What to do when your CAT is lost / missing
Cats, being rather independent creatures, occasionally wander off, much to the alarm of their owners.
While this can be a distressing event, there are ways to make sure you get your cat back home safe and sound.
- Remain calm. It is natural to feel upset but getting into a panic won’t help you or your cat and can cause delay as you try to recollect yourself instead of searching for your cat. Action is the best antidote to worry, so get active as quickly as possible and try not to think of negative things.
- Think like your cat. If your cat is normally indoor-only, and has escaped outdoors, in many cases it is normal for the cat to stay very close to where he got out. The unfamiliarity of the outdoors, along with strange sounds and smells, will keep your cat close to what he knows. Likely hiding spots include the nearest place the cat can see, so try to think like a cat and crouch down. Cats will hide in places such as under a porch or deck, garages, rooftops, inside a shed or garage or inside boxes/barrels/pots, etc. that are large enough to hide them securely.Unless chased or forced to leave by hunger, your cat will stay put in the chosen hiding spot. If you can’t find your cat during the day, go out at night. Most times cats will hide until after dark, when things are quieter.
- Don’t delay looking for your cat. The longer a cat is gone, the further away it may be. Statistics show most owners don’t start looking for their cat for several days. It’s important to get the word out immediately to the veterinarians, animal-shelters and your neighbors, (especially your neighbors), so that these people know to search for or retrieve your cat before it has traveled far. Call your local animal shelter, welfare, SPCA (all of them!) and report your cat has gone missing along with all the relevant details (sex of the cat, color, and your contact information/micro-chip number). Visit them every day or two until your cat is found, as sometimes shelters have many cats and have a difficult time matching your description to what they have.
- If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, be prepared for a possibly enlarged search. Cats used to the outdoors are curious and active creatures, so it’s not uncommon for them to go astray once in awhile, of their own accord. It’s possible that your cat is nearby and is just preoccupied. If something chased your cat away, your cat will be scared and has likely gone into hiding somewhere.
- Call in reinforcements to help the search. Warn anyone searching that if they do spot the cat, remain quiet and avoid sudden movements, lest they spook the cat away again. It’s usually best for the owner approaches the cat, especially if the cat is skittish to begin with.
- Call your cat. Tempt your cat out of hiding or back home by calling him and shaking the normal box of dry food or treats. Make the sounds that usually get your cat to come to you, however, be aware that most cats in a state of distress will not break cover to come to your calls. Try doing this in the late hours, once it is quiet outside and your cat is less likely to feel intimidated returning to you.If you have dogs, keep them in a room inside while trying to find your cat. Their enthusiasm may frighten the cat.
- Stop and listen regularly. A cat that is trapped, hurt or hungry will likely “meow,” so whether you’re searching by yourself or with a group, take a few minutes in every area you search to listen quietly and attentively for the cat calling out.
- If possible, leave your cat’s litter box in front of your house. Your cat will be able to pick up on the scent and might hang around longer. To help encourage your cat’s return via odors, you might even put a piece of your clothing recently worn by the door. Use an article that you wear next to your skin, and that has not been washed. This method, while eccentric, can help your cat a great deal in tracking your scent and deciding to stay near a familiar place.
- Leave bits of your cat’s favorite cat food out. But only do this if you can monitor the food station. Remember, there are most likely other cats in the area and your cat may be pushed away from the territory if there is a dominant cat nearby (especially if this dominant cat has chased your cat away). Put the cat’s food bowl outside, then put a baby monitor near it. An alternative to a baby monitor is to get a portable wireless motion sensor and receiver pair (also known as a “driveway alarm”), and set the sensor at a low height and facing the bowl. Placing the receiver in the bedroom so the alarm will be loud enough to wake you up when motion is detected. Tuna is an attractive bait for many a hungry cat. If your cat normally goes to food, put food in possible hiding spots; the comfort of both a hiding spot and food may attract your cat. If you spot a furry creature eating there, be sure it is yours, approach slowly, then take it back home.
- Retrace the steps. Think back to when you last saw your cat and recount what events have taken place since then. Did you open the door at all? Did you open the doors to any rooms that you’ve since shut? Ask anyone in the house, as well as your neighbors, when and where was the last time they saw the cat.
