Anyone with small pets has probably lost them at one time or another. Beside the anxiety you experience once you realize they’re gone, you’re probably wondering how to build a better mousetrap as far as keeping it from happening again. While all small pets are notorious for this behavior, rodent-like pets such as hamsters and gerbils, or foxy little creatures that are too smart for their own good like ferrets, are the ultimate Houdinis when it comes to escaping.
Here are some tips for tracking errant pets down, getting them back in their cage and keeping it from happening again.
Escape Artists Covered in Fur
You look at those adorable fuzzy little faces with their bulging brown eyes and you can’t help but love them. That’s part of why it’s so upsetting once they’re on the lam. The first thing you should do after a disappearing act is leave your small pet cage open on the floor in the room it’s normally kept. Sometimes small creatures will return on their own. Try putting some fresh treats inside. The theory is that sooner or later they’ll get hungry, tired and thirsty and start looking for home.
Sherlock Holmes to the Rescue
The next step is pretty obvious, but besides panicking or getting angry try looking in spots that would make the perfect hiding place, like behind or beneath furniture or appliances, inside cupboards and storage bins placed at floor level, tissue boxes, rolled newspapers, shoes, backpacks, blankets, bags of any sort, or any place they’ve tended to hide before. While they may not be as smart as a dog, they do remember.
The Nightlife is the Right Life
Many small pets are nocturnal, making them prone to being more active at night. Before bed try placing a specific number of seeds or other food in each room of the house on the floor along a wall. Rodents tend to scurry along them. While you’re at it, sprinkle flour or cornstarch immediately around the area so you can see which direction they came from and took off in. Come morning, check to see if there’s any missing or disturbed. Droppings can also offer clues as to their whereabouts.
Setting the Trap
If you’ve noticed missing food or other indicators of your missing pet in any specific area, it’s time to set the trap. Place their cage in the room you think you’ve got it narrowed down to on the floor with plenty of food and fresh water inside. As stated earlier, runaway pets will usually come back on their own. You may have to creep around the house pulling a dawn patrol in order to secure them, if they’ve returned.
Patience is a Virtue
If you don’t see them for a few days, don’t panic. I had a pocket possum that disappeared for three or four days before I finally found him, and by then I thought for sure he was gone for good. Be patient, consistently place bait out for them, be careful where you step or sit until they’re located and keep the faith. More often than not pet owners do locate their little Houdinis safe and sound and all in one piece.
Once the furor of the chase has died down and they’re back in their home sweet home, do whatever it takes to ensure escapes won’t become a common part of their routine. If you’re not sure how they’re getting out, place a video cam trained on their cage and wedge draft blockers or towels beneath the doors leading in and out of the room. This way, if they do manage to jump ship again before you figure out how they’re doing it, they’ll be trapped in one room only. Zip ties, a piece of sturdy wire with a coating, or even a weight atop the lid of their cage can eliminate the problem.
What's your trick for tracking down your small pet or for keeping them from escaping in the first place?