How to Find A Lost Cat

small grey tabby cat peeking out from inside of a space between tan coloured bricks

There are few situations that are as frightening and stressful for a cat owner then realizing that your indoor cat has gone missing. Even if you do everything in your power to keep your cat safe, accidents happen. If you’re wondering how to find a lost cat, keep reading…

Before we dig into potential solutions, I want to make something clear: This is no reflection on you as a pet owner!

According to the popular adoption website Petfinder, approximately 1 in 3 pets will be lost at some point during their life.

Accidents happen. You can do everything right and still have a cat slip out suddenly through an opened door.

Please, don’t beat yourself up. It won’t solve anything!

I still remember the day that Pippen snuck out the door when a friend came to visit.

Worried that something would happen to her, I blamed myself for not doing enough to prevent her from getting out.

I repeat: This is NO reflection on you as a pet owner!

Rather than focusing on your worries and fears, it’s time to refocus your attention on what you can do to improve the chances of being reunited with your best friend.

The following tricks have been recommended by veterinarians and those experienced in the world of animal rescue.

tabby cat sitting outdoors, hiding behind the leaves of a plant

Wondering How to Find A Lost Cat? Try These Tricks…

Spread the Word ASAP

The moment that you realize that your cat is missing, you want to spread the word in your neighbourhood.

This can be done by posting on social media, knocking on your neighbours’ doors, and hanging posters.

While posters are often shrugged off as an ‘old school’ approach, they are still a go-to solution as they have been proven to get results.

For more information about what to include, check out my post ‘What to Include On A Missing Pet Poster‘ which includes instructions to grab a FREE missing cat/dog template!

You want to hang this poster in any heavily trafficked areas where it is likely to be seen.

This will not only alert those living in your neighbourhood but also anyone passing through that might spot your kitty.

Don’t forget the power of social media! We live in a digital world, so put technology to work in your favour.

Many neighbourhoods have their own Facebook groups or are present on apps like Next-door.

Make sure to include all relevant information in your post including a detailed description (and clear photo), where your cat was last seen and contact information.

Are you close to your neighbours?

Consider knocking on doors and letting them know what is happening so that they can help keep an eye on the area.

Focus Your Search Near Home

Cats have an amazing sense of direction and are skilled at finding their way home.

For this reason, most lost cats can be found nearby.

If you’re out searching, avoid travelling too far. Instead, focus your search to the nearby vicinity.

Related: ‘The Benefits of Cat Grass for Your Feline Friend

Check Garages, Sheds and Abandoned Buildings

As previously mentioned, cats are skilled at finding hiding places.

Missing cats are often discovered hunkering down in nearby buildings or ‘safe spaces’ as they view them.

This includes garages, storage sheds, abandoned buildings, under porches or other enclosed areas.

Bring along a flashlight and a bag of your cat’s favourite treats during your search.

Shake the treats and talk gently. Your cat will not be attracted to frantic calling or anxiety; however, they are drawn to the sound of your calm voice talking as if you’re having a normal conversation.  

Use the flashlight to check corners and small spaces.

Skilled at hiding and incredibly nimble, cats can squeeze into the most unlikely areas.

Place Your Cat’s Bedding or Your (Unwashed) Laundry on the Porch

Cats have a very strong sense of smell.

Place your cat’s favourite cat bed or blanket out on the porch to draw him/her in with the lure of something familiar.

Alternatively, you can leave an article of unwashed clothing out as it will carry your scent, another familiar smell.

If you’ve been googling solutions, you may have seen people recommend leaving cat foods with strong scents or even your cat’s litter box outside.

The problem with these solutions is that they may also attract unwanted predators, creating a dangerous situation for your kitty.

As mentioned before, do you have a garage or shed that may offer an ideal hiding place for your cat?

Consider placing bedding or clothing nearby there as well, drawing your cat out with familiar scents.

Don’t forget to return to that spot regularly to see your cat has returned.

white cat with one blue eye and one green eye, wearing a red collar with a red bell and a gold bell, outdoors peeking around the corner of a brick wall

Check with Your Local Shelter

Thousands of cats are brought to the shelter each year as strays.

While many of these cats may legitimately be living on the streets, there is a chance that your cat may be among them.

