In many ways looking for a lost cat can be easier than looking for a lost dog. This is because most cats stay very close to home whereas dogs can run for miles. On the flip side, cats can hide in very small places, making it more difficult to see them.
If the cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, the chances are that the cat is staying away from home on purpose. I have seen cats spend hours waiting for a chipmunk to pop out of a bush or a hole. Sometimes the cat will wander away from the last place they saw the chipmunk only to return an hour later to wait again. While you are frantically looking for your cat, the cat is having a grand old-time hunting. Few cats will come when called in a situation such as this.
If your cat is an indoor cat and not used to being outside, it is very likely that the cat is frightened. In this case the cat will find a hiding place and most likely stay there. It depends on the cat’s relationship with his owner and how frightened he is whether he will come if you call him. If the area around your house is quiet, the cat is more likely to come out.
Regardless of which type of cat you have, as soon as you determine that the cat is missing you should act right away. Below are a few steps that you can take to help find your cat. It depends on your cat’s personality and experiences which will work the best, so to be safe, try all the tips.
Unless you saw your cat run outside, the first thing you must do is search your home. Sometimes a cat will hide in the house. This is especially true if there is unusual activity in your home. If there is going to be unusual activity in your home, it is best to lock your cat in a room or a crate so that the cat cannot hide somewhere where you will not find him or become so frightened that he will run out of an opened door. A cat that runs out of your home in fear will be less likely to come back to your home right away.
When you search in your home (and outdoors) never underestimate your cat’s ability to squeeze into very small places. If you find your cat in an inaccessible (for you) small space in your home, and the cat can get out on his own, leave him alone, he will come out when he feels safe. Be sure to check attics, basements and closets.
If your cat is outdoors, check around your home. Most cats will stay within 2 – 3 houses from yours. They typically do not go more than 1/3 of a mile. Be sure to look in every outbuilding even if you think it is impossible for the cat to be there. Check roofs, trees, under porches and in any small space that might be available to your cat. This can include under rocks that form a small “cave.”
Next search your neighborhood. Be sure to have a photo of your cat to help people identify your cat. If you can, ask friends to help you canvass the area around your home. Knock on doors and show neighbors a picture of your cat and leave your contact information.
Post flyers around your neighborhood. Be sure to include a picture of your cat on the flyer. Also keep a record of where you post the flyers. Check them every three days to freshen them as needed. People will assume if a flyer is old that your cat has been found.
Contact all animal related business in your area. This will include veterinary clinics, pet stores, shelters, cat rescue groups and 4-H clubs. You can also contact child groups such as the girl and boy scouts. Post flyers at any store or restaurant that will allow you to do so. Since a person may find your cat and take them to a shelter, you will want to extend your search to five or ten miles away.
Take advantage of social media. Also check the lost and found section of your newspaper. Some people only read the weekend editions of their newspaper so place an ad in the weekend edition as well as the daily edition. Many newspapers will let you post an ad for free.
Keep the ad, posters and social media fresh and up to date. If you find your cat, it is very important to let all the organizations know that the cat was found. Remove all posters as well.
At your home you can put a litter box outside and articles of clothing that has your scent on it, such as an old tee shirt or shoes. Also leave a bowl of water and food for your cat. I like to get play sand that is used in children’s sand boxes and spread it on the ground around the food and water. This way if another animal comes to eat the food you will know by the tracks that it was not your cat. If another cat comes to your food, you will know that it is a cat and hope that it is your cat. If you have access to one, or if you want to purchase one, you can mount a wildlife camera outside to see if your cat is coming to the food.
You can also put the cat’s bedding in a cardboard box with a hole cut in it big enough for your cat to enter. Be sure to secure the box so that it will not blow away or be unstable. You cat may be lured to this familiar, safe place.
Also consider that the best time to search for your cat is at night after midnight when the surrounding area is quieter. At that time you can open a can of food if your cat knows that sound, it may attract him to you. When you do this, be patient, sound travels quiet far at night so your cat may not come running to you right away. Instead he may wait to be sure that it is safe and slowly approach you. If you do this in the same location every night, your cat may come out the second or third night. If you see your cat, stay calm and let your cat come to you. If you try to catch your cat you may frighten him, and he will be hesitant to approach you again. Be sure to leave the can of food outside in the same place you opened it.
If you have recently moved, be sure to search your old neighborhood using the same methods. Cats have an amazing homing instinct. Searching your old neighborhood is especially necessary if your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat. If you have moved too far away to do this, ask former neighbors and friends to help you.
The most important thing is not to give up. Cats have been known to return home months after disappearing. Although it is heartbreaking to not find your cat, in many cases people find a cat and assume it is a stray that has been dumped and keep him, giving him a good home. If this happens and your cat is kept indoors, he will not be able to get back to you unless he gets out again and comes home. Which is why some cats come back months after they disappear. So never give up.