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It Takes a Village to Find a Cat
(or Where to Look for a Kitten When You've Lost All Hope)
week, we lost our kitten. Because I cannot bear causing you worry,
gentle reader, I am going to break a key storytelling rule - one that
Nabokov broke, so I am in good company - and tell you right at the
beginning that Clara Bow was found the next day and that she is safe
and sound and back to waging an endlessly-amusing-to-her battle against
our other cat’s tail. From when we noticed that she wasn’t around at
approximately 9:00 Wednesday night until 12:30 Thursday afternoon when
I received the breathlessly relieved message from my husband, though, I
had every dark thought my apparently twisted mind could conjure about
what could have happened to our five-month-old kitten: she was in a
couch that we’d thoughtlessly flopped on; she was drowned at the bottom
of a sink where that night’s dishes were soaking; she was trapped in a
wall or a pipe and she wasn’t able to get out. And territorial rats
were chasing her, though I am pretty sure that we don’t have any, but
they were after her. Or, if Clara had gotten out of the house, my
worries were even more catastrophic because that is a vast realm and it
is outside of my control: she was in the dark outdoors, darting between
cars, chased by sadistic kids; she was being attacked by a rabid
opossum; she was carried off by a hawk. Every couch cushion I
overturned, every parked car I peered under, I did with great
trepidation, terrified of what I might find but unable to not check.
There is a quote from the late Dr. Wayne Dyer that I kept returning to
as I grew ever more frantic: “When you squeeze an orange, you'll always
get orange juice to come out. What comes out is what's inside. The same
logic applies to you: when someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you,
or says something unflattering or critical, and out of you comes anger,
hatred, bitterness, tension, depression, or anxiety, that is what's
inside.” Apparently when my orange is being squeezed, I turn into the
reincarnation of Edward Gorey.
At about 1:30 in the morning when she was missing, after hours of
fruitlessly shaking her treats and calling her name in our back yard –
and watching my husband’s flashlight wobble around outside like a
feverish Fox Mulder – I posted about Clara being missing on Facebook. I
was desperately looking for comfort, for reassurance, and support. I
got that, heaps of it, from people who really should have been asleep.
What I didn’t expect, though, was the profusion of excellent guidance
for locating a missing kitty. I should have expected it, though, as
most of my friends are “animal people” who have a great deal more
experience with tracking down vanished felines than I do. A couple of
things that I learned from all this: never underestimate how many
strange and creative places there are for a cat (and especially a small
kitten) to disappear into. Oh, and that cats really, really like box
springs, apparently. Between tears, I read stories of long separations
and reunions that gave me goose bumps, of improbable “hidey-holes” and
cats who have seemingly found portals to disappear into in two-bedroom
apartments (Look in the box springs, my cat detective coaches would
advise). I also heard stories of heartbreaking loss.
After sleeping two hours that night, I woke up bleary-eyed and
desperate and sobbing from a fragment of dream; Clara still hadn’t
materialized. I found myself regretting every time I didn’t kiss her
when I could have, when I was annoyed by her picture frames off our
shelves, when I reprimanded her for attacking Skylar’s tail yet again.
(She really has a thing about that.) What kind of monster was I? Still,
there were more messages, texts, comments, prayers, words of
reassurance and wisdom. Later that morning, I had a commitment I nearly
cancelled but I had unintentionally missed the week before and I didn’t
want to do it again. I was reluctant about leaving the house but
something told me that she wouldn’t be found when I was home and that I
would be getting a text from my husband when I was out. Even though my
gut told me this, I thought that maybe I was misleading myself out of
desperate hope. I reluctantly left, making sure to check under the car
first, of course.
About 1½ hours later, I got a text from my husband: Found her!!! She’s
happy and safe and crawling all over me! He’d tried to call but I
didn’t hear the phone. I re-read the message five times to make sure my
eyes weren’t deceiving me, burst into grateful tears and called him as
soon as I could. It turned out that John was trying to get some work
done but he just couldn’t get his mind off Clara Bow. Something made
him look back over the thread on my Facebook page to see if there was a
tip that he’d missed when he saw this, posted by my friend Linda*,
“One of our indoor cats got out once, and we looked in the yard, the
woods, the neighbors' yards, etc. only to find him smashed up against
the front of the house.” John realized that there was one part of the
outside of the house he hadn’t explored and he went to look. He moved
some discarded wood trim from our porch renovation that are piled
against our house and peered inside. He saw a small dark mass inside
that he thought was dirt but, shining his flashlight at it (even in the
middle of a sunny day, it was dark), suddenly the mass blinked at him:
those were eyes. It was Clara Bow, huddled in a ball. She must have
darted out the night before when he was taking the dog out on a walk.
He moved the pieces of wood and she came out toward him, tentative and
stiff at first after a night in the cold, and then he picked her up.
She nestled against him and kissed his hand. By the time I got home a
short time later, she was running around the house like there had been
no interruption. Holding her warm little purring body, the one I was so
desperate to see just an hour before, I was deliriously, wildly happy
and relieved, my grateful tears on her soft fur.
is where we found Clara Bow – against the side of our house next to the
chimney, beneath a few boards leftover from when we remodeled our porch
that were leaned against the house. Actually, she was a little deeper
down, to the right of the white rock behind the board with the chipped
My community is like family to me, family that – in many cases – I’ve
not met and may never meet but I still love. People who I’ve never met
were praying for us, kept awake worrying about Clara, searching their
minds for more helpful words of advice, texting me support and so on.