The main goal of any shelter or rescue organization is to help lost pets find their way home, when possible.

They may even have additional resources focused on how to find a lost cat.

Many shelters have a portion on their website for ‘found pets’. Others will share intakes on social media.

Don’t stop there…

Your best chance of success is to call the shelter directly or, better yet, visit in person.

Let them know that your cat is missing, provide a detailed description (and a clear photo if possible) and open the lines of communication.

Check back regularly to find out if there are any updates.

Contact Local Veterinarians

Another place that a stray cat may be taken in is at a local veterinarian.

This may be due to an injury, prompting someone to bring a cat that they have found in for medical care.

Alternatively, many people will bring cats that they believe are too friendly to be strays to the veterinarian in order to check for the presence of a microchip.

Related: ‘Identifying Cat Litter Box Problems and How to Solve Them

Recently Moved? Check Your Old Neighbourhood

There are many stories of cats returning ‘home’ to their old homes, their homing instinct still driving them to the neighbourhood that they are most familiar with.

If you have recently moved, consider checking in with your former neighbours.

You may also want to alert the new family living in your old house or apartment, as your cat may even try to get into their ‘home’ when they arrive.

Search at Night

Cats are often more active at night, especially if they are scared or nervous.

If your cat is hiding nearby, he/she may be hiding all day, only coming out after the sun has gone down.

Wait until after dark when the activity in your neighbourhood falls silent.

This is the time that a scared kitty may feel more comfortable making their way out into the open in search of food or attempting to find his/her way back home.

Keep an eye on the surroundings by hanging out on the main floor of your home near a window, spending the evening/night on the porch, or holding a stakeout in your vehicle.

Leave Your Garage Door Open a Crack

If you are comfortable, consider leaving your garage door open a crack.

As I’ve previously explained, cats have great homing instincts. This means that your cat may actively be trying to find his/her way home.

By leaving the door open, you are allowing them to return at their own pace.

Don’t Give Up

Many cats aren’t found on the first day, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost!

A 5-year study conducted in the United States found that approximately 75% of lost cats are reunited with their owners.

Keep searching, check with veterinarians and shelters regularly and continue updating the neighbourhood with fresh posters and social media posts with the header ‘Still Missing’.

Hold onto the hope that you’ll have your best friend home again soon.

small orange tabby cat hiding in a cement culvert surrounded by class with text suggesting it will provide tricks for how to find a lost cat

If someone asked you how to find a lost cat, what advice would you give them?

Have you ever experienced this first-hand?

About Author

Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering, and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.


  • Lisa
    October 13, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Posters and knocking door to door are what helped me find one of our cats when he was lost. Sadly, he’d been run over and left by the road, but at least we found out what happened to him. And I’ve gone out in the dark many a time searching for one of our other cats who likes to roam. He’s got himself shut in people’s garages before now too. Great tips, Britt, thank you for sharing! Lisa

    • Britt
      October 13, 2020 at 6:36 pm

      I’m sorry to hear about your cat. Sending love!
      We had a cat growing up that would go house to house visiting the neighbours and I’m sure that he found himself locked in garages and porches more often than we will ever know!

  • Lucy
    October 13, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    I lost my cat Lily back in August 2018, she went out one night (completely normal for her) and she never came back, it broke my heart! But you’re right lovely, when a cat or any pet goes missing, it is definitely not a reflection of the owner, it’s just so unfortunate when it happens, this post offers great advice lovely x

    Lucy |

    • Britt
      October 13, 2020 at 5:51 pm

      It’s heartbreaking to hear loving pet owners beating themselves up for a mistake that could, honestly, happen to anyone. As I said in the article, Pippen got out before! It’s definitely not a reflection of whether or not someone is a good pet owner. I’m sorry to year about Lily. Sending love

  • Aimsy
    October 13, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    I don’t have any pets, but I can’t imagine what it would be like having your cat go missing. I have heard of stories of cats returning after years of being missing, so there is always hope!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Aimsy xoxo
    Aimsy’s Antics

    • Britt
      October 13, 2020 at 5:49 pm

      Yes, there have been some incredible stories of cats even travelling long distances to return to their families.

