How a Cat Behaves After Being Lost

How a cat behaves after being lost:

  • Hides away in silence
  • Huge appetite due to starvation
  • Aggressiveness
  • Fear of going outside

Welcome back your lost cat by offering them food and water. Bring them to the vet to check for any parasitic infection.

Consider microchipping your cat to increase the chances of reuniting.

No matter how close you want to keep your cat, it can still wander away in the neighborhood, and eventually get lost.

Finding your cat is probably the best thing that ever happened. Now that you have reunited, you might wonder why your cat acts differently.

This article will tell you all about your cat’s behavior after being lost. Keep reading, to understand how the experiences a cat goes through while it is lost can shape its behavior.  

Most cases of lost cats are cases of indoor-only felines, although even outdoor cats can get displaced.

Here are behaviors to expect after your cat gets lost and found.


1. Hiding in silence

.Even though your cat was a boisterous feline with an extroverted personality, you will notice that after returning home it prefers to hide in silence.

This is behavior they picked up while being lost. When a cat is displaced in a strange environment, it hides away in silence so as not to expose itself to predators.

Your cat may still feel insecure after the scary experience of getting lost and prefers to stay in silence, even after being found.  


2. Aggressive

A lost cat’s temperament will range from bold to the other extreme spectrum of a feral-like cat.

Once you find your cat, they may retain this personality for a while before they are assured that they are now safe.

Being aggressive was what helped your cat survive while it was lost. Cats use aggression to:

  • Guard their territories
  • Defend themselves from perceived enemies
  • Intimidate rival cats
  • Protect their kittens

You may notice that your cat no longer likes to be handled, and is aggressive when you force interaction.

Your cat may act skittish for a while, even though they were previously cuddly and loved to be petted.


3. Hungry

If your cat has been lost for days, it probably is very hungry. Therefore, it will be quick to devour any food it comes across.

. Your cat is probably hungry after being away from home for a long time.

A lost and found cat seems to be always hungry, and will eat hurriedly as if worried that the food will run out.

Depending on how long it took you to find your cat, it may have stayed without food for the whole time it was lost.


Changes in Behavior after Being Lost and Found

Losing your cat can be devastating. If things go well and you do find your lost cat, you may notice things have changed.

Changes in behavior in a cat are quite common, especially in a feline that has been missing for a few weeks, or months.

Some cats become friendlier and more affectionate after being found. However, some become more aggressive due to the negative experiences they had when away from home.

But negative experiences usually go away after your cat has recovered from the trauma.

Each cats have its own different experiences while wandering away from home. Thus, changes in behavior after being lost and found can vary from one cat to the other.

If a cat finds itself in a noisy street, it will probably be even more afraid of loud noises. If it was bullied by children while lost, it will avoid people.

Since cats have varying personalities, they may recover from the whole experience of being lost at different rates.

The most important thing is to give your cat plenty of time to bounce back from the experience of getting lost and being found.

Here is how your cat that was lost and found can go through some changes in its behavior:


1. Worrying about its next meal

When your cat lives with you, it does not have to worry about what to eat. It relies on you for food and water.

Staying in unfamiliar territory with no one to feed it can be traumatizing for your furry friend. Just like in humans, extreme hunger can affect your cat’s mental health and lead to increased appetite.

Once you find your lost cat, it can still exhibit signs of trauma.


2. Catching an illness

The outside world can be a risky place for your cat to stay in. Your cat is exposed to bacteria, viruses, and parasites. This makes it easy for them to end up with an infectious disease.

Your cat can act withdrawn or less active because of a disease they caught while away. Since felines are good at hiding their illness, it’s advisable to take them to the vet.


3. Facing the real world

An indoor cat that gets lost can be traumatized more than an outdoor cat.

Indoor cats have not yet fully experienced  the outside world; human traffic, cars, street dogs, not to mention all the noise, especially in a city.

As soon as an indoor cat ends up a few feet away from home, it can get distressed by the above-mentioned factors.

This can be a horrifying experience for your furry friend. It may take some time before your cat overcomes the fear it developed while lost.


4. The frustration of being brought back

Not all cats who wander away from home are lost. Some do so intentionally. Sometimes a cat may wander off from home to run away from an owner it’s not pleased with.

Or, the environment at home has caused them great stress, and they flee. Such a cat is unhappy when found, and reluctant to be brought back to its owner.

It won’t be surprising if this cat tries to escape again after being brought back home.


5. Missing its owner

If you have been with your cat for a long time, it probably misses you a lot. No doubt you also likely missed your dear pet very much.

Failure to be with its owner for days or, even weeks can wreak havoc on your cat’s mind. Once your cat is back, you will notice that your cat now follows you everywhere.

It is probably worried that you will part ways again. And your cat (neither you) don’t want that to happen again.


6. Finding a new family

Sometimes a cat that goes missing can end up finding a new home. They might find loving humans who make them feel safe, and secure.

Therefore your cat can behave as if it doesn’t recognize you after a reunion. It may act like it’s no longer your pet.


How to Reintroduce a Lost Cat into the Home

As a cat owner whose pet has gone missing for days or several weeks, you might be anxious about how the reunion will be.

You are not sure how your cat will react and wonder what you can do right to make things go smoothly.

Cats remember their owners, so don’t be worried if your feline will still know you. The long-term memory of cats is much better than that of dogs.

They remember people who provide them with basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. So, when your cat comes back, it will remember your face, the sound of your voice, and your scent.

Here are steps to take to reintroduce back your cat home after being lost.


