We’re getting lots of reports of cats going missing.  One moment they’re happily sitting on a wall or lounging around the back yard, the next time anyone looks for them, they’ve gone.   Stolen?   Lost?   Knocked down?  Taken by a predator?   What’s going on and what can we do to keep our cats safe/

Cat theft  – There have always been reports of cats being stolen.  These are usually young, attractive cats.  It’s the friendly ones of course, that are taken.   It seems amazing to most sanctuaries that a cat could ever change hands for money.   With every cat pen full and so many of them needing homes, why would anyone want to buy one?   

It may be that an especially pretty cat of a certain colour is wanted.   Cats, just like dogs, are sometimes stolen to order.   Pedigree cats are several hundreds and even thousands of pounds to buy.   A gorgeous look-alike is a bargain for much less.   A member of staff at a vets told us that she only just saved her own cat from being stolen.   As she was returning home she saw her Bobby, who had been waiting for her in the front garden, being bundled into a large bag.   When she shouted, the teenager grabbing him tipped him back out and sprinted to a nearby blue transit van which then sped away.   A lucky escape.

Offering a large reward is the best way to recover your cat if you suspect theft.   Publicity helps, reporting to the police of course and sending posters and pictures of your pet to as many people as possible – vets, sanctuaries and catteries.   It’s worth trying to get a poster up in the local school.   Children are very observant where animals are concerned and sometimes spot a ‘new cat on the block’.  Post your cats details on the internet – we will happily put details online for you and have had a lot of success at retrieving missing pets.

Missing – lost and can’t find the way home – Cats often follow people who have stopped and made a fuss of them.   It’s not a myth that they find their way home, they can and regularly do make amazing journeys to get back to the people and place they love.   But….. it takes them a while and they don’t go in a straight line.   Misadventures on the way mean that they don’t always make it.   A friend’s cat came back after six months with a broken jaw and two missing teeth. Where had he been? If only he could talk.

Well meaning individuals sometimes think a cat is lost when it isn’t.   They’ll pick the cat up and take him home and then take him to a shelter near to where they live.  That the cat has come from a different area doesn’t seem to register.   We’ve quite recently had a lost cat brought in whose owners live thirty miles away.   Only by chance did they find out where he was and come to collect him  –  a happy day!

Publicity again is the key to being reunited with your cat.  Local radio stations sometimes put the message out there for you.  An ad in the local paper will certainly alert many thousands of people.  Put posters everywhere and a reward offer.  Putting food outside the back door or wherever the cat’s regular entrance to the house is, offers a welcome.  If your pet is feeling disorientated when he gets back, it will help him to recognise – ‘hey, this is home’.

Traffic accident – One of the worst things about a missing pet is not knowing what’s happened.  Will my cat come home one day – or is he gone forever?   Being knocked down by a car is one of the most common causes of feline fatalities.  Cats and cars just don’t mix.   A home in the country with long lanes and fields all around and your cat is likely to live a long and happy life.   Anywhere with roads, even quiet cul-de-sacs and kitty is at serious risk of injury or worse.

Cats go to sleep in the shade underneath parked cars, don’t wake up quickly enough when the car sets off and …. oh no, the cat is run over.   An impulsive dash across the road, ‘yes, I can make it’ but sadly, sometimes the cat can’t.   It’s slightly bizarre behaviour when a cat makes her mind up to cross, she sets off and darts without a sideways glance.  A car travelling at even a modest speed has little chance of avoiding poor puss.

At night, the two pinpoints of eyes caught in the headlights and the cat is paralyzed with fear.  By the time she turns to run, it’s too late.  Unless you’re well away from any roads, keep cats in at night, please.

So if your cat goes missing it’s as well to check verges, ditches and drive entrances.   Sometimes the car driver will stop and even if nothing can be done, will move the cat to the side of the road.  If you find the remains, at least you’ll know what happened.

If you don’t find your cat it doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she hasn’t been knocked down.  If still alive, some kind folk will take an injured cat to the nearest vet.   Telephone all surgeries in the vicinity just in case.   If the worst has happened the council cleansing department will move the body if the accident has been reported to them.   Ring them to find out.   Again, at least you’ll know.

Predator attack – these are more common than most people realise.   Dogs have an instinct to chase cats.  It’s what their genes tell them to do.  Even if your own dog loves your cats, he’ll often go yip-yapping off after someone else’s.   Cats deal with this canine aggression in different ways.   We have cats here who would launch straight back into the attack and Mr.Dog would have a bleeding nose, some serious bite marks and it would be ‘save me mother’ within minutes.    Others would hiss and spit and then run for it.   The timid ones would freak out and still be hiding up a tree or under a bush five hours later.  One or two are so goofy that they think the dog is playing.   This sometimes works and the dog backs off – it’s no fun if they don’t run.   Other dogs grab the cat and a neck or back is broken.   It’s part personality, part temperament – being used to dogs and the cat having a ‘streetwise’ upbringing.   A cat with a spiteful nature and some dogs leave well alone.   Teeth and claws?   No way.

There’s another predator who used to be a country rascal but is now a sly city slicker – and that’s Mr.Fox.   He used to shy away from built up areas but now so many urban dwellers feed him and encourage him into their back gardens that he’s quite at home.   The fox is an opportunist and one of the few creatures that will kill whether hungry or not.  I doubt that cat is his favourite food but he does eat almost anything.   Nowadays there are many foxes around and there is no hunting to keep their numbers in check.   At the same time, there are fewer rabbits and less for them to feed on.  So they are always hungry and   they are no longer shy of humans. 

It’s fairly common to see them on security cameras at night, fighting over a hapless cat that one of them has just caught.   Even during the day they will have a go if the opportunity presents itself.   A lady told us she was watching her cat contentedly sunbathing in the garden until a fox popped over the garden wall, grabbed him and disappeared with him into the nearby cemetery.  Death in the middle of the day.   Another couple told us that they used to enjoy watching the fox go through their garden every night, until they found what was left of their cat after his visit. 

It’s not that the fox is an evil creature.  He is a survivor that’s all.   A convenience killer who is worried that he might not find anything good to eat tomorrow, so he had better take what he can today.   Preying on the weak and the old and the unwary is what scavenger’s do and that’s what our clever, cunning and undoubtedly beautifull foxes do.   I’ve often watched them playing with their cubs on a sunny autumn morning.  It’s a lovely sight.   They have to survive in the only way they know how.  Keep your cats in at night and don’t encourage foxes to your garden, just to be safe.

Yet, we’ve sometimes made a late visit into the barn to check on a pony and found Mr.Fox sitting on the hay bales with three or four cats sitting nearby and watching him.  Have they shared their supper with him?  Or are our ladies and gents so feisty, he doesn’t dare tackle them?  Maybe so.