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How to Find A Lost Cat |Animal Shelter Suggests Using a Scent Beacon

Updated on May 2, 2012

Shadow, The King

My cat, Shadow, Escapes Thru Open Door After Moving

My cat named Shadow escaped through an open door after we moved to Texas. He was nowhere to be found. We searched for days in the small suburban community where we had just moved a few days prior. Only 50% of the housing development was completed so there were many lots of open spaces. As you cat lovers know… Cats do not like open spaces. Cats feel safe when there is a physical barrier to hide behind, under or inside. Shadow is known to partake in all three. Though the house has a few shrubs in the front yard, apparently not enough to have kept him secure around the house. Surprisingly, Shadow almost always comes when I call his name, just like a dog would enthusiastically respond, unlike most cats that I have had. I called his name for four days and three nights….no Shadow. I can imagine how much my neighbors appreciated hearing my voice at 2 am calling, “ Shadow…where are you, come on boy.” I couldn't sleep worrying about his safety. He was lost in unfamiliar territory with a new variety of risks for a small domestic cat.

Pet Amber Alert Will Proactively Find Your Pet.. See How

Lost Cats Can Face Wild Animals

In North Dallas, located on the fringe of development, there are wild critters wandering around at night. I hear an occasional coyote howling and barking. I’ve seen remnants of skunk. I also understand from friends that there are wild hogs, armadillo, and who knows what else wondering into the community looking for food while we sleep. Someone reported on the news last week that a bobcat was wondering through the streets of a Plano neighborhood during the daytime. That is a scary thought to be outside and have a wild cat very near, especially when you have small children or small pets. So the longer Shadow was missing, the more resolved I became that he may have met up with a wild animal. I felt this way because for thirteen years of going outside he always stayed in close proximity coming in during the day to eat and sleep. He never ventured too far and always returned in time for meals. Shadow hides under pillows, bed covers, clothes and the like so whenever you sit down in my house, you have to check first to make sure you aren't sitting on him. We could not find him tucked in anywhere we looked. That is why I was getting scared that he was nowhere to be found. There are a few occasions when I recall a neighbor telling me that he came for a visit and to sneak a nap on the porch swing, but in McKinney there are no familiar neighborhood swings. I just could not accept nor wanted to believe he was not coming home.

Cat Uses Nine Lives

Over the years Shadow used up several of his nine lives. My cat is a tough and resilient little guy. When we first met he was just a kitten of about 6 months old. I found him under the pine tree in the front yard wounded and very hungry. It took me two hours to lure him out with a plate of milk. His fear was no match for his overpowering hunger pangs thereby allowing me to touch him while he lapped up the plate of milk. He has been a momma’s boy ever since, still flailing that back leg a bit from his wound of years past when he scoots off in a hurry. I had several cats that were inside/outside at the time Shadow arrived, so what was one more…smiles. He has been rolled by a truck and broke off pieces of his fangs, he also poisoned himself by getting into the flower bed by laying in slug bait.  That trip to the emergency vet costs me big bucks for days on IV monitoring to flush his liver. He survived many other escapades of fighting critters and getting wounded though he always made it through. At the time of this writing, even with all his life threatening incidents, Shadow has outlived all the rest. I daily got lost in memories of him, I even digress as a I write …let’s get back to the missing Shadow story.

Day Four Gone Missing; Called the Local Animal Shelter

On the fourth day gone missing, I could not call 24PetWatch as he did not have a pellet inserted in his neck like my dogs received when neutered at the vets office. So it was time to call the local animal shelter in Mckinney. They had several cats meeting Shadow's description; though, since he down right refused to wear his collar, we were unsure if any were Shadow over the phone. If I made his collar too tight he usually hanged himself on his foot trying to get it off. If I made it too loose he would be even more creative. One day I came home from work and he was in the middle of the living room with the collar around his gaping mouth. He had managed to get his lower jaw underneath the collar and there it stayed, locked in place by his fangs. I have no idea how long he endured this position. I am sure he had a very sore jaw for a couple days. That is Shadow, never wanting any constraints. He likes to sport his el naturel sleek shiny feline self.

