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How to Find a Lost Cat

(1) call ALL area shelters. Even if someone hasn't found and taken the cat to a shelter...all of them maintain lists of lost and found animals. If someone sees Shantu and calls there to see if anyone lost a cat matching Shantu's description -- they will put you guys in touch with each other so you can follow up. Sometimes the only thing people know to do when they see a new stray in the neighborhood is call the shelter.

(2) immediately place a LOST ad in all area newspapers. There are usually free and in Durham they run for 7 days and you have to call each week to renew the ad -- but it remains free. Ask about policies in other papers. This is the other place most people look when trying to locate an owner for a new stray they've seen in their neighborhood....so be sure to put an ad in the papers.

(3) SMELLY, SMELLY FOOD -- put canned mackerel (best), tuna or smelly canned fishy cat food in several places in the yard. To keep ants away, place food in bowl, set bowl in shallow plant saucer with a little water in the saucer. If she hangs around in the area, but gets hungry, she's apt to be able to smell her way back to the stinky food. I "mackerel-ized' my back yard for 4 months before I finally caught one of my cats that escaped during a break-in.

You must do this religiously...because you don't know what day (most likely, night) she'll show back up.

You don't want her to have to keep wandering farther away in search of food, so it's VERY IMPORTANT TO KEEP FOOD OUT. A little dry food also -- it won't go bad in the heat of the day. But you definitely need really smelly food to lure her in (maybe some wildlife also, so don't be surprised).

If she comes back to eat the smelly fish and food, you want to make sure she stays around a little while at each feeding (to give you or someone else time to see her out there). A good trick is to put out some of the smelly fish -- but not too much -- where she can easily eat it, to lure her over .... but to leave the rest in a small closed container (tuna can with snap on lid??) -- put some holes in the lid with a can opener, so she can just barely get to the fish. She'll sit there and work at getting the fish out -- and it will give you time to catch her at it. Just make sure she can have a little success at getting to the smelly fish, so that she won't just give up.

An Independent Animal Rescue cat escaped at its new home, and was caught working on a tuna tin in this way.

(4) FLYERS, FLYERS, FLYERS.....everywhere. I went door-to-door and put a flyer in every single mailbox or front door within a several block radius. Putting flyers on street poles is almost useless...no one is going slow enough to read them...and then if they see the cat later....they don't have the contact info handy. I got almost all my escaped cats back from the flyers. Write-up something that will tug at people's heartstrings (recently rescued, indoor-only cat, ..... has escaped'). On the flyer, be sure to ask people to hold on to the flyer in case she shows up in their neighborhood later...that you're going to look as long as it takes. You'd be surprised how many people told me they were so glad I'd asked them to keep the flyer, because they did and then called me a few months later when they saw my cats.

You need to start flyer distributing RIGHT AWAY.....before she has time to venture too far.

I posted 800 flyers (with help!) and covered a 7 block radius around my house. Most cats (but not all) will stay in a several block (usually less than a mile) radius of where they escaped. One of my escapees went about 10 blocks...the others were all found within 5.

(5) If the neighborhood has an email list...be sure and post the missing cat on that.

(6) go out at night -- on foot or in car and look with a flashlight. Most cats will be nocturnal...especially when frightenend. This is when they'll come out and roam around....and flashlights are great for finding cat eyes in the dark (they shine!). I found one of my escapees just driving around after midnight when not much else was going on and the cat (that went 10 blocks away) was just strolling around yards and I saw him when the flashlight caught his eyes).

(7) be observant around your house after dark also. She might come nosing around and if you're not watching for her - you'd never know.

(8) the cats tend to hide under low objects....underbrush, bushes and shrubby trees, they like to find hiding places in woods. they'll also get into neighbor's crawlspaces, underneath steps/stoops, etc....so be sure to look there and to ask people on the flyers to do the same.

Good luck! Be persistent -- especially with the flyers -- it may take awhile, but you'll have a good chance of getting her back.