Lost cats require immediate attention and knowing something about cat personalities can help you locate your missing cat sooner rather than later or not at all.
Cats are very territorial creatures. In unfamiliar territory, lost cats (particularly cautious cats like Callie) usually look for the first place that offers concealment and protection. They instinctively and silently hide to protect themselves from predators. How long they remain in that hiding place and what they do when they emerge depends entirely upon their temperament. If you have a missing cat, don't wait to see if she returns. Start searching immediately.
If your pet has easy access to the outdoors and suddenly vanishes, ask yourself, "What's happened?" says pet detective Kat Albrecht, founder of Missing Pet Partnership in Clovis, California, and author of The Lost Pet Chronicles: Adventures of a Canine Cop Turned Pet Detective (Bloomsbury USA, 2004). Cats have been known to curl up in an open car that subsequently drives away, or they can be chased from their home environment by a dog. When an indoors-only cat escapes out of the safety of home, the question is "Where is she hiding?"
According to Albrecht, all cats fall into one of four types of cat personalities:
The Curious or Clown Cat
With a gregarious personality, this curious feline will run to the door to greet a stranger, is generally unafraid, and consequently gets into trouble. When displaced, she will hide at first and then most likely begin to travel. She could easily get within a five-block radius of home quite quickly. Don't assume she will come when called.
The Care-less Cat
This cat is aloof and doesn't care for people. When a stranger is present, she tends to stand back and watch. When displaced, she's likely to hide but eventually will break cover, attempt to come back home, and meow to be let in. There is the possibility, however, that she will travel larger distances.
The Cautious Cat
Generally, a cautious cat (like Callie) likes people but is shy and will dart away to hide if a stranger comes to the door. Sometimes she'll peek around the corner and slowly come out to investigate. When displaced, however, she will immediately hide in fear. If not scared out of hiding by people or other animals, she's likely to return home on her own or meow to attract attention when her owner comes looking. This could happen within two days. But it could take as long as ten days before hunger or thirst prompts her to break cover. In Callie's case, she found food at a feral feeding station set up by cat-loving volunteers quite close to her home and came out of hiding at night to eat.
The Xenophobic Cat
Xenophobia is a fear or hatred of anything strange or foreign. This fearful behavior is either part of a cat's genetic make-up or the result of traumatic kittenhood experiences. The xenophobic cat will hide when a stranger comes into the home and will not come out until well after the company has left. She doesn't enjoy being held or petted and is easily disturbed by any environmental changes. When displaced, she will bolt and hide in silence, remaining in the same hiding place, immobilized by fear. If someone other than her owner finds her, she could be mistaken as being wild and homeless, spitting and hissing out of fright. Sadly, as a result, xenophobic cats are often absorbed into the feral cat population.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. Her work appears regularly on in various national and international publications. She is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association of America.
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