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Katzen-artig, Coaching für Katzen und ihre Menschen

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Katzen-artig, Coaching für Katzen und ihre Menschen

One of the worst situations for cat owners: Your beloved cat escapes in an unobserved moment (despite all protective devices) and then remains missing, or the outdoor cat does not come home at the usual time and remains untraceable for days. A so-called home-trail can help your pet to find her way home again. 

What to do if the cat does not come home?

As a first measure, you should search the immediate surroundings thoroughly (also at night!). Do not make too much noise and only call softly. Shake a treat box or rustle a treat wrapper. In other words, make noises that the cat knows from home.

Most cats do not run very far away, but hide in panic very close to home. Some are paralysed, do not make themselves heard and usually do not come out of hiding, even if their humans are calling for them nearby. So if you spot them, don’t rush and try to lure them in calmly.

If you discover the cat outside, you have to expect that it will be very frightened and will not let you pick it up, touch it and carry it! It is therefore a good idea to bring along a transport box with a cosy blanket or a towel with the familiar smell of home, and perhaps also put on leather gloves to ward off possible bites or scratches.

If you have no luck with the first search, it is important to inform your neighbourhood and ask them to search in their garages and basements for the missing pet. You can also post notes in your neighbourhood with the most important information about your missing cat. Many people now have groups on social media or similar where you can inform your neighbours. 

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What is a home-trail?

It is an important measure that can help a missing cat to find her own way back home or to the place from which it escaped. 

In stressful or frightened situations, many cats react with disorientation even in the familiar outdoor territory. But even in the greatest distress, their well-developed sense of smell works. Therefore, you can use this sense of smell to help the cat find her way back home or to the place where it escaped.

Important: The cat’s closest caregiver should always lay the home trail.

What do I need for a home-trail?

To prepare the home-trail you need: 

  • An item of clothing worn by the missing cat’s closest caregiver, such as a T-shirt, socks or underwear.
  • A car with a driver or even a bicycle.
  • Tuna or salmon, 5 – 6 empty PET bottles, tap water in a PET bottle to spray on the way.

Making tuna or salmon water: 

5-6 empty 1.5l PET bottles are provided with a hole in the top of the bottle. The hole should be large enough for the fish water to spray through easily. 

Chop the tuna or salmon very finely with a blender. Fill the pureed fish into the prepared full 1.5 litre water bottles. Approx. 1 – 1.5 bottles are needed for each way.

How can I attract the cat with the home trail?

Now to the most important point, how do I lay such a trail:

  • You should lay 4 tracks in total. One from each direction to the place where the cat escaped. 
  • On the four return paths there should be no danger spots for the cat, for example motorways, highways or railway tracks. In such a case, it is better to take a diversion through meadows and fields. 
  • The trailing person is driven approx. 1 – 1.5 km in each direction by car, or can also ride a bicycle. It is important that the closest person to the cat leaves the scent trail only on the way back, so that the cat knows in which direction to follow the trail. 
  • On the way back, drag the worn garment on the floor behind you and keep spraying the fish water from the PET bottle along the way.
  • When the home trail has been laid from all four points of the compass, a feeding and watering place as well as a dry place for the cat to sleep are provided at the destination. 
  • It makes sense to set up the transport box with a familiar-smelling blanket, as a (dry) sleeping place. The smell may also deter other cats from occupying the box. It is also easier to catch the cat in the transport box. 
  • You should always keep in mind that the cat is very stressed and might bite.
  • It usually takes 2-3 days for the cat to return to the home via the home-train. On the fourth day, you can re-lay the cervical spine again.
  • Even when it is raining or snowing, the cat can usually still follow the tracks well with her sensitive sense of smell.

More about lost cats you can read here.

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If your beloved cat does not come home for days and cannot be found, a home scent trail can help him. Due to her phenomenal sense of smell, a runaway cat can find her way home again by following a scent trail (drag).