It often happens that during a Chase Scene, the protagonist hides behind a garbage can, empty container, or another large object, hoping that the bad guys won't notice their presence. During this critical stage, the hiding protagonist usually makes a noise that attracts the bad guys. Everything seems to be doomed until...
A small animal — almost always a cat, but it can also be a mouse, squirrel, raccoon, bird, etc. — appears just next to him and distracts the bad guys, who then completely dismiss the spot where the hero was, and move on. Hurray! Our heroes are saved!
Can overlap with Blind Alley.
- In the Cowboy Bebop episode "Pierrot Le Fou", where Tongpu has Spike cornered, ready to finish him off when suddenly a cat meows at him from a fire escape. Tongpu, who is deathly afraid of cats, turns his full attention to it and tries to shoot it, allowing Spike time to throw something big and explosive at him.
- A variation in Dragon Ball Z: Krillin, Gohan, and Dende are trying to hide from Vegeta, who just learned to detect ki. When he sensed Dende's small ki, a fish jumps off the water, leading him to think that was the ki he sensed and leave.
- Subverted in Genesis Climber MOSPEADA and its Robotech: New Generation counterpart. Yellow/Lancer, Ray/Rand, and Mint are in Carnegie Hall hiding from an Inbit/Invid sentry when a cat runs by and stops the sentry believing the noise it heard was just a cat. Turns out the cat was actually a performance by a boy named George who appeared to help the heroes.
- The first episode of Innocent Venus has a cat serving as decoy. The hero was actually wearing an infrared invisibility cloak, making him immune to the enemy's heat detection camera.
- In Naruto during the Land of Waves arc, an on-edge Naruto hears a noise and throws a shuriken into the bushes, which turns out to be a snow rabbit. However, Kakashi notices that the rabbit is white even though it's springtime, when it should be brown, and deduces that it must've been kept in a cage for use in a Substitution Jutsu to invoke this trope... and he's right, as Arc Villain Zabuza reveals himself soon after.
- In Ninja Scroll, when a group of ninja fail to kill their target (who turns out to be an undead monster), the team leader uses a cat as a Ninja Log to avoid some projectiles and escape.
- Meowth plays this role in an Unova episode of Pokémon, oddly by pretending he's not a cat, but a rare Umbreon. The trainers chasing him are disappointed when they discover he's not a rare Pokémon, merely a talking Meowth.
- In the first episode of Toumei Shoujo Ea the boy and the invisible girl are hiding from The Men in Black in a pile of very clean garbage bags. The Men in Black pass the pile by, then turn back and fire! But it's only a kitten.
- Tintin has been assisted by decoy animals on occasion:
- In The Seven Misfortunes of Lady Fortune, when Marinette makes some noise while hiding during the factory scene, Nathaniel sends one of his moths to make a cat chase it.
- In the 1959 film adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, one scene has a pair of Gestapo officers searching the residence where the refugees are hiding because someone else broke in. The refugees' cat ends up knocking a plate from a table and arouses suspicion, but then resolves it as well by meowing, causing the officers to think that the cat is the only living thing around.
- James Bond: Dr. No. James Bond, Honey Rider, and Quarrel are hiding underwater in a river with Dr. No's guards searching for them using German Shepherds. The dogs are clearly on the protagonists' scent ("They're onto something!"), the guards draw nearer and then... a flock of birds bursts out of cover, the guards figure that they're what the dogs were after, and leave.
- Planet of the Apes: Beneath the Planet of the Apes. While Brent and Nova are outside the ape city, a gorilla guard hears them but doesn't realize who (or what) they are. The guard fires several shots into the trees in which they're hiding and a bird flies out of the trees. The guard thinks that the bird was what he heard and walks away, allowing Brent and Nova to escape.
- The scene in Predator when Dutch gets covered with mud, making the predator unable to detect him in infrared. The predator still closes in on him, then gets distracted by a rat.
- Inverted in Raiders of the Lost Ark where a monkey reveals to the villains the basket that Marion hid herself in to escape detection. Had it not recognized Marion, it's likely that she would have escaped.
- Run for the Sun: While trying to escape, Mike and Kate run into one of the huts of the Indians Browne and Von Andre are using as a slave labour force. On hearing the dogs approaching, the Indians release a puma they have tied up inside and let it jump out the window. The dogs immediately react to the big cat and start chasing it, causing Browne and Von andre to assume it was the puma the dogs had homed in on.
