Missing Outdoor Access Cat - Probability Categories

This article is brought to you by the NZCAR Pet Detective Service.

article01Introduction

When an outdoor-access cat vanishes, the investigative question for any Pet Detective to solve is: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAT?

There are basically eight things that may have happened - and we call these “Probability Categories.” As you search for your missing cat, consider which category seems the most likely for your particular case and consider taking the recommended actions.

Eight Probability Categories

  1. YOUR CAT IS TRAPPED - Your cat could be up a tree, on a roof, under a house, or inside a neighbour’s garage or garden shed. This means that your cat would likely be within its normal territory, usually a 5-house radius of your home. If you cat has ever vanished for a few days and came home very thirsty or hungry, they might be prone to becoming trapped.
    Action: A prompt and thorough search of the area is recommended. Where to search can vary depending on your cats upbringing and personality. For an article on this subject, click here.

  2. YOUR CAT IS DISPLACED INTO AN UNFAMILIAR AREA - Cats can be chased from their territory either by dogs, people and other cats. Or cats can be panicked by such things as fireworks. A cat in this situation will become “displaced” in the unfamiliar territory. Many of these cats, once their adrenaline levels have subsided, will work their way back home, often showing up the next day or a few days later. But many of these cats, especially those with skittish temperaments, will be so panicked by the experience that they will hide in fear and will be too afraid to return home.
    Action: A thorough search of the area is recommended. Trapping may also be an option if the cat will only venture out for food. We also recommend having your cat microchipped so its identity can be easily confirmed if caught or if it finally approaches people. We recommend reading the article on cat personalities and upbringing, click here.

  3. YOUR CAT WAS UNINTENTIONALLY TRANSPORTED OUT OF THE AREA - Cases of unintentional transport include your cat climbing into a work van or service vehicle and being transported to another location either across town or even to another town. In the case of furniture vans it can even be the other end of the country.
    Action: If you have had workmen on your property just before the cat went missing, check with them to see if they saw your cat. Or check with neighbours to see if they have had repair people in for any work. In this case a search where the cat escaped the vehicle if known would be recommended. We also recommend a microchip as it can help identify your cat when found and is taken to a vet clinic, spca, shelter or other od the over 850 organisations accessing the NZCAR.

  4. YOUR CAT WAS INTENTIONALLY TRANSPORTED OUT OF THE AREA - Cases of intentional removal are quite rare fortunately but an example would be a cat-hating neighbour who captures your cat and dumps it far from your home.
    Action: In this case a microchip can help identify your cat if it is taken to a vet clinic, spca, shelter or other rescue when found. This will also identify your pet even if the people taking it to the vet say the cat is theirs. In cases of disputed ownership it becomes a civil matter and we recommend seeking legal advice. It is important you can show you have been actively seeking your cat and we recommend keeping your NZCAR contact details up to date and maintaining your LostPet.co.nz listing (by renewing it each month) until your cat is located.

  5. YOUR CAT IS INJURED OR SICK - Injured or sick (or displaced, panicked) cats will most often hide in silence. They will seek a place they consider quiet and safe and will most likely not respond to calls.
    Action: Before printing posters and flyers, or contacting your local SPCA and Vets, we strongly recommend a thorough search of the area. Both on your own property and on your neighbours properties. Our article on cat personality type and upbringing may also assist, click here.

  6. YOUR CAT WAS RESCUED - By “rescue” we mean someone found your cat and assumed it was an abandoned stray and they took it into their house or to the SPCA. This happens often, especially with cats that are not microchipped or that do not wear a collar and ID tag.
    Action: Lost Pet posters at your local shopping centre or in your neighbourhood can raise awareness and might jog peoples memories. Flyers in letterboxes can also help. Both of these are available for free on LostPet.co.nz. Registration with 'PiP' Facial Recognition can also help if your local SPCA office and rescues upload images of found animals.

  7. YOUR CAT WAS STOLEN - Thankfully, in New Zealand this is not as common as some would believe. While some purebred and exotic cats are stolen, the incidents where someone knowingly steals a cat for profit are actually quite rare.
    Action: Ensure your contact details on the NZCAR are up to date and that your pet is flagged as missing or stolen on LostPet.co.nz. A microchip can help identify your cat if it is taken to a vet clinic, spca, shelter or other rescue when found - even if the people taking it to the vet say the cat is theirs. In cases of disputed ownership it becomes a civil matter and we recommend seeking legal advice. It is important you can show you have been actively seeking your cat and we recommend maintiaing your LostPet.co.nz listing, including renewing it each month until your cat is located. If you are sure your pet has been stolen, we also recommend reporting the theft to the police.

  8. YOUR CAT MAY BE DECEASED - This is not an option that anyone ever wants to think about, but sady it does happen. Whether it be an accident on the road, or an attack by a dog or another rare circumstance. The NZCAR is committed to getting all lost pet home, even when deceased. Our history of dealing with lost pets has confirmed that owners feel that the long-term not knowing and worrying, is much worse than the grief of a lost pet. As odd as it seems at a time of stress, there is comfort in having closure.
    Action: In this case a microchip can help identify your cat when it is recovered. Many Council's are now considering the scanning of all deceased animals on the roads. One of the leading Council's in this regard is Christchurch City Council, who have worked through City Care to ensure many trucks now have scanners. Fulton Hogan have also been very proactive in this regard too. If your cat is missing contact your local Council to see if their cleaning contractors collect deceased pets or if they record details of lost pets before disposal.

How Can NZCAR Help Further?

If you would like more help discussing your cat and what might have happened to them, you can book time with an NZCAR Pet Detective for a one-on-one personalised service. Click here to email for more information.


This page has been created by the NZCAR team based on advice written by Kat Albrecht, Network Director for the Missing Animal Response network and founder of the Missing Pet Partnership. Her website is missinganimalresponse.com. This article is one of a series of articles designed to help your lost pets get home.