Missing Cats, Dogs, People (and Socks). Where do they go? Do they ever come home?

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This is the flyer that went into 100 mail boxes in our neighborhood. Lila is still missing. I learned that most missing cats stay close to home, while dogs can roam farther away.
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Our family went to San Diego on vacation in August.  We saw this missing person sign.  So sad what happened to Mollie.  Most missing person stories have a happy ending, but Mollie did not.

Recently, my beautiful calico cat Lila went missing from my home, and I think it’s all my fault. You see, we had just moved into our new home in Illinois and we were in the process unpacking all of our boxes, which meant a house strewn with lots of boxes and packaging paper that needed to be put out for recycling.

Thursday, August 2 was recycling day, and I remember that fateful moment when my hands were too full with broken down boxes and debris to shut the front door. I had a brief thought that I needed to hurry back and shut the door lest one of my kitties slip out. So right after I put out the boxes I hurried back to my house and shut the door.

It was either in that moment, or another moment when one of the painters may have left a door ajar, but that day Lila decided that she wanted to have an adventure.

And as of the time of this writing, she is still missing!

I quickly set out to do all of the things you are supposed to do in order to find a missing pet. There is a fairly long part-time job list of things you need to do, mostly focused on getting the word out (we distributed about 200 flyers and email blasted our new neighbors) calling all of the appropriate people (like animal shelters, local police non-emergency numbers, etc.), and looking for them in certain places and at certain times.  I personally knocked on about 30 doors in my new hood and asked if I could poke around their back yards or look under their decks.  Still no Lila.

One night at 1am I woke up and something told me to go look on my front porch where we had left food and water for Lila. I crept up to the window and slowly peered around it, only to see a cat that looked very similar to Lila, eating the dry cat food!! Her back was to me so I didn’t have a good look. When I slowly opened up the front door the cat ran into my super thick bushes. About a week later we actually humanely trapped a kitty who looked similar to Lila.

So was it Lila I saw that one night, or this other stray cat? I’m not sure, but this story has a happy ending: after we trapped this other cat, it was quickly adopted by another family in our neighborhood. 🙂 I’m glad I could help out this other stray kitty and give her a loving home.

God works in mysterious ways sometimes.

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This is the stray kitty we humanely trapped.  She was adopted by a family in my neighborhood!

On an interesting note, as I’ve been leaving cat food and water out at night, we’ve also attracted some other interesting creatures.  For several night in a row we saw an Opossum on our porch, happily eating dry cat food.  And then another night we saw the biggest raccoon I had ever seen eating Lila’s cat food with both paws.  Erik (husband) says it’s time to stop feeding the marsupials and small mammals in our neighborhood.  🙂

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This Opossum visited us several times, looking for the cat food we left out for Lila.

All of this got me thinking….where do cats that go missing actually go? And what percentage of them actually come back? And because I am a very curious person, I expanded my list to dogs too. And while I was on the topic of dogs, I thought it was only fair to figure out what the deal is with missing people. And I threw in missing socks for good measure because that affects every person on the entire planet and drives us all to drink!

Below is an Internet-based search as to all things that go missing.  I must confess that I thought that tons of people go missing every year (they do, but wait…) and tons of cats and dogs disappear and never return.  What I found in my research surprised the heck out of me, and I hope it surprises you as well.  So let’s get going.

Let me start with those darn missing socks, since that’s much more simple, short and sweet.

Missing socks: apparently, there is a secret trap door in certain washers and tumble dryers where missing socks actually end up. The other best places to look are different drawers other than the sock drawer, under the bed, and in between (or under or behind) the washer and dryer. Missing socks can also end up mingled in other clean laundry (like fitted bed sheets).

If missing socks rankle you, try having a “missing sock bin” and put stray socks in there. I have done this myself for several years with about a 50 percent success rate, but it does build up over time and you have to determine to make time to go through it. I have found that most of my missing socks are just separated socks…and I have to look in my kids’ drawers thoroughly.  If you are a missing sock geek, I will put two helpful posts in my P.S. for additional googling.

The first thing that surprised me in researching missing things is that, at least in my humble estimation, socks have the lowest successful return rate of all the other categories!

Now let’s move on to missing cats, which the whole reason I started this post.

Missing cats: for starters, missing cats generally stay relatively close to home. That’s great news for me!! From a helpful post:

“If he (or she) is not used to being out, or doesn’t know the area, he will likely be within 300 to 500 feet of where he was lost, if he can find a place to hide. Most lost cats who have always lived indoors will not go far from home. Many are discovered hiding just a few doors away or even a few feet from the front door. Start by looking under nearby porches, in basements and garages, in bushes, and even under cars.” Source: here.

