Most often, a furry friend that’s run away from home or has gone missing hasn’t done so out of a genuine desire to abandon you, but because of an external situation. Many want the chance to temporarily exercise their natural hunting, running, or chasing instincts in a way that extends beyond the boundaries, and simply wander too far in the wrong direction. In some cases, however, a cat or dog can take off in search of safety if there is a perceived threat in your environment.
Anxiety & Fear Reactions Can Cause a Pet to Run Away
Due to extremely acute hearing, both cats and dogs tend to be naturally terrified of loud noises such as thunder, fireworks, gunshots, or even a car backfiring. Some are skittish at the sounds of doorbells or car horns, and while desensitization training can work to give your pet more confidence in dealing with these phobias, it is not always successful. The younger your kitten or puppy, the more likely they are to be scared off by a frightening noise and not know how to cope. For some, if there is an opportunity to escape their surroundings, the belief is that they can escape whatever has frightened them.
A cat that has panicked and bolted is far different from a dog that’s run away, and is likely to be just as difficult to locate, yet is more likely to remain safe and close to home. The natural defense of our feline friends is not to run as fast as possible to escape danger, but to hide and protect their territory until the danger passes. Cats are natural-born survivors, and can manage to use their instincts to live through natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other tragedies that are known to claim human lives. Although what’s scared your cat away is more likely a simple thunderstorm or Fourth Of July celebration than a natural disaster, their protective instincts have still kicked in.
Cats have been known to be missing for weeks, only to be discovered living in a neighbor’s yard within the same city block, or in the case of rural dwellers, even somewhere on a multi-acre property. A cat won’t roam too far from home if possible, but is less likely to find their way back than their canine counterpart, especially if they are an indoor cat. Because of this, GPS tracking works especially well to locate a missing cat, provided they are unable to remove the device. Since the more upscale tracking devices have a radius of up to 5 miles, you’ll be very likely to track your cat if they are still wearing their GPS tracker. In some cases, you may discover your cat is actually hiding inside your house, or in your backyard. Just because you can’t see them and they will not respond, it does not mean your cat has actually left the premises. They are masters of hide-and-go-seek, but don’t have the instinct to run.
Dogs, on the other hand, have the fight or flight instinct that’s common in human beings. As a result, they do not always make the wisest choices, and may end up in dangerous or life-threatening situations during a natural disaster or perceived danger. In short, dogs react much more like humans do when danger comes calling, and may respond with fear, hostility, or even violence.
More passive breeds of dogs, or dogs confined to a specific area, will respond to the danger by hiding. Sadly, many dogs are killed during earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados because of the instinct that hiding under the bed, the deck, the car, or any other structure, is the safest place to be. However, since a majority of missing pets are lost not during major disasters, but as the result of relatively common occurrences like thunderstorms or a disturbance in the neighborhood, make sure you search under anything that could make a good hiding space.
Dogs that are runners by nature will use their adrenaline to escape confinement, even if it means chewing through wire, burrowing under fences, or braving other obstacles to escape. Some will even jump out of a first-floor window and just keep running. Since it is in the dog’s nature to run until the danger has passed, you may literally find your dog miles from home.
For this reason, microchipping
and ID tags
such as those offered by PetHub
, which allow anyone who finds your dog to access your contact information via a secure pet profile
, are wonderful ideas. If you live in a rural, fenced-in area where your dog has free reign over a rather large space, a GPS tracker may also be particularly helpful.
If your dog is missing, and you believe them to be within earshot, do not call them. They may be traumatized and hostile, and prone to aggressive behavior. Others will simply be more inclined to take off running. Even if you find your dog, do not approach them directly. The best thing to do is to sit or lie on the ground, indicating a safe and submissive posture. You may want to bring some of your dog’s favorite treats with you, encouraging them to approach, and to feel safe. For more advice read: Understanding Dog Behavior to Help Find Your Missing Companion
Whether you’re a cat or dog owner, it may take some time to not only locate your furry friend, but to convince them to come home. As long as they are safely on your property, you can rest assured they will return home on their own time.
Tips to Help Find a Dog or Cat That is Missing Due to Anxiety or Fear