This is a topic that comes up often in our neighborhood chats. It’s not surprising that your cat wants to explore. After all, it’s pretty interesting on the other side of the door. Trees to climb and things to stalk and chase. They get to practice their natural hunting skills, mark a new territory, and sharpen their nails.
Most of the time when cats dash out the door or work their way through a screen, they stay pretty close – usually less than five houses away. But once out, they may decide that the sensory overload is too much for them, become scared, and hide. Cats are territorial and their territory is in their house so they seek shelter out of fear. When you go out to look for them, they may even be watching you, but are too afraid to respond to your calls. They may stay hidden in silence for days until their hunger outweighs their fear and then will emege from their hiding place.
If your cat gets outside, it’s important to do a physical search for them immediately, and don’t give up too soon. Look under bushes, sheds, decks, and porches. Ask your neighbors if you can check for your cat on their property. Your neighbor may be willing to keep an eye out to report your cat if spotted, but is not likely to crawl under their deck or shed they way that you would. If you see an open garage, check there too. Put up signs, post on social media (Nextdoor, Pawboost, your FB page}. Include recent photos and your contact information. When it gets dark, shine a flashlight where you are looking. A cat’s eyes will be easily detected in the light.
You can also set up a humane trap in a place where you can check it frequently. You may be able to borrow one from Animal Control or a rescue group. Place some yummy food in the trap to lure your cat inside. If your cat is skittish, it may take days or even weeks to enter the trap. Don’t be discouraged. Professional cat detectives use wildlife cameras. They set out a plate of food and the camera snaps pictures of the animals that come to eat. You can set one up near your home to see if you can spot your cat wandering across the lawn, going under cars or moving around when it feels safe to do so. Most cats are more active at night or in the early morning – times when you are not likely to be paying attention.
Sometimes cats will hang out with feral cat colonies in order to get food. Try to find out if there are any near your home and see if your cat is among them. When you are reunited with your cat, make sure you cat proof any escape areas to prevent your cat from being displaced again. Make those areas unattractive with repellent sprays, aluminum foil or by putting sticky paw on mats that lay by the door.
For your cat’s future safety, be proactive by placing a breakaway collar with your name and number, spay or neuter your cat, and keep your cat up to date on vaccinations. Another tip is to create an enriching environment so your cat is more interested in staying inside. Cat trees, games, food puzzles, and toys are some basic suggestions to keep your cat happier on the inside. Catios are more expensive but provide a safe, enclosed space for your cat to experience being closer to nature. Indoor cats are safer, healthier, and live longer than outdoor cats. An indoor cat can live up to eighteen years or more while the average lifespan for outdoor cats is five years.
It’s a good idea to contact veterinarians, and rescue organizations as they are often contacted by people who find cats in an attempt to reach their owner. Call and visit shelters. The most important ingredient in a successful outcome is your search. Be patient, look often in the same area, and vary the times of your route. Understand that your normally friendly and loving cat will act differently if it is panicked. It still loves you, but it is overcome by the fear of being in an unfamiliar place. Don’t take a wait and see approach. Putting your cat’s dirty litter box out to encourage it to return is passive and not effective. Do take an active approach by continuing to physically search. Your cat’s well-being depends on it.
Sometimes cats escape when a pet owner has recently moved. These cats may be already stressed because nothing is familiar and their owner may be noisily unpacking, moving furniture, and ignoring them. These cats are over threshold to begin with before darting outside and may take longer to find. Don’t give up. I have heard of cats like this being spotted two months after escaping. Until you know for sure that your cat is not alive – do not lose hope. There are cat detectives that will provide consultations and give you advice should you need more assistance. I recommend Kat Albrecht at Missing Animal Response Network. I heard her give a fascinating presentation at a Pet Sitter’s International conference that I attended. She has an awesome success rate.
Rotate Toys. Instead of leaving all the toys out, pick them up and offer them a few at a time. Change it up so your dog isn’t bored.
Go on Walks. Dogs love to sniff and explore. If they spend time in the house all day, it’s a good way for both of you to have quality time together.
Train Obedience. A dog that understands what you expect is happy to oblige. They want to please you. A dog with manners is easier to spend more time with.
Teach a New Trick. One of the ways my dogs and I got through the pandemic was finding ways to have fun. High five, find it, go around, sit in the middle, and leg weaves are just a few of the long list of tricks. Cats are good tricksters too.
Maintain a Healthy Weight. Obesity in pets is a big problem today. Look at all the choices of pet food today geared toward trimming excess pounds. Your pets will feel better in the ideal weight
Play Games. They are beneficial for building confidence and focus, and are fun activities for mental and physical stimulation. You can play games with toys or food. Tug, fetch, flirt poles, hidden treats, and scent games are all good examples. Choose a game appropriate for your dog’s breed and size.
Be consistent with Rules and Boundaries. Everyone in the household is included. Dogs learn from us all the time. They watch and respond according to our praise and reinforcement or lack of it. Giving them mixed signals will confuse them.
Give them a Good Grooming. A bath—if needed—a brushing, or a comb out helps keep them clean, removes allergens from their coat, and gives you a chance to check for fleas.
Verbal and Physical Praise. Talking to them, petting them, or giving them a simple massage makes them feel safe, secure and loved.
Introduce new, good quality treats from time to time. Spread them around the house, drop some among their toys, let them seek and find. It’s fun to discover their favorites.
