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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If someone asked you how to find a lost cat, what advice would you give them?
Have you ever experienced this first-hand?