Finding a lost cat

Sometimes it is more difficult to find a lost cat than it is to find a lost dog. This is because lost dogs are more likely to come when called or to approach strangers. When cats get lost and are frightened and they tend to hide.

The first thing you need to do is start searching right away. Do not wait a day or so to see if your cat comes home. Let every veterinarian, shelter and rescue group in a five mile radius know that your cat is missing. Give them photos of your cat with your contact information. Do not rely on trying to describe your cat since it is hard to describe all the details, even the color of your cat.

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Put posters up, especially by any public transportation sites, including school bus stops. Make sure your posters are easy to read from a distance. The next most visible place to put posters are supermarkets and other stores that are popular. Be sure to ask if it is OK to put your poster up before you do it.

Keep your posters fresh, otherwise people will think they are old and that you have found your cat. How frequently you need to put up new posters will depend on the local weather. You can buy clear plastic sheet protectors that will help keep your 8 ½ x 11 posters clean and fresh. If possible have someone put the posters up for you while you look for your cat. Also place an ad in your local newspaper in the lost and found section. If you can afford it, include a picture of your cat in the ad. Even a head shot will help.

The good news is that neutered and spayed cats tend to stay closer to home than those who are intact. Typically intact cats will stay within five miles of their home. Neutered and spayed cats are usually within three houses from your home.

Looking in the five-mile radius can be difficult depending on the layout of the land. It will help if you get a map of your area and using your home as the center, draw a circle five miles away from your home. This will be your search area. The first thing you want to look for are natural barriers such as water or other terrain features that would block your cat from traveling in that direction.

If most of the area is composed of brush and trees, you will have to look under the brush and up into the trees. If the area is suburban or urban, you will have to look in every hiding place that a cat would go. Most cats will try to stay away from noise, people and traffic. That means looking on people’s property. Be sure to ask permission first so that the homeowner does not become frightened by having a stranger searching around their house. Be prepared to give each homeowner a flyer about your cat. Most cats will not wander more than three or four houses away so focus in those areas. Be sure to go in every direction from your home.

If your area has storm drains check them out. If your cat is in one you can lure the cat out with cat food that has a strong aroma. You may have to resort to a live trap. Most shelters will loan you a trap or two so that you can catch your cat.

Even if you find your cat you may not be able to get near enough to grab the cat since most frightened cats will not come to their owners. Some will even run away. If this is the situation you may have to use a live trap. Most cats are more active at night which means that this is the best time to put the trap out. Set your trap at dusk or just before dusk. Cats are also active in the early morning, just before dawn. Bait the trap with something of yours or the cats as well as with food.

While you are out looking for your cat, call your cat’s name. Then stay still and listen if the cat meows. Some cats may come out, but do not expect that to happen. However if the cat calls to you, you will be able to go to the cat.

Another good strategy is to leave the cat’s favorite food and water around your house. If you put some sand around the dishes you can see if there are cat tracks around the food or if other animals such as foxes, raccoons, or rodents are eating the food. Of course you will not know if the cat tracks are those of your cat but at least you will know that there is a chance that your cat is coming home to eat.

It is possible for a cat to be so frightened that he does not recognize his surroundings and cannot find his way home. This is especially true if the cat is strictly a house cat and never roams the neighborhood. You can help your cat find his way home by leaving a trail of your cat’s used litter leading to your house. Remember, cats have a very good sense of smell, so they will recognize that scent and can follow it home.

Although you may not want to think of this possibility, be sure to have the local shelter check if any deceased cats are yours. This is especially important if your cat is very old or is ill. If your cat did not survive, at least you will know and can take care of your cat’s remains as you choose.

The main thing is not to give up. There are many cases where a cat has been found months after getting lost. It helps if you have had your cat micro-chipped. This way if your cat is turned in to a shelter, they can scan the chip and contact you. Be sure to keep the information on the microchip up-to-date which can be done on the chip’s web site.

Being diligent, positive and not giving up will help you find your cat. And lastly, do not blame yourself that your cat got out and ran away. As careful as we are, it happens to the best of us.

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