Even outdoor cats have a relatively smallish area where they hunt and roam around.  Lila is hopefully hiding somewhere in my hood, under a deck, under a porch, in a shed, or in a little crevice. She may come out at night to look for food and water. I have looked high and low and have been very un-shy about knocking on neighbors’ doors to ask for help. The one cool thing about having a missing cat is that I have really gotten to know my neighbors faster and better than I otherwise would have.

Bottom line of missing cats: with persistence, they can (usually) be found (unless they are hit by a car or attacked by a predator or taken in by a new family), but get the word out right away. They are usually somewhere relatively close to home (though some stray farther, you must put up flyers in other neighborhoods and feel free to call local farms…) and come out at night. Get a flashlight, rattle some food, call his or her name, set a humane trap on your front porch, put out their litter box or favorite blanket (the scent travels far), and hope for the best.

Quick note on the humane trap: You have to know what you are doing with one of these, and keep an eye on them, as you could trap another animal like a raccoon, which you most certainly do not want to do. But humane traps can work like a charm when trying to pin down a skittish cat (and most even sweet cats become skittish if they are lost).

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Logan with my other cat, Quinny-Chi.

Missing dogs: dogs actually travel much farther than cats from home (from one to five miles away in some cases, depending on age, health, and breed), and while some are hit by cars, and some are hiding somewhere in survival mode, and some are just hanging out waiting to be helped out, many of them are picked up by good samaritans and kept as a “new pet” for their family. While semi-understandable, this practice is not good on many levels and is illegal in all states. Some people think that might be killed by a wolf or coyote. However, that scenario usually does not happen nation-wide but could happen in certain areas (for example, I live near a forest preserve where coyotes are commonly seen).

Sadly, many dogs (and some purebred cats) are actually STOLEN. I couldn’t believe it until I was perusing a lost cat and dog Facebook page (yes, you start really taking an interest in something when it happens to you) and I actually saw a dude, on a surveillance camera, actually steal a puppy from someone’s front yard! Apparently, there is a market for stolen dogs, and two million pets are stolen each year, mostly for re-sale purposes, breeding for dog mills, and dog-fighting. A great article is found here: stolen pets.

Bottom line of missing dogs: many are picked up by a good Samaritan, some are hiding, some are hanging out, and some are stolen. Most come home eventually but it takes time and effort to get them back with the aid of flyers, social media, calling shelters, uploading your dogs’ photo to social media sites and shelters, and persistence (do all of this with cats, too). You can’t be lazy and just hope your dog will just show up because they tend to travel a bit farther than cats. They might show up naturally, but they might not. Get off the couch and do something. (more info here.)

And now for my second surprise.  My question was this: do lost cats and dogs eventually come home? The answer is usually yes!

The ASPCA conducted a study in 2012 on missing pets: 93 percent of dogs and 75 percent of cats reported lost were returned safely to their homes.

Another surprise: only 6 percent of dog owners and 2 percent of cat owners found their lost pets at shelters. (more info here,)

Last point on missing pets: get them chipped at your local vets’ office before they go missing!

Missing People: why and how people go missing and if they are found could easily be a whole series of blog posts and this post will only be a skim and a summary.  And there are lots of variables which make it hard to pin down a neat and clean answer, two prominent variables being that it completely depends on if the person go missing voluntary or involuntarily, as well as whether they are an adult or a child/teen. But what I found on this topic actually surprised the heck out of me. I hope you find it interesting as well. And of course I will use bullets, as I love them and they help me.

  • Missing people big picture: on average, approximately 750,000 missing person cases are filed each year (stat from the NCIC database). (Source here.)
  • Missing people in general: On average, 90,000 people are missing in the USA at any given time, according to Todd Matthews from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, a national database for missing people. And more than 600,000 missing persons were reported in 2013. (Source: here.)
  • Missing kids/teens in general: Missing Children can be missing for a wide variety of reasons (e.g., runaway, throwaway, lost, injured, etc.) other than abduction and can be abducted for a wide variety of motivations (profit, ransom, custodial disputes, crazy sicko, etc.)  (Source: here.)
  • Missing juvies in general: half of the 800,000 missing juvenile cases reported each year are runaways. One quarter of missing children cases are abductions committed by family members (think custody issues). Approximately 100 are kidnapping by strangers (but wait, there is another stat on this coming up). In the case of family abductions, 46% are returned within a week and 21% are returned within a month.
  • Watch out for this: many kids are being lured away from home via technology, so parents be mindful! 
  • One other stat on kids/teens: Of the children under age 18, a total of 4,883 reports were classified as “missing under circumstances indicating that the disappearance may not have been voluntary, i.e., abduction or kidnapping” (9,572 under age 21) (Source: wikipedia.)
  • Bottom line on why adults go missing: those with alcohol/drug addiction, psychiatric issues, and the elderly suffering from degenerative brain disorders, make up the bulk of missing adult cases (but as I’ve said, some just choose to disappear for other reasons). (Source: here.)