Shadow Loves to Sleep On Emily's Bed and Emily Doesn't Seem to Mind

Scent Beacon: Local McKinney Animal Shelter Very Helpful

Collin County Animal Services, the local animal shelter, was very helpful and allowed us to view all the cats in captivity. There was one grey cat that looked just like Shadow from a distance. My heart started to race thinking that we found him…but at a closer inspection, it was not Shadow. The woman behind the desk was very helpful at the shelter. She suggested putting something outside from which he could get a good scent. She said that if Shadow was still in the neighborhood and confused about which house was his, by getting a familiar scent like a homing beacon of sorts could be the answer. I told her thanks for the idea. We gave the shelter a picture, filed a lost cat form, and left feeling very low. I cried on the way home.

Day Five Since Shadow Had Gone Missing

We still held hope, afraid not to; but hope was dwindling as we entered day five. We so missed Shadow with his announcing morning chirp and his loud evening purr. Shadow woke us up in the morning and also during the night running over top of us while we slept. My husband wasn't thrilled with being awoken to a cat running over his body or on occasion licking his bald head, but even he tolerated those love kisses because we both love this boy. Ironically, now we couldn't sleep because we missed him waking us up.

We walked the neighborhood again that evening rehashing previous discussions about different places he might have gone. Since there was much construction going on, we thought maybe he got locked in a house still under construction. Another theory was that he went down into the storm drains and came out miles away. We just could not accept that he was gone forever. Though, my dogs seemed to almost carry a smile on their mugs. Especially at bed time since there was more bed to share.


The Retractible Screen Door Can Be The Answer to Pet Escapes. I Had One Installed So Shadow Cannot Escape Again and It Works Great

It's A Family Affair

My Animals Like to Cuddle While We Sleep.
My Animals Like to Cuddle While We Sleep.

A Cat's Meow

As we got ready for bed the evening of Day Five, I remembered what the lady at the shelter had said about the scent beacon. On a whim, I picked up Emily’s dog bed (she'd rather not use it anyway), since Shadow usually snuggled it on a daily basis, and hung it over the back fence. Nothing ventured; nothing gained I thought. After I stared at it for a moment thinking how bizarre this huge dog bed was hanging over the fence, we went to bed. Now September in Dallas is still very warm, but the evening breezes are lovely and make for a fresh breeze while sleeping with the window open. That night in September, I was awaken not by Shadow running over my body, but by a loud familiar meow coming from the bedroom window. It was indeed Shadow. He had followed the scent beacon and found his way home. I jumped up from bed and ran outside grabbing him up and kissing his little head as he chirped a thankful hello.

I am so thankful to the nice lady at the Collin County Animal Shelter for suggesting the scent beacon that led Shadow back home. He was not hurt only hungry. So there was nothing else to do but feed him. So there I found myself was once again with a plate of milk and hungry Shadow. I do not know where he was all those days, but I do know one thing...Shadow can run on and lick us all he wants because we love our boy.

Shadow and Bella are Friends

Who Owns This House? Bella, Shadow and Emily That's Who

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    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks for visiting sarah16, glad you enjoyed the story.

    • sarah16 profile image


      7 years ago

      that is amazing (: i am glad you got shadow back and this is are great stories lol

    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks q - loving him every minute.

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      Once again, thanks for a great story - glad your Shadow found his way back home. Too many lost animals don't.

      Love them while you share this life with them.


    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks for the visit Cogerson, good to hear from you again. Always appreciate your words.

      Hi Stephanie, Funny how we had the same experience. We do have amazing felines that is for sure. So glad to hear you got him back. Peace.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Hi Golfgal, What a great idea it is to put out a scent beacon for a lost cat! I was so taken with your story as it is a mirror of mine. We had a cat that looked like a twin of your Shadow (and ours was also named Shadow!) who was lost when he was at our son's while we were on vacation. We thought we'd never see him again as he was lost for over 3 months, but we persisted with neighborhood fliers, ads in the local Shopper and finally someone found him -- about 7 miles away! Cats are amazing survivors! Thanks for your nice story.

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Sounds like a great idea, we have one cat and two dogs and our little girls adore them, if they got lost I think it would destroy them....thanks for posting

    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks for visiting Kathy and Simone. Yes Simone we are glad to have him back. I am loving on him as we speak. He still wants to go back outside so bad, he cries at the door and it breaks my heart I cannot let him. The retractible screen door helped a lot. He sits there smelling and at leat feel like he is outside. He enjoy the breezes without worrying about him escaping. peace.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, a scent beacon, huh? That's so interesting! I'm so glad you got Shadow back and am also very happy to have this new cat-retrieving know-how! Thanks!

    • profile image

      Kathy Otey 

      7 years ago

      animals truly are amazing. i wonder were he was all that time? a good read. keep up the great stories!


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