- Narrow the search. Look in and around the areas the cat was last seen. It’s particularly important to look for hiding spots. When cats find themselves in unfamiliar places, they usually become scared and hide.If you’re looking outside, check underneath nearby cars or other nice hiding spots, like underneath barbecues, and patios. Unfortunately, on occasion a frightened cat may climb underneath a car or climb onto the engine of a warm car. Cats are also known to climb trees and get stuck. Indoors, look underneath beds, or in boxes or other accessible hiding spots, if your house has stairs, search under the stairs and under the porch. You may have to crawl around the area if he’s hiding in the darkness. Use a flashlight. Likewise, check the back of the house if you have a basement crawl space or any basement window areas. In attic spaces, look at the join between the roof and the walls; small cats can crawl into this gap and become stuck; meowing may be a good giveaway that this has happened.For more outdoor places: Look in piles of leaves and any debris near your house. Look around the garbage cans. If you have any brush around your house, areas of thick plants and tall grass, check those areas very carefully. Look behind tall plants and trees, especially those growing near your house. Move the tall grass around. He is more likely to be in there than in open areas like lawns.
- Wait for the new morning to arrive. The cat might come out from its hiding spot. This may be due to the cat becoming scared of something. If scared, the cat may even be afraid of you.
- Distribute fliers in your neighborhood. If your cat is missing for more than a few hours, talk to your neighbors and make fliers to put in their paper boxes or under door handles. Put your name, phone number, and a photo of your cat on the flier. Describe any distinguishing marks (such as, “triangular white spot on shoulder”), and write the coat color if you’re distributing black-and-white fliers. If your neighbors are aware your cat is lost, they’ll know to contact you if they see it around.Don’t be afraid to appeal to emotion (such as, “He is very loved!”). Include relevant information about any specific dietary or medical conditions your cat might have.Ask neighbors to kindly check their sheds, garages and basements. If they have been working on a project with doors open and your curious cat wandered inside, it is possible that a neighbor shut the cat in without realizing. Closest neighbors that the cat is reasonably familiar with are good places to check with first. It’s best to post as many fliers as you can within a 1km radius of your home. There are online templates for brochures and posters if you’re not sure how to make your own from scratch.
- Give fliers to local vets. If someone finds your cat injured, or thinks he is a stray and wants to take him on as a pet, they may bring him to a vet, who can then identify him from the flyer or microchip.If your cat is micro-chipped, make sure that the contact details are up-to-date. Most vets will check this before all else and can then contact you direct.
- Post a COLOR picture online. Many finders of pets search for owners online; think about posting a picture of your pet or searching for it on one of numerous pet recovery websites. Twitter and Facebook can be used to spread the word among your network of friends. Be sure to include a photo or two. If your neighborhood association has an email news digest or web site, post a Lost Cat notice. Remember to include the cat’s name, description and temperament(some people are afraid of cats). Include some of the advice above: speaking softly, offering treats etc.
- Try to stay home, or have a family member home, to keep an eye out for the cat. Cats are highly territorial and are likely to come home from time to time but if there’s no one home, they may wander off again. Don’t get discouraged. Stay focused and positive and search for at least 3 to 6 weeks. Check the newspaper’s “found” section, and look into posting a “missing” ad there, as well. Sometimes they are free. Check online sites that have lost and found sections too. Many animal shelters have websites that show pictures of captured, stray animals. Check the website at least twice a day. There are various national or locally based sites that help with finding pets too; do an online search for your area. If it’s night time, hold your flashlight near your head and shine it into all the likely hiding spots of your cat. If the cat is there, it’s probably looking at you, and you’ll see the light reflecting off of its eyes.If your cat has a favorite toy on a string or wand, like a stuffed mouse or feather, take it with you while you search and make it very visible, like you want the cat to play with you; that frequently allays fears and brings them out of hiding. Take future measures to prevent loss of your cat situations from occurring. If your cat is an indoor cat, make sure there are no loose screens or doors open for a long period of time. Make sure your cat has a collar with contact information if there’s a chance they’ll go missing outdoors. Alternatively or additionally, you can have your cat implanted with a microchip which will contain its information if it is turned into the SPCA or similar. If your cat is stuck in a tree or other tall place, try placing an open can of tuna on the ground at the base. The smell is irresistible and encourages cats to quickly find their way to the ground. Make a catnip bait. Sprinkle catnip around your front door and surrounding area. It can help entice her if she is a fan of this herb. Take action to assist in your pet’s recovery by taking steps to ID your pet in advance. A collar with up to date information including your pet’s name, home address and phone number is crucial. Microchip your loved pet through a national pet recovery service which will substantially increase the odds of a safe return and may allow vet clinics/shelters immediate access to your pet’s medical records if necessary. Everyone searching should be carrying a cell phone (to stay in contact with one another and to alert the others if the cat’s been spotted or found) and a flashlight, which can be used to search in dark nooks and crannies even in the daylight hours. Don’t yell at or chase a cat that may already be scared. If you can see it, sit quietly – bring the cat’s favorite toy, speak in a normal voice. Drag a piece of string or yarn through bushes where the cat may be hiding. Don’t send a mob of children (or adults) noisily running after the cat only to scare it farther away.