Finding a Lost Cat
15 Helpful Tips to Help Find Your Lost Cat
There are very few experiences scarier than our beloved cat becoming lost. If you’re ever in that situation, don’t panic, don’t despair and don’t lose hope! Here are a few helpful tips and links to resources to help you find your cat and to help your cat find his/her way home.
1. Search Inside Your Home – If you come home and your cat is nowhere to be found, thoroughly search every square inch of the inside of your home before extending the search outside. Best Friends Animal Society suggests searching areas such as, “inside of cupboards, under mattresses and behind dressers.” They urge people to repeatedly check, keeping in mind that cats change their hiding spots.
If your cat is not inside, then move the search outside. Here are helpful tips to help find your cat.
2. Search Around Your Home – Cats stay local. Look underneath your house, under your porch, under nearby parked cars, in your garage, in nearby structures (such as sheds), bushes, trees and adjacent neighborhood houses. According to Pet FBI, “[indoor cats] stay within a five house radius for the first few days and weeks.” Your cat is closer than you think!
3. Look for Them Late at Night and Early Morning – Remember, cats are crepuscular. They are most active at dusk and dawn. A recently lost indoor cat will be hiding, especially during the day. The outside world is filled with loud, scary noises: bustling people walking by, cars rushing down streets, ambulance and police car sirens blaring, dogs barking… it’s loud! Even if your cat hears you calling out to him/her in the daytime, he/she will be hesitant to come out. Wait until late night or very early morning, when the outside world is quiet, to do your search. PawBoost suggest looking for them late at night (10:30 PM or later) or early morning (6:30 AM or earlier). Pet MD states the best time frame to search for your lost cat is 2:00 AM. Search when the world is quiet. Your cat is more likely to come out of hiding then.
4. Use Your Normal Voice – As scared as you are, remember that your cat is more scared than you. If you are calling out for your cat do it in the voice and tone you normally use to address him/her at home. Don’t frantically shout their name. The fear, stress and panic in your voice will only heighten the same emotions in them. They probably won’t even recognize it’s you. Call out to them using the same voice, the same tone and using the same phrases you use at home. If you spot them, remain calm and approach slowly. Get down to their level. Resist your urge to run to them. Slow blink to them. Let them come to you or approach very slowly.
5. Use Favorite Treats and Food – When searching, take with you their favorite treats. Shake the treat bag in the same upbeat manner you do at home. Use the same phrases and tone you use at home when you give out treats or feed wet food. Remember, the goal is to rely on the familiar to lure them out and bring them home.
6. Appeal to Their Sense of Smell – Familiar scents can help guide your cat home. Sites like PawBoost and Pet FBI suggest using your cat’s bedding, an article of unwashed clothing worn by the cat’s person and even your cat’s used litter* to help your cat find his/her way home. If your cat shares the home with other cats, use a communal blanket they use. We add that these items should be placed strategically in places where your cat will have access to get back inside your home. Use these familiar scents to lure them out of hiding but place them in places where they will have access to get back indoors. Whether you choose to leave the garage door slightly open or the doggy door unlocked, give them access to get inside the home. If you are going to be up late, leave the front door slightly ajar** until you go to sleep. *Although many sites suggest putting your cat’s used litter to help guide your cat back home, it’s important to note that some organizations advice against it. Best Friends Animals Society and Missing Animal Response Network,
warn that this approach might backfire if there are community cats in the area. Cats are territorial, especially unfixed cats. Evaluate what you think would be best in your particular situation. If there are unfixed feral/community cats in your area, we strongly urge and advise reaching out to a local rescue that does TNR.
** Leave door/garage/doggy door open only if you feel safe. Each neighborhood and situation is different. Evaluate what you think would be best in your particular situation.
7. Get Physical with Your Search – Don’t rely solely on passive methods, such as poster hanging and posting on social media. Best Friends Animal Society conducted a study and found that “59 percent of cats were found alive because their people…crawled under bushes looking for them.” Remember, your indoor cat is scared. Your cat might not have the courage to come to you, please go to them!