I would add that a person’s chances of going missing increase if that person becomes homeless and they are not doing well psychologically and do not get intervention. I would also add that if you need help finding a missing person you should consider hiring a private investigator.

Here is another stat that surprised me: according to an interview with Todd Mathews with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System:

“You know, the missing touches everybody, I think. In 2012, we had 661,000 cases of missing persons; and that’s just from that one year. Very quickly, 659,000 of those were canceled. So that means those persons either come back; in some cases, located as deceased persons, maybe never an unidentified person; or just a total misunderstanding. So at the end of 2012, of those 661,000 minus the canceled, we had 2,079 cases that remained at the end of the year as unresolved….In my personal experience, I’ve seen the missing numbers recorded nationally drop. There’s not as many as were listed before.  (Source: here.)

Did you catch that?

A majority of missing persons cases each year are resolved. And the numbers are actually down. I had no idea.

The bottom line of missing people: hard to pin down but here’s my best guess and I am way over-generalizing here: if it’s a runaway teen, they usually return (unless something bad happens to them – drugs, trafficking, wrong crowd, murdered, or if they just choose to remain a runaway). The best way to prevent your teen from running away is to have a good relationship with him or her, and a good line of communication as well.  If it’s a family abduction, the kids are usually returned. Adults go missing due to foul play, accidents, health issues, age issues, suicide, or by choice. If an adult or teen does not want to be found, they may never be found. But the bottom line is that most cases of missing persons do resolve over time, or the family in waiting receives some type of closure.

It is very hard to pin down where missing people who leave voluntarily actually end up going to (physically – location wise).  I googled this and here is what I found (mixed in with my own thoughts): some missing people go where they will not be noticed or can received government services (such as big cities) or to find a job, if they are a teen or adult.  They might run away to warmer climates, or to a friend’s or family’s house in another location.  We recently went to San Diego, CA and, to be honest, it seemed to be a perfect place for someone to blend in and disappear, especially a young person.  Unfortunately, many kids end up being lured away from home by a sveeky 40 year old in his pajamas, where they end up at his house: article on this.

In addition to loving bullet points, I also love qualifiers, so here is a big one:

With everything that goes missing, there exists a huge element of mystery. Not everyone receives any type of closure, and not everything wraps up with a neat bow.  

Case in point: two kids went missing back in the fall of 2014 from the D.C. area where I used to live. I am good friends with their aunt Raelane and we searched high and low for Sarah and Jacob.  Sadly, this case has not yet resolved either way for the family and Sarah and Jacob are still missing. I interviewed Raelane who gives some very interesting inside scoop here: What happened to Sarah and Jacob? A conversation with their aunt – Raelane Turner.

Sometimes missing person situations wrap up neatly and quickly.  I actually have a missing person story (of sorts, more a paragraph rather than a story) involving my grandfather who was visiting me while we lived in D.C. One day I drove my two young kids and my grandfather down to D.C. to visit a museum, where we promptly were separated. I looked for over an hour for my grandpa Art and was stressed to the max. I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to pray, so I did. I asked God to help me find my grandpa. God immediately sent an Angel from Heaven (I’m not kidding) to help me find him. Here’s the really cool story: here.

I believe prevention is the best way to avoid being kidnapped by a stranger who wishes to do you harm, and I wrote a whole series about how to avoid and deal with serial killers and other bad guys, with a whole list of things you can do to prevent bad guys from taking you or your kids, found here: The Top Ten Ways we can protect our kids from serial killers and other bad guys — Part II.

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Another missing person sign we saw while were in San Diego.  This city was filled with young, free spirited people and lots of homeless people.  It would be easy to disappear in a city like this.  I am praying that Wesley makes it safely back home to his family who obviously love him very much or they wouldn’t have bothered to put up this sign or offer this reward. I can’t even imagine having one of my children, even as a young adult, go missing.