  • Sophie
    October 13, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    One of my best friends has always had a cat and hers have gone missing numerous times over the years and I always say I don’t know if I could deal with the stress of owning a pet that goes out alone and not knowing where they were/ if they were safe. These are great tips for anyone with a cat to be aware of x


    • Britt
      October 14, 2020 at 10:08 am

      My cats are indoors only, too many risks for me to handle the stress of letting them outside off a leash. However, Pippen did get out that one time and my heart BROKE until she returned home.

  • Shyla
    October 14, 2020 at 8:34 am

    Ok so I have a story about my cat getting lost! I adopted him from a local pet shelter about 8 years ago. After less that a year of having him he ran out the door of my apartment and I didn’t see him for 6 months or more. We had a search party going for a long time and just kind of thought there was no hope after a while. Luckily he had a microchip because someone eventually turned him back in to the local shelter and we got a phone call to come pick him up! He was so happy to be reunited with us he has never even attempted to run out the door again!

    That’s my unbelievable story, but it is totally true! Lol We have a photo of us together on the pet shelters website that they shared. They couldn’t believe how long he had been missing.

    • Britt
      October 14, 2020 at 10:05 am

      I have actually heard stories of pets being reunited years later – I definitely believe that it can happen!

  • Clarissa Cabbage
    October 14, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    Great ideas Britt! I wouldn’t have thought of a lot of these. I especially like the suggestions of putting the cat bed on the porch and leaving the garage door cracked. It’s so scary losing a pet, especially one that is not used to the outside world. Great post, as usual!

    • Britt
      October 14, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      Cats are very driven by their noses, so a familiar smell like their bed or your laundry can draw them in.

  • Giulia
    October 14, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    I wish I had seen this years ago when my cat went missing. I had moved out of my parents home by then, and they didn’t tell me for a week he was gone. I had no idea what to do. They looked, but didn’t much else other than call the humane society and they did not help at all. They didn’t even seem to care. I had no idea what to do. He never came back. I hope someone found him and gave him a safe home. He would be 19 now, so I imagine he’s over the rainbow bridge.

    • Britt
      October 15, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      It is so hard when you lose a pet that you love. I’m sorry that you had to go through that and that the Humane Society weren’t able to assist you more in your search. Sending love!

  • Rosie Ireland
    October 15, 2020 at 11:55 am

    I will never forget when our family cat went missing when we were little. It ended in a sad story but these tips are so helpful! My sisters cat is a house cat but if he ever goes wondering, I’ll share this post with her!


    • Britt
      October 15, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      Sadly, it doesn’t always work out. I had one cat that got out when I was younger and it didn’t have the happy ending that I would have liked to have. My heart goes out to anyone that has to experience that, it’s not easy.

  • Jenn Summers
    October 16, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Great tips. Our daughter lost her kitten years ago and was completely heartbroken. Wish I would have tried the litterbox outside tip.

    • Britt
      October 16, 2020 at 8:23 pm

      The best option is to use a pet bed or laundry instead of a litterbox. These carry a strong scent that’s recognizable to the cat without attracting other animals.

  • Kayleigh Zara
    October 16, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Having cats all my adult life, I know the struggle of this. The only thing that ever worked for my cat that used to go walkies was leaving his litter box outside?? He’d magically come back to it a few days after he left! These tips are so helpful x

    • Britt
      October 16, 2020 at 8:16 pm

      The problem with leaving the litter box outside is that it attracts more than just the cat. There are many cases where the smell of the litter ended up attracting a predator which was then waiting for the poor cat when they did show up. Choosing something else scented, like dirty laundry or a cat bed, is less likely to attract a predator but is still a recognizable scent for the cat.

  • Sarah
    October 18, 2020 at 4:07 am

    I dread the day either of ours go missing but you have made some amazing points here xx

    • Britt
      October 18, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      Having lived through it once already, I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone.

  • Sophie Harriet
    October 19, 2020 at 4:45 am

    It’s heartbreaking when cats go missing – it makes me sad every time I see a poster for a missing cat. – but it does make me look out for that cat which shows that posters do help! Thankfully my cats have never gone missing and I hope they never will!

    • Britt
      October 19, 2020 at 4:30 pm

      Posters are a great way of getting the word out, especially if you live in an area where you have neighbours and passing foot traffic nearby


Leave a Reply