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How to Find a Lost Cat

Your cat has vanished from inside the house. He either got outside when you opened the door and you weren't quick enough to catch him, or he pried open a screen or found an exit and is now outside. If you were fortunate enough to watch him escape, you have a general idea of where he's at. But if you have no idea where he went, how do you find a lost cat?


Take Precaution


Before we approach the issue of the cat being outside, let's just present some preventative measures that you can take before this occurs.


Micro-chip your cat. Most vets offer micro-chipping now. It is a safe, inexpensive way to safeguard your cat. There is a drawback involved with micro-chipping. Not all shelters or vets have the hand-held scanning device that is universal for all the chips. Your best bet is to find the chip that is used in your area. Micro-chips are non-invasive. Your cat will be identified through the scanner ID code. Collars can be taken off easily, and ID tags removed. But micro-chips which are about the size and shape of a grain of rice, stay hidden underneath your cat's skin.


Keep a current photograph of your cat handy. Don't just make it a cute face shot; make it a full body shot so the cat can be identified with the help of this photo if the need arises.


Investigate the different agencies that help with identifying your pet. Aid-A-Pet out of Gresham, Oregon, Friskies Lost PetServices, Infopet, and Petfinders are some of the many organizations out there equipped to help answer your questions and try to safeguard your cat. You can find all these agencies on the Internet.


What to Do if Your Indoor Cat Escapes Outside


You are home and someone opens the front door. Your cat scoots out, turns the corner of the house and vanishes! What do you do?


First off, you go after your cat, but you don't run, and you don't make loud noises. Try to keep the cat in sight, but normally when an indoor cat gets outside, the smells and the sounds tend to be overwhelming and the first thing they want to do is hide close to home. Any loud noises like shouting their name or clapping your hands will tend to further startle them. If they stop and look at you, drop immediately to a kneeling position, don't look them in the eyes and stretch your hand out. Using your calmest voice, call the cat. If there are no distractions around you, they will sometimes come right to you.


But, what if they don't?


The cat has now disappeared under your porch. You can see him in the farthest corner. So how do you get his attention? Fetch the litter pan. Sprinkle soiled litter in a path in front of the porch leading to the pan. Set out food and water for him nearby. Then you retreat, and you wait. You want the pan and the food as near to your front door as possible. If you are lucky, the cat will come out when he is calmer and eat, use the pan and come in the house.


Gone Without a Trace


You have returned home only to find that your cat is missing. The first thing you do is make a systematic search of your home. Take each room and search thoroughly. Get down on your knees and think like a cat. Remember when scared or hurt, they can crawl up into things you would never dream they could even fit under. You want to look under chairs, inside arm rests, inside recliner chairs, (a lot of times a cat will tear the underside lining of either a chair or a bed and vanish up into the springs). You want to look in cupboards and make sure you cover every inch of your living space before even thinking about looking outside.


After your careful home search, you need to do a few things. One is to find an old tee-shirt that you don't much care about, or a pair of old sneakers. Put the sneakers on without socks, or throw the shirt on and just start walking around your property calling to your cat. Take a box of dry cat food or treats, and shake it gently as you walk. You want to get that shirt and those shoes really sweaty with your scent, in case you don't find your cat, because the shoes and shirt will help scent the cat home. If unsuccessful in your search, when you return home, hang up the shirt outside where the wind can blow your scent around, and set your shoes up outside as well near your front door.


How to Find a Lost Cat


Here are a few tips to help you find a missing cat and bring him home safely:


  1. Take a large cardboard box and flip it over. Cut a cat sized hole in the side and place it outdoors with some soft bedding inside. Weight the bottom down and make this a safe place your cat can return to. Place food and water and litter pan nearby.
  2. The best time to search for a lost cat is when the world is asleep. The best time-frame is around 2:00 a.m. Go out with a flashlight and food. You can take a few cans of cat food with you, stand out in the open and pop the cans, or shake a treat jar. You will be surprised how the sound can travel in the quiet of the morning, and oftentimes your cat will appear within minutes of the first can being opened. Enterprising cat owners have also recorded the sound of their can openers opening a tin of food, and played the tape over and over while looking for their lost cat.
  3. Make up fliers. Include a picture of your cat and offer a reward as incentive. Post these fliers in grocery stores, at vet offices, feed stores, anywhere you can. Post them at eye level. DO NOT stuff them in mailboxes. You can get into trouble for doing this. Walk your neighborhood with these fliers, put them on telephone poles, and talk to the kids of the neighborhood, the paper boy the UPS driver, the mailman anyone who walks your neighborhood.
  4. Call the local papers and place a lost cat ad. Call the local radio stations, many of them will run free air spots for lost critters. Call your vet and let the staff know your cat is missing. Tack up a flier at all the vets in your area, and take one over to any rescue shelters nearby. If you have recently moved and brought the cat with you, check out your old address as well.
  5. Locate a Hav-A-Heart trap and set it in a safe place near your home. You may trap another cat, or perhaps a possum or even a skunk (depending on where you live) but you might also trap your cat.
  6. If you see a dead animal on the road near your home, remove it with a shovel and take it to the weeds off the road. There have been instances where domestic cats will become curious about road kill and go out to investigate, only to become fatalities themselves.
  7. Keep a list of everything you do to find your missing cat. Get on cat boards and ask for ideas if nothing seems to be working. There are businesses such as Pet-Detective.com and Sherlockbones.com have great tips on their websites and are available for hire or advice.
  8. Check your newspaper for the lost and found ads daily.
  9. Weekends work outside. Putter in your garden, or just sit out near your home, talk in a soft voice, sing, or chatter so if your cat is close she will hear you. If she has a canine friend, bring the dog outside, or take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood to see if the cat will come out and join you.
  10. Check the trees on your property; if you live near the woods, then the soiled litter is the best attractant for your cat. She will scent her scent over the wild critters and come to the comfort zone she is used to.
  11. Make a map of where you place your posters and or fliers. Check every 3 days to be sure they are still there. Keep tape, pushpins or thumbtacks, black felt markers and white poster board in your car, so you can make up any that might go missing.
  12. Go door-to-door with a photo of your cat. Talk to all the inhabitants of the house, kids especially. Past experience has shown that little girls make the best finders of lost cats.
  13. Keep the hope alive. There are countless stories of people who have lost cats for long periods of time, only to have the animal show up at their door one day.