1. Offer food and water

Indoor cats don’t have hunting skills such as those of a feral or wild cat. During the time they have stayed outside, they may have had little or nothing to eat, or drink.

Your cat is used to being fed. When your cat is back, you can offer its favorite food or treats, but in moderation. Give it fresh water to drink too.

Feeding your cat is a nice way to repair the bond you had with your cat.


2. Place it in a quiet room

The experience of staying away from home in a busy street may be overwhelming for your cat. After being found, let your cat know that it is safe and sound once again.

Place your furry friend in a quiet room where it can have some peace. This tranquil environment will assure your cat that there is no need to worry anymore.


3. Take it to the vet.

As I mentioned earlier, a cat that has been lost for a long time is prone to illnesses and bacteria. It may also incur injures while outside.

It might be hard to know if your cat is sick or has injuries just by looking at them. Some of these injures do not have external marks.

To make sure your cat is in good shape, take it to the vet for a thorough assessment to confirm if your cat’s health is intact, or if it needs medical care.

The vet will do some laboratory tests and may deworm them if they are infected with internal parasites. Should your cat appear weak or has no appetite, your vet might suggest injecting them with vitamins or put them on intravenous therapy.


4. Give them a bath

You also need to give your cat a bath to freshen them up. A bath will help them get rid of fleas, ticks, and other dirty things that might be sticking on their fur. 


5. Be patient

Your cat coming back to you with strange behaviors can be frustrating. But you need to be patient with your feline friend.

Just the fact that your lost cat is found doesn’t mean everything will be back to normal. Give it some time, and it will soon get back to its old self once they realize that the home is still a haven to stay in.

Give it plenty of understanding.


Cats Can Find Their Way Home

Perhaps you have heard of stories of cats camping at their old address after their family moves to a new place.

Our felines’ ability to find their way back home mystifies most cat owners and experts alike.

Cats have a homing instinct which is why they can perceive direction.

They strongly bond to human locations, and mark their territory through urine spraying or rubbing on things, leaving scent marks through the scent glands located on their chin.

Even though cats possess this miraculous ability, it does not mean that all cats will find their way home.

Exclusively indoor cats may have a reduced homing ability, and become disoriented and frightened if lost outdoors.

Consider having your cat microchipped to increase the chances of getting reunited with your pet once lost outside.

If you have recently moved, keep your cat indoors because they might attempt to go back to the old address. This gives your cat sufficient time to imprint to the new location.


How to Help a Cat Traumatized after Being Lost

Your cat can be traumatized because something or someone scared it while it was lost. They probably met a strange animal or predator.

Confrontations with stronger cats in the neighborhood can scare and traumatize your cat.

Your cat can develop a fear of going outside because of these bad experiences:

  • Getting in a fight with other cats
  • Getting scared by loud sounds
  • Bad reaction from people
  • Being caught in bad weather with nowhere to hide

Thankfully, you can help your cat heal from the trauma of being lost. A combination of affection, personal space, and patience will help your cat come around.


1. Create a safe environment

Your cat came from a hectic, wild, and scary place. So you want to expose your cat to a safe, non-threatening environment.

Ensure their room is peaceful, avoid startling games that might scare them, and don’t shout at your cat.

Your cat might also be anxious when left alone in the house. Keep it company, and if not possible, have someone come to stay with it while you are away.

Cats prefer spaces that are higher up where they feel comfortable hiding. Invest in a cat tree or condo for your feline.


2. Use a Feliway diffuser

Pheromone-based products such as Feliway can help calm a stressed cat. The product mimics a cat’s facial pheromones, and may help with general anxieties by soothing them.

Place one in your cat’s room after they have been found and seem traumatized.

Commercial pheromones are safe, and there have been no reports of side effects.


3. Dedicate plenty of playtime

It’s important to dedicate time to play with a traumatized cat. Play helps strengthen the bond between a feline and its human owner.

At first, they may seem less interested in playing, which is understandable. They have gone through a lot out there, and don’t feel there is any reason to chase balls.

However, you can gently initiate the play session by using a toy they like. It could be a hunting toy, feather, cardboard box, or battery-powered mouse.

Playing with your cat makes it happy, and at least is a good way to erase those bad memories it experienced while being lost.


 4. Monitor your cat’s reaction to external stimuli

Helping your cat heal from trauma can be challenging because cats don’t talk. As such, they can’t tell us exactly what happened that is causing their trauma.

Therefore, you need to monitor your cat’s reaction to different situations to be able to know what triggers anxious behavior.

For instance, your cat may be sociable but resist being held. It could be they had a bad experience being handled by humans while it was lost.

You can then practice gentle touching, perhaps just stroking its chin. This way, you appear non-threatening.

If your cat becomes violent around dogs, it may have been bullied by street dogs. The best thing would be to remove them from situations where dogs would be present.


5. Respect its personal space

During the first few days after you have found your lost cat, respect its personal space. The last thing you want to do is force interactions.

Let your cat come to you. If they snuggle up to you, don’t pet them right away. Sitting close without any action on your part builds trust in a scared cat.

Of course personality also differs. Some cats will rush to meet their owners after being lost, while others will be withdrawn for a while.

6. Seek professional help

When the trauma has had devastating effects on your furry friend, such that it has affected its quality of life, seek professional help.

Vets and behavior experts are effective at treating animals who suffer from trauma and anxiety.

They use techniques designed to help a cat overcome its specific emotional problem. The cat may also need pharmaceutical help. A vet will prescribe drugs to reduce fear and improve the cat’s quality of life if needed.

Writer: Flora Ojow

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