Cats Special Mention: Keep pine needles away; hang cat safe, shatter-proof tree ornaments with string instead of wire hooks; skip the tinsel and fake snow; avoid mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias. If your tree is live, cover the water source to prevent your cat from drinking. Double check that cords and wires are not exposed and turn off the lights when you leave. Spend some time with your feline fur babies and enjoy a few magical moments together.
A cat’s emotional and physical well-being is determined by how well pet parents are meeting a cat’s needs. These needs are equally divided among social, eating, sleeping, grooming, and hunting. Cats are both predator and prey and are literally analyzing everything in terms of being safe or being in danger. This includes every time they interact with you or other people, hear a sound, see a movement, smell something different. They are doing this every second of every day. Knowing this, we can provide a safer and more enriching environment to keep our pets healthy and happy. Here are some tips to help:
Play should always mimic hunting styles and include all aspects of the hunt (eye, stalk, chase, pounce, kill) and engage a cat’s senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. There are a multitude of toy choices or activities that are satisfying. Some of my favorites are toys on a pole, wand toys, and laser lights (providing the cat gets the red dot in the end). Interactive play between a pet owner stimulates the brain, provides exercise, combats boredom, and strengthens your relationship. Plus, it’s what cats like to do. Keeping cats inside where they are safe while providing enrichment makes for a happy and healthy cat.
Feeding can be done with food puzzles and slow feeders. Ditch the bowl for something that encourages foraging and hunting. Move the food around the house at different locations so they can search. Where would your cat want to eat? Feed it there! If you have a multi-cat household, spreading the food around gives cats more personal space to eat. Some cat behaviorists believe that how we feed a cat is as important as what we feed them.
Cats sleep 12-16 hours a day. Heated cat beds, perches, boxes or containers, a carrier, quiet places, and a spot in the sun are wonderful accoutrements for a sleepy cat.
Grooming is super important and serves more purposes than you might imagine. It hides a cat’s scent from predators, cleans injuries, removes debris and parasites from fur, and disperses natural oils in the skin. Cats love to be washed and enjoy grooming their housemates as well. One thing we can do for them that they like is wash their whiskers and mouth with a warm washcloth. Cats, being social animals, would enjoy an indoor environment that engages all of the senses. Cats love window perches, vertical climbing spaces, wall shelves, sun beam chasing, catios, cat friendly-music, videos, cat plant grass, fish tanks, and companionship. You can even bring the outside in by gathering leaves and placing them in a box for your cat to explore.
Take a look around your home from your cat’s perspective and see what delights you can add to your cat’s world. Giving your cat ways to display their natural behaviors will help reduce stress and give them more choices. Happy Cat, Happy Home!
You want to get out for a full day or even a few nights away from home, but your kitty is happier at home. Learn what a professional pet sitter does for your feline friend.
Hire a Crockett’s Critter Care professional pet sitter. We know the right questions to ask and information to gather before we confirm and approve your request. We will ask where your cat’s hiding places are, how they react to strangers, how they cope with your absence, what they like to eat, and what games and toys they enjoy. We will gather a health history and contact you if we suspect a medical emergency. We are trained in Pet First Aid/CPR and can provide immediate care and assessment to determine if a vet visit is warranted.
Insist on daily visits. Too many things can happen that, if gone unnoticed, can result in a serious medical outcome. A urinary tract infection, getting caught in the window blinds, getting stuck in a tight place, or chewing an electrical cord are just a few of things that pet sitters have discovered just in time to save a cat’s life. A daily observance of your cat will ensure that it receives the care and attention it needs.
Your cat’s daily routine can be noticed which includes maintaining the litter box, monitoring input and output of food and water, washing food bowls and providing fresh food at each meal on a clean plate. We can cat proof your house to make sure dangerous plants are out of the way and that the temperature is comfortable.
Your mail, packages, and newspapers will be brought in giving your house an occupied vibe. We will notice if something looks wrong and help solve little problems before they turn into big ones.
Cats love attention, and we love cats. You want to be able to breathe easier on your trip and come home to a happy cat’s contented meows. We will play with them, talk to them, and hang out with them while you are gone so they will miss you just a little bit less.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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Here are 7 simple things you can do to ensure your pet’s health and happiness.
Feed them a good diet. This promotes a shiny coat, healthy skin, and bright eyes. It also strengthens your pet’s immune system, helps maintain their intestinal health, increases their mental acuity, keep their joints and muscles healthy, and good nutrition means a happy pet.
Keep your pet lean. Obesity is a huge problem today and can shorten a dog or cat’s life span by as much as two years. Being overweight or obese puts your pet at risk for joint disease, heart disease and diabetes. Since you can control what your pet eats, it is up to you to count their calories.
Take your pet to the veterinarian regularly. Pets that are getting older should see the vet twice a year. In many cases, an early diagnosis improves the chances of successful treatment of minor problems before they become serious and costly health issues.
Keep your pet’s mouth clean. Yes, brush your pet’s teeth! You can also provide dental chews and drops in their water. Untreated dental issues can contribute to heart and kidney disease. It’s best to introduce this to cats when they are kittens.
Supervise their outdoor activities. Roaming pets are subject to car accidents, predation, exposure to contagious diseases, exposure to poisons, and other dangers. Protect them by not allowing them to wander without you.
Exercise your pet. It’s good for the mind and body. It lowers stress, increases endorphins, and balances their mind. It helps maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass.
Provide positive attention. Give them affection with petting, grooming, kind words, and enriching activities. Our loving companions deserve to be appreciated and well-cared for.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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As the owner of Crockett’s Critter Care, I want you to know that you can reach out to me directly with any question, compliment, or concern you have about the care of your pet.