Quick deep thoughts about all things missing: does God even care about my missing cat? The answer is, in my mind, a resounding yes! The Bible is replete with references to God’s care and concern for animals. God knows when a “sparrow falls to the ground” and Jesus himself gave three riveting parables in row about missing items. The first one is the “parable of the lost sheep” and it describes how God the Father will actually leave the 99 sheep and go after the one lost sheep, and rejoices when it is safely back home. Jesus went on to say that “there is more rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents than there is with the 99 who feel that they don’t actually need to repent.”

I have been fervently praying for Lila’s safe return, and actively looking and doing things for her to come home. I have called her name all over the place, rattled food, looked all over for her, left food out at night, set up a humane trap, gotten the word out, etc. But, besides that one sighting that could have been her, we haven’t heard a peep. The way I have been pursuing Lila, who is very much lost, is very similar to the way that God pursues people. God wants them to come into this family and will stop at nothing to seek them out, constantly showing his protection, love and care for them, even if they have no idea He is doing that.

I need to let you in on a little secret: Lila is a reclusive and difficult cat. She has a history of urine spraying and sometimes acts aggressively. She and my other kitty don’t get along that well. However, as with all things difficult, there is always a bright spot: Lila can be very sweet, loves to cuddle me and my husband in our bed at night, and has beautiful green eyes! What I have discovered is that, even though she is a difficult fur baby at times, she is still a part of our family. I love her and I won’t give up on her!

The bottom line of this post is this: missing cats, dogs and people are usually found; they usually come home. This gives me great hope for Lila and for other missing people, too.

I will close with a super short story that drives home this last point.  A friend of mine had a beloved cat that went missing for over a month and not a peep, not a sighting, nothing!  Sadly, my friend had to move to a different home and was in the process of doing that.  However, one day she felt the Lord prompt her to go back to her old home (where her cat went missing) one last time and just “check and see” if her cat was there.  My friend Ragan pulled up to the front porch and lo and behold, there was her missing cat, just sitting on her front porch!!

Sometimes you need a little help from above to have that missing loved-one return home to you.

Sometimes you need God to give you closure, even if it’s hard.

And other times you just have to give up on finding all those darn missing socks. 🙂

And finally, while I have you, would you mind saying a quick prayer for my cat Lila?

Thanks, and with all thing that go missing – keep the faith!

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I’m still praying that Lila will come home safely!

________________________________________________

For further googling:

Missing socks: The best article I found on missing socks is here: https://www.wisebread.com/where-to-find-missing-socks. And this is the secret trap door in the dryer: https://www.countryliving.com/uk/homes-interiors/interiors/news/a3508/lost-socks-secret-tumble-dryer-compartment/.

Missing pets: According to that same ASPCA study, only 15 percent of pet guardians reported a lost dog or cat in the past five years, percentages of lost dogs versus lost cats were nearly identical: 14 percent for dogs and 15 percent for cats, 15 percent of dogs were found because they were sporting identification tags or microchips. (Source:The ASPCA conducted a survey of 1,015 pet households, and the findings of its five-year effort are published in the June 2012 issue of the journal Animals.)“They (lost dogs) will defer to a larger predator.  Lost dogs simply want to survive – so they need to do three things – they will hide from predators (including man) and they will spend their time sleeping and travelling between their food sources and hiding places.   If a dog is killed by a larger predator – the body will usually be found. Predators do not tend to eat other predators and all members of the canine family are predators.”

 

One last sobering stat: there are 40,000 unidentified human remains in this nation.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Missing Cats, Dogs, People (and Socks). Where do they go? Do they ever come home?

  1. Denise

    Good story Heather, I’m sorry you Lila is missing, prayers, I have had a cat gone 2 months and return, so hold your faith… When my socks are gone I count it as a blessing and a chance for me to get new ones…lol…I currently have a beagle dog missing and am desperately looking for him as well, I know God cares and that God can push him home and I’m holding on to that now!
    Thanks for sharing you beautiful thoughts… love to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sue

    Your article and all of your facts were so interesting and some so surprising! God does care about these things and asks us to cast our cares upon Him. I have been praying that Lila will return home safely to you and your sweet family!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jennifer

    I love how you added the missing socks because I am a sock nerd. I have tried using the basket solution for missing socks but unless you are correct only 50% show up. I am very sad to hear about your missing cat since I know a pet is like a family member. But I believe like you do That we have to rely on our faith in God and pray for her safe return.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shelly

    Great sleuthing! And I loved your analogy of God caring for the 1 missing sheep and the fallen sparrow vs. you looking for Lila. I said a little prayer for her safe return, and look forward to her being one of the many success stories. 🙂

    Like

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