DEAR JOAN: Three weeks ago, Indy, our wonderful black and gray neutered male tabby failed to come home after his usual middle-of-the-night meanderings. He is a large cat, 15 pounds, and accustomed to being both inside and outside regularly, day and night.
Since posting signs and photos, and monitoring the Next Door Neighborhood website, we have been amazed at how many cats are now missing.
I am told that cats in the Berkeley hills are very vulnerable due to coyotes, raccoons, skunks, foxes, etc. I know there are a number of different animals in our yard at night, but I don’t know how dangerous they are to cats. I am also told that the wildlife population has grown a lot in the past few years.
Your advice would be very helpful, especially if he ever comes back or if we adopt another pet like him.
Barbara Addicott, Berkeley
DEAR BARBARA: I am so very sorry to hear that Indy is missing. I’m hoping he will turn up, no worse for wear, but the chances are not good for that happening. Cats, however, have a reputation for having nine lives for a reason and he might just defy the odds and show up on your doorstep.
Letting a cat have free rein is a dangerous thing for the cat, as evidenced by the loss of Indy and the many missing pets you’ve learned about. Curious cats can get themselves into situations they can’t get out of, be struck by cars, killed by predators or taken in by well-meaning people who think they’ve come across an abandoned or stray cat.
Of those four possibilities, the last is the best outcome you can hope for — other than his returning home.
There certainly is plenty of wildlife in the Berkeley Hills, although any suburban or urban neighborhood has its share. Coyotes are the biggest threat, but great horned owls will sometimes prey upon cats. Foxes will sometimes take kittens or small adult cats, but they usually go for rats, mice and gophers.
Raccoons, opossums and skunks do not see cats as prey, but they — or another wandering cats — can inflict grievous wounds if there is a violent encounter.
The perception that there is more wildlife is not quite accurate. In general, the wildlife population has not greatly increased, but certain factors have drawn wildlife into our backyards, giving the appearance of a bigger population.
Drought is a big reason for that influx. When animals find food and water scarce in their wilder territories, they are drawn to our neighborhoods where they find both in abundance. Life becomes so easy for them, they decide to move in permanently.
The dangers aren’t going away. Even if you managed to barricade your yard to prevent wildlife from entering, cats can and do wander over large areas. If Indy makes it home or if you get another cat, I hope you’ll consider keeping your pet indoors or installing a catio — a screened, secured area where your cat can enjoy being outdoors with very little risk.
Will missing cat ever return home safely?