Not every cat will return home, but if you cover all your bases as completely as you can, you can lessen the probability that your cat will stay lost. As hard as it sounds, you have to stay focused and not become stressed. Your cat will sense any stress coming from you, and may stay hidden until you calm down. Most cats go to ground immediately-which means they hide close to the home they know- unless they get chased off or scared away. If you can hold your emotions in check, you increase the odds in your favor.


We hope that these tips will help you find your cat in the event that he becomes lost. Both of us have experienced the overwhelming sadness of going to bed at night knowing that our beloved cats were out there somewhere in the world and we were powerless to find them. If they don't come home, there is always hope that someone else has made them their cherished pet. It is our hope that our combined experiences will help you find your cat and bring him back to the home he is used to and the people he loves.


Article submitted by: © Mary Anne Miller (Biography & Additional Information)


Article originally appeared on Pet360.com

Comments  5

Leave Comment
  • allergy to cats
    09/13/2015 01:57pm

    for people allergic to cats there is an air purifier that seems good to resolve this problem at home at least, this one : http://germguardian.net/germguardian-ac5000e-review/

  • Leave the Garage Door up
    11/20/2016 06:31am

    I have indoor only cats. One of my cats, Darter, is very, very skittish but will foolishly race out an open door and then panic--and disappear. Several times I spent nights walking the neighbourhood rattling and calling and posting flyers trying to find him.
    Then I got home one night and it occurred to me to prop the garage door open some, just enough that he could squeeze under the door, so he could get in if he came back. Then I just left it that way--night and day. I put some food, water and a litter box inside the garage next to the door into the house. On the second day, a bedraggled Darter squeezed in under the garage door, used his cat box, drank some water and climbed into the basket of clean laundry. The inside cats started meowing at me from by the door to the garage. I've been so lucky--It has worked 5 or 6 times now.
    Poor Darter is always a dirty, matted and freaked out little guy after these adventures and from the mess he makes in the litter box, it seems like he doesn't like to 'go' outside, either!! It's like he 'holds it' until he can get home to use 'his own' litter box!!!! But then, I had a boyfriend like that, too....Cats are such strange people.

    A vegetable can works well to put under the garage door-- about 4 and a half inches. And of course, I block the door rollers with a large screwdriver, or in some such manner, so that it's impossible to open the door any further from outside.

  • One more thing
    03/20/2017 02:26am

    I have helped rescue many lost cats..I totally agree with everything in this article..but the one thing is if you know the exit your cat used check the first place that they can seek cover. The article is exactly right the later the better to try and get your cats attention between 1:00 and 2:00 without a doubt are the best times. The only thing I would do differently and have advised people to do many times with success is get a lawn chair, pour a cup of coffee..you can try the pop top on the cat food..but sit in the lawn chair and call them...not by their name but like you see them..Here kitty kitty. I found my sons cat after 3 weeks of frantically jumping out of his wifes arms while bringing her into a new home. She raced across the street and into a deserted field. I had advised them to do this but they did not. One night when I was over there I asked if they had done as I told them..he said no it was no use..I went in the direction that they last saw the cat..sat on the ground on the knoll and just called here kitty kitty...in the distance I could see something small along the fence row..I ran to the house and got him being afraid I might spook the cat..sure enough she was right there. Sometimes hearing your voice gives them direction home...same goes for your dog but you can and should call him by name. The least effective I have found is the litter pan..I have heard people that used it but never knew anyone that said it worked.

  • 03/22/2017 09:48am

    Hi, my cat has gone missing for couple days, and I'm really worried. I have tried everything included in this web page and your comment, would you have any other tips for me? He has gone missing at a location 20-30 meter away from home, broke out of the carrier and harness because he is scared by dogs. Please help!

  • NO Litter Boxes !!!
    03/26/2017 03:26pm

    I am a board member of Missing Pet Partnership and a pet detective. We strongly advise NOT to put the cat's litter box out as it will (1) attract other cats who will use it and claim it as theirs, (2) spray the property (also now "theirs"), (3) eat any food that has been left out for the lost cat, (4) enter any trap left out to trap the lost cat and, finally, (5) act aggressively to prevent the lost cat from coming home. We have seen this happen again and again. Please visit http://www.missingpetpartnership.org for more information based on science and actual case studies! Thank you!

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