On January 26, 2021 afternoon, I received a message from Cherie, Teddy’s mom, that he was lost in the woods in North of Toronto. I was immediately worried about him since Teddy is a young kitten, new to cat adventuring, and trying to find his way back in the cold snowy winter.
After gathering a group of volunteers to help finding Teddy, he was finally located in one of the traps that were setup by a tracker Teddy’s family had hired.
I have reached out to Teddy’s mom, Cherie, for some insights she could share on finding a lost cat. I hope you find the interview informative in case of an emergency situation. Sometimes, unexpected things happen in cat adventuring but remember that there is always hope.
If you would like to follow Teddy and his siblings, check out their Instagram account (@Gandalf.themeow)!
1. Tell me about Teddy.
Teddy is an 8-month-old Golden Shaded British Shorthair. He lives with his 3 older siblings: 14 (turning 15) year old brothers Ding/Jay, and 1 year old Gandalf (sister). One fun fact is Teddy loves fetch, and we never even taught him how to play!
2. Tell me what happened on the day Teddy was lost.
I remember before we headed out, we were worried he might get cold. So, I bundled him up extra warm that day, and lined his backpack with warm towels. I remember wrapping him up and even tightening his harness extra snug that day, giving it a few tests before we left. As for what actually happened, it was really all a blur. One moment he was in my backpack, one moment he wasn't - without his clothes or harness!
3. What was going through your head when you realized that Teddy was lost?
This took a little bit to sink in because he initially darted towards some nearby bushes. I didn't feel too worried at that point because I was confident that we could get him back with treats. The realization only sank in when he ran from the bushes into the woods. I remember walking through the woods, and the sinking feeling of how big it was in there.
4. How did you cope with your emotions while trying to focus on finding Teddy?
This was a tough one, but we spoke to friends when we could (though not as often as we were primarily focused on finding Teddy). I would say, I focused my emotions on finding him but it was definitely a roller coaster of emotions feeling determined at one moment, and then, hopeless the next moment.
5. What were your initial steps of trying to find Teddy?
When he was originally near the bushes, we tried to lure him out with treats, and sneak up behind him quickly. But it was another blur as to what spooked him to run into the forest.
It was definitely a bad idea to run after him when we saw him run from the bushes, and chasing a cat is not a good idea. After that, we called our close friends to help do a search, then a larger search party.
6. How did you end up finding Teddy?
This was all thanks to our tracker, she was able to calmly guide us through the correct steps of what to do and what not to do. With her guidance, we set out to search at night (since cats are more active at night), and it was quieter as well with the three of us.
This really helped because it's more likely that Teddy would come to us than to someone he doesn’t know. We heard him the first night, but he didn't come close enough for us to securely grab him, so we left out a trap with our clothes (for familiar scent).
While he didn't go into the trap the first night, we returned the second night and staked out in the spot for as long as we could bare the cold - it ended up being 3 hours (it gets cold way quicker than you think when you're not moving in the middle of a snowstorm!). We were pleasantly surprised that as soon as we got in our car to warm up, we received an alert at the trap!
7. Does this experience change how you treat Teddy and cat adventuring going forward?
This is something we're still thinking about. In the immediate future (now), it's definitely something that scares me. As for long-term I haven't thought that far yet, and it does scare me, but we would invest in some kind of tracker if we do.
8. What are some advice you could provide to cat owners who may face similar situation?
Think about it from how animals react vs how humans react. It was our first instinct to send as many people as we could to go look for him. I mean it made sense, more people meant more eyes, and higher probability of finding him. We also listened to advice about leaving out his litter box and food. We later learned that these were all bad ideas as more people could scare or drive him away, or if they spotted him and tried to catch him it would drive him further away. As for food and litter, it's a good idea in theory but it can also attract other animals. This again, might bring them to scare Teddy further away or worse.
The most important thing is do not give up! Put up lost cat posters with your contact information at every side of the neigbhourhood. If the cat was lost indoor, check every corner of the house and do not leave any places unchecked. However, if the cat was lost outdoor, go to door to door and check for sheds, garages, or under decks.
At night time, go out in a flashlight and call the cat's name with treats. Listen very carefully for any sounds or movement.
9. What are some of the mistakes you felt that you made during the process of finding Teddy?
Sending a mass search party: This would scare Teddy away, since he was already frightened.
Leaving food out: This would draw Teddy in but it would also draw other animals in. In addition, you may end up using a trap to try to catch your cat. If that's the case, you need him/her to be hungry enough to enter the trap, and it won’t work when there's food everywhere!
Leaving litter out: This is definitely one we heard so many people say and we didn't think anything of it. As it turns out, it's quite similar to the bullet about food. It can draw in other animals as there's a "new scent" in the area especially if they're fighting for territory.
10. What are some resources/contact you can provide for cat owners to help them in similar situation?
The MARN (Missing Animal Response Network) directory was very helpful for us to find help. It's important to note that many of the contacts on these lists are volunteers and have a full-time job doing something else, so they may not get back to you right away. So don't wait, and begin searching while you reach out to them. You can also reach out to local rescues/shelters to see if they have a trap you can borrow. And then of course YouTube to the rescue of how to use them!