Could this be our lost pet?


We recently had a lost pet. Our cat of 5 years had recently escaped from a bedroom window by pushing out a screen. We had moved about 1 year ago from another state. Our cat seemed well adjusted to the move and is usually very cuddly, purring, and gets along well with our children, and our other 2 cats and dogs.

After searching the neighborhood, nearby wooded areas, putting out flyers, alerting neighbors, and receiving several calls about sightings (which turned out to be the wrong cat), we now feel that we have found our lost pet. He was about 2 houses away, trying to get into another house, where these people have cats who roam in and out.

This cat looks like ours, is the same size, and has dark areas inside the roof of his mouth. This cat also has identical markings to our lost pet, with a few flecks of white hair on his body, but mostly black, and a white patch under his belly area. He has a very loud purr, too, just as our cat does.

However, this cat is acting VERY different since his return. He is very sleepy, barely eating & drinking, and is using the litter box often. He wanders about the house. He hasn't wanted to be held, seems to whimper/cry at night, and hasn't been playing or spending time near the other cats, even though our cats want to play with him. He looks normal and vet says tests came back normal.

Since we are using a new vet, there are not many comparisons she can make. This cat does have a very mild heart murmur, but our cat never had this. He is neutered and front declawed, which is the same as ours. He did recently have his series of annual feline vaccines upon his return home.

Could the stress of our lost pet being gone, plus the feline vaccines, etc, make our kitty act differently? Or could this be the wrong cat? What is the normal behavior of a returning indoor cat and how soon can he expected to begin to act the same?

Thank you for you help and insight.

Unfortunately, either of your questions is a possibility. Your lost pet could be acting differently because of stress and/or not feeling well, or he could, in fact, be the wrong cat.

I have experienced cat owners being 100% sure that they found their own cat after the cat had escaped. It is certainly possible for a cat to have all the same markings, be neutered, front declawed, etc., and turn out to be a completely different cat.

On the other hand, the trauma of being lost and adjusting to a new family, living outdoors for a period of time, and receiving feline vaccines recently could account for the cat behavior and personality change as well.

There is one other thing I can think of that might help you identify whether this cat is in fact your lost pet. If your cat had visited his old vet and had any dental work or cleanings, these are great for helping to compare and identify cats. Most veterinarians keep very detailed charts of teeth with gingivitis, cavities, and those that have been extracted. If there are any dental records, asking your new veterinarian to compare this cat’s mouth to the records of your cat could help.

If the changes in personality are the result of all of the stress your cat has experienced, it can take some time before a stressed pet returns to behaving normally. Using calming tools in his environment, such as pheromone products like Feliway, safe places to retreat when stressed, and calm interactions with you and your family can help create safety again.

However, if this turns out not to be your lost pet, don't give up hope. I have seen cats return a long time after having gone missing. Continue your efforts to find your cat, including contacting area shelters, putting out fliers, and talking to neighbors.

All the best,
Dr. Neely

Return to Indoor or Outdoor Cats.