An outdoor-access cat is any cat that is allowed outdoors unsupervised (even if only for a short time each day).
Steps to Find a Lost Outdoor-Access Cat
- If your cat has been missing less than 1 week, consider scheduling on-site assistance immediately. You will receive an on-site estimate once you complete a Lost Pet Form. For more information on how on-site services work, please read below. To learn how to schedule on-site assistance, click here.
- If your cat has been missing more than 1 week (or if you’re not sure you want on-site assistance), schedule a phone or email consultation. If you first purchase a consultation and later purchase on-site assistance, the cost of the consultation (up to $140) will be deducted from the on-site services fee.
- If you cannot afford a consultation or on-site assistance, check out these low cost and free lost pet resources.
How a Lost Outdoor-Access Cat Search Works
Lost From Home – When an outdoor-access cat goes missing from his home, there are often many different things that could have happened. For this reason, I usually start with a very comprehensive phone consultation to determine the highest probability causes and then instruct you in the most important steps to start looking for your cat. Next I usually come on-site and conduct a thorough search with my cat detection dog in the area of your cat’s typical territory to make sure that s/he isn’t trapped, injured and hiding or deceased close to home. Very few outdoor-access cats are located during a search with the search dog (likely less than 5%), but this is still a very important step since your cat’s life is in danger if s/he is injured or trapped. You might expect your cat to meow if trapped or come home if injured, but the natural behavior of a frightened or injured cat is to hide in silence so it is easy to overlook them when searching. If you cannot afford a search dog, you can still do a reasonably good job yourself as long as you know how to effectively search. Important: Please be aware that my search dog, Dante, is an area detection dog and not a tracking or trailing dog. This means that he will search yard-by-yard for the scent of any cat, and he does not follow the scent-trail of your specific lost cat. For more information, see Dante’s page.
If your cat isn’t found during the initial search, then I coach you on how to best continue your search efforts after I am gone. I also assist with the creation of highly-effective lost cat posters and flyers. Posters are a very important tool in the search for a lost outdoor-access cat because they can easily be displaced from their home territory (e..g. chased away by another cat or wild animal) and end up 1-2 miles from home. Motion-sensitive surveillance cameras may also be rented to assist with following-up of potential sightings. Occasionally humane traps may also be used if you locate your cat, but are unable to catch them by hand.
Lost Away From Home – Cats are most often lost away from home at the vet’s office, while on vacation, from a friend’s house or even from a new home. Occasionally a cat will be unknowingly transported away from home in or on someone’s vehicle or in a piece of furniture removed from the house. When an outdoor-access cat is lost in a strange location, s/he may act more like an escaped indoor-only cat.
In a displaced cat case, I provide an initial phone consultation so that you are doing everything you can to locate your cat immediately. Then I come on-site as soon as possible (often the next day) and conduct a 1-3 hour search with my cat detection dog to check out the most likely spots in the area where s/he might be hiding. Important: Please be aware that my search dog, Dante, is an area detection dog and not a tracking or trailing dog. This means that he will search yard-by-yard for the scent of any cat, and he does not follow the scent-trail of your specific lost cat. For more information, see Dante’s page. Using the search dog is most effective in the first three days after your cat escapes and perhaps longer with some skittish cats. Coming on-site also allows me to get a much better understanding of the area where your cat is lost and the best methods to bring him/her home.
If your cat isn’t found during the initial search, then I coach you on how to best continue your search efforts after I am gone. Most displaced outdoor-access cats will remain within 1-2 miles of where they went missing. However, occasionally a cat will attempt to find his way home. In most cases, I will help set-up 1-2 surveillance cameras and at least one humane trap. I also assist with the creation of highly-effective lost cat posters and flyers. Posters are often very important in helping to locate a displaced outdoor-access cat.
On-Site Services are primarily available within 100-miles of South Hadley, MA (near Springfield). This includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and parts of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. On-site services may be available up to 150 miles on a limited basis, but this will often require an overnight stay. If you live outside this service area, check out the Guide to Finding a Pet Detective or Search Dog to find someone in your area.
Cost of On-Site Services
A typical outdoor-access cat search costs $300 (for an on-site consultation and 2-hour search) plus additional travel fees (if over 25-miles from South Hadley, MA) plus applicable tolls. Surveillance camera (i.e. wildlife or trail camera) or trap rental is an additional $25/ea for the first week and includes set-up. On-site services packages are highly customized, and an estimate will be provided upon submission of a Lost Pet Form.
Additional On-Site Services Available
Extended Stay – In some cases I will spend several days on-site and can provide additional searches with the search dog, assistance with designing and putting up posters/flyers, checking shelters, and/or assistance with overnight surveillance or trapping. An overnight stay would be recommended if your cat was lost away from home for less than one week from and you would like to significantly increase the likelihood of finding them quickly. Some people also request an extended stay if they are unable to search or put up posters themselves. If you are interested in any extended stay, please let me know when you fill out the Lost Pet Form.
Specialized Capture – If you have located your cat but cannot catch them, I also offer assistance trapping and specialized capture.