows were before she came to me. I hope she comes back 😩
 

MackerelTabbyStripes

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You are doing all the right things! If you had moved slower and it didn't work, you would be doing "what if's" in that direction too. Persistence, but patience is what will win here! The heated shed being open with her bed inside is a really, really good option, she is familiar with that area anyway.

When mine was missing, she was waiting beside our front steps one night (we could see her on the cameras), and listening to me talk and call her inside. I shook a food bag a little and she was off like a shot. I think they have such a low threshold for startling sometimes, they don't process those noises as food related the same way outside. I blamed myself for that a LOT, especially since that was close to the last time we knew she was on our property for the next 5 weeks. But, we did successfully recover her a little more than 7 weeks outside, total!

Be kind to yourself-- you're doing everything you can think of, don't spend energy blaming or second guessing. Just keep trying new things. Cats are often nearby far, far more than just by sight -- mine I know was coming by on camera very frequently, but I literally never saw her on my property with my own eyes until the day we caught her and got her back inside. That's how sneaky they can be!

I am really quite hopeful for you & her, she is familiar with the area and already thinks of it as somewhere safe, it is objectively providing a lot of good cover and security for her, you are being very proactive in the search & recovery effort, and have confirmed she's in the area by seeing her recently.
 
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RickCMC

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You are doing all the right things! If you had moved slower and it didn't work, you would be doing "what if's" in that direction too. Persistence, but patience is what will win here! The heated shed being open with her bed inside is a really, really good option, she is familiar with that area anyway.

When mine was missing, she was waiting beside our front steps one night (we could see her on the cameras), and listening to me talk and call her inside. I shook a food bag a little and she was off like a shot. I think they have such a low threshold for startling sometimes, they don't process those noises as food related the same way outside. I blamed myself for that a LOT, especially since that was close to the last time we knew she was on our property for the next 5 weeks. But, we did successfully recover her a little more than 7 weeks outside, total!

Be kind to yourself-- you're doing everything you can think of, don't spend energy blaming or second guessing. Just keep trying new things. Cats are often nearby far, far more than just by sight -- mine I know was coming by on camera very frequently, but I literally never saw her on my property with my own eyes until the day we caught her and got her back inside. That's how sneaky they can be!

I am really quite hopeful for you & her, she is familiar with the area and already thinks of it as somewhere safe, it is objectively providing a lot of good cover and security for her, you are being very proactive in the search & recovery effort, and have confirmed she's in the area by seeing her recently.
Thank you for your kind words. I’m hopeful too but still worried. Would it be normal for her to stay under the shed all day and not come out til later in the night? What I’m worried about is the temperature. It’s supposed to get down to 17 degrees here late tonight. Are cats able to survive the cold like that? Does being underneath the shed provide her with some warmth? I hope she goes into the shed.
 

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Crazy idea. Cats go where it's warm so do you have a heating blanket and put in a box. Like fionasmom fionasmom suggested KFC fried chicken fresh so its warm. Squat down if you see her,talk softly,put in front of you on the ground fresh chicken
 
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RickCMC

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Crazy idea. Cats go where it's warm so do you have a heating blanket and put in a box. Like fionasmom fionasmom suggested KFC fried chicken fresh so its warm. Squat down if you see her,talk softly,put in front of you on the ground fresh chicken
I have a baseboard heater in the shed, I turned it on and put her bed and food in there and left the shed door open enough for her to get in. Hopefully she realizes it’s a warm place to go
 
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RickCMC

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At what temperatures will a cat freeze to death? I’m on the verge of a panic attack because it’s below 20 degrees out. I’m complaining because I feel too cold in my house where it’s 68 degrees. I can’t imagine how cold my little kitty feels out there. This sucks!
 

maggie101

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She has a warm place to go to and food she will be ok she is lucky she has someone to help. There are so many strays that survive in the cold
 
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