8. Go Door to Door – Since a lost indoor cat stays close to home, involve your neighbors to help find your missing cat. Sites like PetMD suggest taking a printed photo of your cat and talking to all the members of the household. PetMD and CertaPet say children tend to be the best finders of lost cats. They also suggest asking pedestrians, particularly people walking their dogs. People who walk their dogs around the neighborhood will likely be able to spot a cat they have not seen before. Ask them to keep an eye out for your cat and let you know if they spot him/her.
9. Use a Humane Trap – If you have spotted your cat or your cat has been spotted by your neighbors but the cat is too frightened to come to you, set up a humane trap to catch him/her. Pet FBI says that it may be the only way to trap a nervous cat. Humane traps are those that don’t injure the cat or other animals (raccoon/opossum) that might go in the trap. Humane traps include: Tomahawk Live Trap 608FN, Havahart and Trucatch live traps. Local humane societies, rescues and animal shelters often lend these out to the public. When using a trap, please monitor it. Follow proper guidelines and protocols of safety when using a humane trap. Don’t ever leave a trap unattended, especially not overnight. FixNation, an organization that offers free comprehensive services for community cats, has a helpful guide for using a humane trap. They also have a YouTube video on how to humanely trap.
10. Use a Baby Monitor – Spruce Pets and PetFinder suggest using a baby monitor to, well… monitor the area for your missing cat. We suggest placing the baby monitor near the items that you are using to lure your cat, monitoring to hear if your cat approaches. If you are using a humane trap to trap your lost cat, you can also use a baby monitor to help monitor the trap.
11. Look in Local Shelters and Rescues – Look in your local shelters. There’s always a possibility that someone might have found your cat and taken him/her to the shelter. If he/she is microchipped* the shelter should notify you. However, don’t rely on them calling you. Remember, shelters are often overcrowded and understaffed. Pet FBI urges people to go search local shelters in person and to go search regularly. We second that! Go search in person, even if you haven’t received a call and even if there is no description that matches that of your cat on their website.
Reach out to local rescue groups, especially if your cat is not microchipped. It’s always possible that a local rescue group has pulled your cat from the shelter to save his/her life. Reach out to local rescues and if you can, go in person. PetFBI suggests taking a printed picture of your cat to both shelters and rescues.
* If your cat is microchipped, make sure the microchip is registered and that it has up-to-date information.
12. Print and Post Posters – Print and post posters around your neighborhood, in local shelters, local rescues, local veterinarian offices, community bulletin boards, laundromats, bus stops and at major intersections where there is higher visibility. Pet FBI suggests including a picture, description of the cat, date lost and how to contact you. They stress the importance of making sure the letters are large and easily visible from a passing car. They even provide a flyer template. Sites like PetMD, advise to
map where you place your posters and to check every 3 days to be sure they are still there. Carry supplies with you (tape, pushpins/thumbtacks, extra posters, etc.) to replace missing posters.
13. Post Ads in Local Papers and Radio – Along the same lines of posting posters around your neighborhood, sites like PetMD suggest placing lost cat ads in local papers. They also suggest calling local radio stations and asking if they have free air spots for lost animals.
14. Use Social Media Lost/Found Pages – Members of lost/found social media pages can be instrumental in helping you find your lost cat. They continuously post pictures of lost animals they find. When they find them, some take them to the local shelter and will post which shelter they took them to, along with their A-number (a unique ID number that is assigned to them when they enter the shelter system). Other members in lost/found social media pages reach out to local rescues and will update the post with the rescue group that takes your cat. Other members may foster your cat for a lapse of time before taking them to the shelter. Keep a lookout for found cats posted on these social media pages and post on these pages as well. Members of these pages will network and reply to your post if they have information about your cat.
15. Post on Lost/Found Sites and Community Sites – Post on lost/found sites or community sites. Here are some great nationwide sites: Pawboost Lost and Found Database PetFinder Lost and Found Cat Database Tabby Tracker Lost Cat Database Lost My Kitty Lost Cat Database Simply Cats Catabase Nextdoor Craigslist