- Inverted in Snakes on a Plane, where the cat benefits the villains: the luggage inspection dogs detect the snakes, but the handlers think they're just barking at a hissing cat and move on. Come to think of it, the bad guys may have planted that cat there for that purpose.
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden owns a massive cat. This comes in useful when his rogue wizard ex-girlfriend is hiding in his home while a wizard law enforcement agent is being hostile and suspicious in his front room. Hearing a thump, the Warden starts to investigate, until Mister the cat runs out and Harry makes a wisecrack about how the cat could be a dangerous subversive. This defuses the situation entirely.
- Used by James Bond in Goldfinger, the unfortunate cat ends as Oddjob's lunch.
- In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, when Simon is hiding in a cellar from the Evil Sorcerer Pryrates, he is saved from Pryrates' Compelling Voice by the sudden appearance of a grey cat, whom the villain mistakes for the intruder he was searching for. The cat comes in handy much later in the story, too.
- Tortall Universe: Invoked in Beka Cooper, when the main character's talking cat chooses to run into an alley so that the muggers hiding there will say "It's just a cat" and the police main characters will know what they're walking into.
- His Dark Materials: in "The Subtle Knife", the cat Will met earlier and which helped him to find the window to Ci'gazze later got into a fight with Mrs. Coulter's monkey daemon, enabling Lyra and Will to free from the house of Sir Charles Latrom they were searching to get back the Alethiometer.
- Used and then subverted in El Chavo del ocho. During an Imagine Spot episode, Chavo and Chilindrina sneak into the Witch of the 71's apartment (who here is an actual witch). Chilindrina accidentally makes a noise and when the Witch asks who's there, she meows. The Witch assumes it is her cat and sends it away. Chavo then makes another noise and the Witch asks again, to which Chavo replies "Another cat!".
- Averted in the BBC adaptation of Poirot. In one episode a pair of jewel thieves are hiding in a museum, only for an overly friendly cat to draw attention to their location.
- This is a game mechanic in Another Site. Hodge can meow on command, causing the guards to focus on trying to shoo him away while Kit sneaks to the next hiding spot.
- Played for laughs in Baldur's Gate where you break in the home of a sleeping man who wakes up and sleepily asks around if someone is there. You have the option of doing a rather obvious "meow" in your text options, and the man accepting it and going back to sleep. But then he awakens right back, saying "but I don't own a cat!", but replying "Yes, you just adopted one" also works, convincing him to return to sleep. You then go through several more of these arguments that he should just ignore you, each more absurd than the last, but every one accepted by the homeowner that you are in fact his cat.
- In Final Fantasy VI during Sabin's scenario, when you select "hit it" to open a chest in an imperial camp, you attract a nearby guard and hide, but the guard is dismissed by a "meow".
- In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the opening cutscene features soldiers distracted by a bird. It's quickly subverted when the bird's owner, Micaiah, is found by another soldier, who mockingly asks if she really thought they'd fall for that.
- Trails Series: once every arc to the point where it's something of a Running Gag.
- Invoked in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. The heroes have to sneak into the country's most secure military fortress in the first game, and while they have a device that can jam the army's bio-scanners, this trope ends up in play when the Central Factory's mascot cat Antione is hiding in a nearby container. It's then revealed that Maintenance Chief Gustav intentionally put the cat there to lull the army into a false sense of security, as not getting any bio-scan readings at all might have put them on edge.
- In the Crossbell Arc, Lechter arranges this to deflect suspicion from the fact that several individuals the Mafia would like a word with are hiding behind the curtains of his room.
- Much later, in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, another group of heroes uses exactly the same trick to sneak into another well-guarded fortress. In fact, they were told about this method by two members of the original group.
- Invoked in Angela Anaconda. When Johnny accidentally falls into the bushes while spying on Nanette and her friends, he imitates a crow to deflect their suspicion.
- In The Animals of Farthing Wood, Fox is escaping from human presence after drifting unconscious on a floating log. He runs and hides behind a box in a back alley. A female human is looking for him but hears a cat meow, thinking it was just a cat this whole time. Fox is then introduced by the cat.
- The Looney Tunes Show: One appears in the copy room of the Spargle company to distract Daffy when he is chasing Bugs in "Off Duty Cop".