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I just went on a 6-day vacation, leaving two cats behind. I had someone coming in to feed/water/clean litter for the cats. The friend never saw one of the cats, but that didn't raise any alarms because she is very shy. However, when I came home I found the cat in a drawer that she cannot get into or out of on her own, unless the drawer is left open, and the drawer was closed.

Now, it's possible that we left the drawer open by accident, and it got bumped closed by my other cat while she was inside one or two days ago, but it's also possible that she's been trapped there for the whole 6 days. There's no evidence of pee or poop in the drawer. How concerned should I be?

She seems normal enough, and didn't appear any more starving than normal when I put out food, and she did not flee the drawer with any excessive speed. It's a little hard to judge because she's always a little skittish for a day or so after we come back from a week trip.

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    When I call in to look after an only cat for a relative, I rarely see the cat. With only one, it's easy to see if the food has been touched or the litter tray used, but could your friend judge whether it felt like they were looking after one cat or two? They may even have noticed a sudden reduction in litter tray use (more obvious than food IME) if the cat got stuck part way through your trip
    – Chris H
    Jul 12, 2023 at 12:23
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    No harm done. While the cat was imprisoned it was neither alive nor dead, but you found it alive.
    – Wastrel
    Jul 12, 2023 at 14:33
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    6 days without water would certainly be fatal for a cat, you can rest assured she wasn't in there the whole time. Jul 12, 2023 at 14:50
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    I'd bet the cat can open and close it herself.
    – user3799
    Jul 13, 2023 at 0:37
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    Though let me suggest that this should be a lesson that every cat owner should 1. Block access to hiding spots inaccessible to humans as much as possible, and instead provide safe hiding spots such as cat caves. 2. Have your cat sitters actually find the cat at least once a day to make sure it is okay, and provide them with information on likely hiding spots. For real fraidy cats, you might want to shut off rooms they can get lost in while you're away too.
    – Kai
    Jul 13, 2023 at 15:29

2 Answers 2

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The cat doesn't go into suspended animation when in the drawer. If she was really trapped there the whole time you would find, uhm, metabolic byproducts, in addition to claw marks where she tried to get out, and her health would be severely damaged at best.

More likely that, like many cats, she discovered a way to climb up inside the cabinet. Many do have a space behind the drawers, and if the bottom is open and there's space to go underneath, a cat can often climb through that space and squeeze into the drawers from the back.

If you're worried, bring the cat to the vet for a checkup. But I suspect she just found herself a safe den and stayed there when the strange human might notice her.

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    As anecdotal evidence of this, I had a set of drawers that a kitten would regularly hide in by slipping underneath it and then climbing up to the back of the drawer from inside. There is a remarkable amount of empty space within furniture with drawers. Jul 12, 2023 at 16:57
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    Similarly, I once lost track of one of my cats here at home; she didn't show up when it was time for dinner. After some calling and rattling of treat jars, I heard a muffled "meow!" from inside a drawer--she hadn't gone under and up, as my furniture lacks space for that, but she had gone into a drawer that was open while I did laundry and slipped across into another while I wasn't looking. I keep that drawer closed while putting laundry away now, because no lessons were learned on her part.
    – Allison C
    Jul 12, 2023 at 20:18
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    Sure, a lesson was learned: "This is fun and it gets attention from my human". Same reason my cat likes to sneak by me onto the (enclosed) porch despite sometimes getting locked out there overnight when I don't notice; it's a game and an adventure
    – keshlam
    Jul 12, 2023 at 21:29
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    On a different note, I had friends that had a Hamster, and the hamster disappeared for a day or two. When they opened a top shelf on a desk drawer, they discovered that the hamster managed to eat his way through the bottom of every drawers and settled himself on the top one, containing (probably-)tasty papers. Pets, uhh, find a way. Jul 13, 2023 at 12:28
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    @MichaelRichardson It's actually a safety issue. If you design drawers that goes all the way to the back, then it is possible to easily tip it over by pulling one drawer out. To reduce that, they make the base of the drawer larger than the drawer size, to move the center of gravity back and reduce tipping by limiting how far out you can pull the drawer. Other methods include lowering it, making the drawer material much heavier, require securing the furniture to the wall, etc.
    – Nelson
    Jul 14, 2023 at 2:09
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I had a cat that was locked in a garage down the street for 6 weeks. All we knew was "vanished". We did the whole "lost cat" routine, posts, posters, Humane Society, ... Nada.

When the people finally came home and opened the garage, there she was, dehydrated, eyes, gums and skin yellowed, weak ("mew"). There wasn't much poop in the garage - no input, no output. Thanks to Ottawa Humane Society for scanning her microchip.

Off to the vet, who kept her a couple of days, rehydrated/restarted her systems, and implanted a stomach tube. C$3K, but she's my cat. When we got her home, we had to prepare and inject food goo into her stomach every 4 hours, day and night for several weeks. She was not amused. Eventually, the tube was removed, she ate, regained weight, and had a full life.

All this to say check for obvious signs of jaundice (yellowing), if so, rush to vet, if not, go to the vet for a checkup.

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    It's absolutely impossible for that cat to have survived without water and food for 6 weeks. Not saying what you describe didn't happen, just that the cat must have had a source of food, and especially water - which could come from food, especially when it rodents or birds. Jul 13, 2023 at 14:29
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    C$3K? What's that?
    – Clockwork
    Jul 14, 2023 at 11:56
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    @Clockwork: Canadian $3,000
    – waltinator
    Jul 14, 2023 at 12:36

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