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How to Get a Cat Out of a Heating System

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Cat treats

  • Canned cat food

  • Dry cat food

  • Flashlight

  • Laser light cat toy

  • Sheet

  • 1/16- inch metal wire

  • Small video camera

Out of curiosity or fear, cats can get into unsafe spaces, such as a heating system through an open vent. If your cat manages to get into your heating system duct work, you must try to lure it out of the system as quickly as possible to prevent injury, illness and starvation from being trapped. Cats can also develop a condition called hepatic lipidosis after a few days without food, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. Before calling for help, use a few simple tricks to try and lure your cat back to safety.

Turn off the heating system. If your system has an emergency shut off switch, turn that off and shut off the breaker or fuse that controls the system. This will prevent your cat from becoming injured in any way if the heat would go on while the cat was inside the duct work or anywhere near the main system.

Take off the air vent cover in a spot that you can easily access in your home. Put canned cat food in a dish and heat the food in the microwave for 10 seconds. This makes the smell of it more pungent to your cat. Place the dish of food directly in front of the open vent to tempt your cat out of the heating system. Near the food, place your cat's favorite bedding or toys. These items have your cat's scent on them and will attract your cat to them for comfort.

Shake a can of your cat's favorite treats or dry cat food in front of an open vent. While shaking the treats, calmly call your cat's name repeatedly. Keep your voice and manner steady so you do not scare your cat. A cat trapped in a heating system will already be stressed out and scared. You do not want to scare it deeper into the system or duct work by using a harsh or upset tone of voice.

Shine a light into the vent to see if you can see your cat. The light may make your cat curious and attract your cat out of the vent. You can also use a laser light cat toy to tempt your cat out of the vent by shining it down into the system as far as you can.

Listen for your cat. If you can hear your cat in the system, call to it and imitate its mews to try and lure it to you. Tap on any accessible vents in your home you believe your cat is in. You can make a small opening in the side of a vent to locate your cat and grab or lure it out of that spot.

Place a small amount of wet canned food on the end of a sheet and work the sheet into the air vent system. This will give your cat a chance to grab onto the end of the sheet so you can pull them out of the vent.

Wrap 1/16-inch metal wire around a video camera that can fit into the air duct. Turn the camera and begin recording. Place it as far into each of your heating vents that you can. Pull it out and check the recorded footage to see if you can spot your cat in the heating system. If you see it, try to lure it out with food and call to it.


  • If you need to make a hole in a part of your heating system to try and remove your cat, do this as quietly as possible so as not to scare your cat farther into the ducts.

    Sometimes a cat will come out of the system and eat any food you have left out for it, but run back in. If you see the food was eaten but your cat is still in the system, set up a humane trap with the food in it to trap the cat the next time it comes out to eat.

    If you get your cat out of the vent, quickly cover it back up again and prevent your cat from having any access to vent grates or other areas where it could get into your heating system again.


  • If your cat has not come out of the system for 24 to 48 hours, call in an expert from a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning company, animal control or the fire department to assist you in getting your cat out. They have equipment, such as specialized cameras, that can locate your cat quickly in the system.

    Take your cat to a veterinarian for a check-up if it has been in the system for a period of 24 hours or more when you get it out.