When an outdoor-access cat vanishes, it means that something unusual has happened to interrupt its behavior of returning home. There are several things that can happen to a cat to cause it to vanish, but here are some of the most common places where outdoor-access cats end up:
They become injured or are killed by predators. Sadly, outdoor-access cats are at a higher risk of injury and death than cats that are kept as indoor-only house cats. They can also ingest poison and can become ill due to organic reasons. When a cat is sick or injured, its natural instinct is to hide in silence.
They are removed (intentionally or unintentionally) from the area. Although cats are rescued and saved off the streets, many cats are removed from their territory by someone who intentionally wants to get rid of them, like a cat-hating neighbor, apartment manager, or pest control company.
They become trapped or are transported away inadvertently. Cats are curious. They will enter open sheds, garages, campers, automobiles, service vans, and just about anything that captures their attention. When the owner secures the doors or windows, they often become trapped inside these places or are transported out of the area. Many of these cats, due to fear, will slink down in silence during the transportation process. Drivers of service vehicles and moving vans rarely realize that a missing cat hitched a ride with them.
They get chased away. Cats that are chased off by dogs and other cats are often too panicked to return home. In cases like this, frightened cats will not return home by themselves.
They end up at a shelter. People who find a stray cat may bring it to a shelter. Its critical that you immediately visit and/or notify local shelters about your cat if it disappears. Displaced cats can often end up in a shelter weeks, or even months, after they are initially lost.
They are taken in by people who find them. Many lost cats are adopted by people who find them. Since cats can survive without direct care, people who find them often assume they dont already have a family.
ASSISTANCE IN FINDING YOUR LOST PET
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Karen Cunningham is president of the St. Lawrence Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.