That is real family to me. I am so grateful to everyone who cared and
helped. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve compiled the various and
assorted bits of advice and helpful quotes that I was given for finding
Clara Bow. Any number of these could have been the magic ticket to
finding her. If you have found this while you are in your most
frightened state in trying to find a lost kitty, I hope that this list
helps you as it did me. Please know that I am sending my best to you
and reach out: may you get the guidance that you need to be reunited.
is little Clara Bow, posing with her rescuer an hour after they were
reunited. By the time, she appeared to have put her ordeal behind her
and was back to her normal feisty self.
Tips for finding a missing cat or kitten
These recommendations range from the obvious to the outright bizarre. What can I say? Cats are mysterious creatures.
• Shake a cat treat container while calling her name.
an electric can opener or open a can your usual way. Just do whatever
your cat associates with food. Do it in several different rooms to
increase the likelihood of the kitty hearing.
been through this more times than I can remember and know very well the
awful, helpless feeling. I think it's highly likely that she is in the
house. The only thing I know to do is to grab a flashlight and search
the house square foot by square foot, leaving not one inch uncovered.
It means removing every item from the linen closet, looking on top of
curtain rods, at the back of top shelves in closets, inside every boot,
shoe and dresser drawer, inside the back of the clothes dryer. Little
cats find their ways into the strangest places!”
– Ginny M.
inside couches, underneath chairs, couches, inside mattress linings,
under and inside pillows. With even a tiny tear, cats can wedge their
way into these spaces. If your kitty is missing, especially if he’s
very small, be mindful to check box springs before sitting down.
• Put wet food in multiple areas inside the house.
• Look in clothes hampers or laundry baskets. If it has a lid and it’s shut, look inside, too.
in all cabinets, cupboards, drawers, especially in the kitchen and
bathrooms. One cat was found hiding behind a partially open drawer.
Check the top of cabinets as well.
left our cats with a friend once while we left town with the dogs
(while having the floors in our house refinished). Our friend called
and said she couldn't find one of our cats. We left the beach a day
early. Long story short, he was in the basement, hiding under the
bathtub (there was a cat-sized hidey-hole there that one of our
friend's cats showed him). They were hanging out together there. Harold
just wasn't coming out for meals. Once he heard my husband’s voice, he
poked his head out.”
– Lisa B.
• Check under or behind a stove: You may have to pull the stove out to look. Also, look in and around the dishwasher.
• Look inside the washer and dryer – and the hose – as well as underneath and
behind the refrigerator. If you have a kitten or a petite cat, look
inside the refrigerator and drawers. It wouldn’t hurt to check the
freezer as well.
• Do you have a hole under a sink that leads to the outside? Check that (and then seal it!).
an indoor cat gets out, make it very easy for her to get back in via
her escape route. It is usually the only entry she will know. When my
cat Piper (same age as Clara but semi feral) escaped through a window
we put a tall stool outside the window. Sure enough she climbed back in
8 hours later!”
– Ginny M.
• Look on the beams of the basement.
• Check behind and above books on a bookshelf.
sure that all air vents are properly covered. (If your cat got outside
via this route, it is obviously too late for now but a protective
measure to be mindful of for the future.)
Cats are very innovative when it comes to hiding places.
the drywall and under the sink for holes or gaps, especially around
pipes. If you suspect that your cat is in the wall, shining a
flashlight up it can help a frightened or disoriented kitty find his
way back down. Put stinky food at the hole. If you know that your cat
is trapped in the walls and she is not coming out, firefighters may be
able to help cut a hole in the wall and release her.
“Our cat Pippin found a way into the ceiling of the basement!! He was
gone for hours then I went downstairs and realized he was above my head
in the ceiling. You must channel your inner kitty when looking for
– Adrienne H
• One friend reported finding a missing kitty hanging out in a tear in a soft shell suitcase.
be surprised how many people frantically searched their homes for hours
only to find the cat napping contentedly in a closet. Linen closets are
especially popular for missing cats.
“I've had to crawl on my hands and knees to see the perspective of a
kitten. She may have tucked in underneath a sofa or chair. Or behind a
seat cushion. Is there room by your refrigerator? She may have been
able to go forward but not backwards. I'd go room by room with both you
and John taking each room apart.”
– Molly D.
the litter box outside right away and it is especially helpful if it is
not scooped: the scent can help to guide them back home. If the box is
scooped but the garbage with waste hadn’t been thrown out yet, empty
some back into the box. Waiting by the litter box can also help.
her picture and description to all the local shelters and
veterinarians. Also, visit the shelters: don’t just look online.
• Post your missing cat information on Craigslist and local and national lost cat registries.
the event she did get outside, cats are very territorial and rarely
venture farther than a few houses in any direction. Leaving a food dish
on the porch might help draw her out in the morning.”
– Laurie S.
out a humane trap – check with friends or they can be borrowed from
animal shelters – with an article of clothing from home and stinky wet
to your neighbors, print lost flyers and put them in all the neighbor’s
mailboxes, ask them to look in their garages, sheds, under porches and
under their cars. Look under the cars that might be parked on your
street as well.
she slipped out, indoor only cats are terrified and will find the
nearest safe place. Their safety is paramount and so they usually don't
respond. If this happened she will be close by and the best thing is to
look in the wee hours of the morning but I hope that she is safely
– Melanie B.
• Make big lost signs on colorful poster board with a clear picture and as much detail as possible.
• Use a flashlight day or night.
• Check out this helpful advice.
you feel inspired by Linda’s words of guidance that helped us to find
our Clara Bow, please consider donating to the wonderful animal
sanctuary she works with, Triangle Chance for All. Thank you to Linda
and her beloved house-clinger, Aky.
2015, Vegan Street