Finding Your Lost Cat – A Step by Step Guide

Finding Your Lost Cat – A Step by Step Guide

You come home from a long day of work, expecting to be greeted by your cat as you walk through the door. Instead, the house is silent, and your furry partner-in-crime is nowhere to be seen. You were looking forward to a nice relaxing evening hanging out with your feline buddy, but now you’re worried because you’ve looked everywhere, and it seems like they’ve vanished. What do you do?

Step One: Search Your House

At first, learning your cat is missing may come as a shock. But the good news is that, when a cat goes missing, most of the time they will be within a mile of their home.

Before you panic and leave the house to look for your cat, check your home to make sure kitty isn’t just having some alone time. Take your time to systematically search every room. Cats are known to pull a Houdini and turn up the most unexpected of places, some of which are:

  • Behind bookcases and cupboards
  • Inside a couch, chair or bed
  • Inside the chimney and air ducts
  • Inside washing machines and dryers
  • In your basement crawl space
  • In your gardening shed
  • In your garage
  • In your walls
  • In your ceiling
  • On your rooftop
  • Under your deck

A scared, hurt or sick cat will try to hide in the quietest, darkest parts of your house to protect itself. Your cat could also be trapped in a part of your home that you rarely visit, like the attic or the basement.

Open every door to make sure your cat hasn’t been locked inside a room by accident. If you have trees and bushes on your property, check them with a flashlight to make sure Fluffy hasn’t just overslept in a bush or climbed up a tree.
Cat hiding under furniture

Step Two: Expand Your Search

Now that you’re sure your wayward kitty isn’t in the house, it’s time to look elsewhere. An indoor cat that has escaped is often overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds of the outside. The first thing they will do is try to hide somewhere nearby, like your neighbor’s house.

Put on some comfortable clothes and shoes that you don’t mind losing, so you can start walking around calling to your cat. Just in case you still can’t find your cat, you can put your sweaty clothes and shoes near your front door to help scent your kitty home.

Make Some Noise

Cats rely on scent and sound to navigate their surroundings. Use this to your advantage. Cats can sometimes be lured out of hiding with the promise of food. You can try bringing a bag of dry cat food or cat treats with you to be shaken lightly while you walk.

Call out to your kitty in a calm voice or talk normally – if you sound scared or panicked, your cat will know something is wrong and refuse to reveal itself.

Ask Around

While you search for your missing pet pal, talk to pedestrians to ask if they have seen your cat. Knock on your neighbor’s doors and ask if you can check their gardens, sheds, garage, and beneath their porch for any sign of your kitty.

While you’re doing this, provide a recent photo of your cat along with your contact details and a short description so anybody who sees your cat can get in touch. Children and people who spend a lot of time outside are very good at helping find missing pets.

Think Like a Cat

Make sure to check any places a frightened cat might choose to hide or climb, like trees, vents, sewer drains, car engines and car interiors. Any enclosed or inaccessible space is a prime hiding spot.

Sometimes, a curious cat will find themselves trapped in a shed or garage. If there is a construction site or renovations going on nearby, there is also a possibility that your feline friend has been trapped there.

Step Three: Monitor the Area Around Your Home

After your initial search, you’ll want to keep a close on the areas surrounding your house for any sign of your cat’s return.

Search During the Daytime and Nighttime

If you searched your neighborhood during the day, try searching again at night. A lost, scared cat might move around more when it is dark and quiet.

Bring a flashlight as you search – cat eyes reflect light, so shining a light in dark places can help you find your pet feline. Meanwhile, a trapped cat might meow and scratch to get attention. Less noise and activity at night will make it easier to hear any cries for help.

Lure Your Lost Cat Home

One way to bring kitty home is by leaving items with strong, familiar scents outside your front door. These objects can be your cat’s litter box or favorite bedding, or they can also be blankets, clothes or shoes that smell like you.

You can even leave smelly food like canned tuna outside, but make sure to put it in a tamper-proof container with a couple of holes punched through the top to let the scent out. Food left outside will attract other animals like raccoons, stray cats and stray dogs – you don’t want them lingering around thinking that your home is a source of food.

The food must be reheated from time to time so that the scent will spread further and hopefully entice your lost kitty.

Keep an Eye on Your Surroundings

Most lost cats return home between dusk and dawn. If you have security cameras, check the footage so you have an idea where your cat has gone. This will help you focus your search if you know which direction they went.

Your cat might come back home when you are away or asleep – motion-activated cameras will be able to capture video footage of your lost kitty and it will be a relief to know that they are alive and well. Leaving a baby monitor outside can also help you keep an ear open for any scratching or meowing from your cat trying to come home.

If it is safe to do so, leave your garage door cracked open to let your lost cat in. Cracking open a window on the ground floor also works as an alternative.

You can even set a humane trap outside your home if you are not sure whether your cat will come to you. Traps can be rented, lent out or sold by animal shelters, humane societies and pet shops. Set the trap with some smelly food or catnip as bait and check it often to make sure any trapped animal is not left inside for too long.

If you leave the trap overnight, be prepared to catch raccoons, foxes, skunks, or maybe even someone else’s cat.

Step Four: Spread the Word

You don’t have to conduct the search for your cat all on your own. Let your neighbors, town, and animal experts help you out.

Make Posters

If a couple of days have passed and there is still no sign of your feline companion, it’s time to make some posters and get help from establishments. Your poster should include a photo of your cat as well as important details like your cat’s name, your name, the location and date of disappearance, and your contact details.

Put your posters up at local businesses, telephone poles, intersections and other places where they can be easily seen. Make sure that you have permission to do so, especially if there are vandalism laws in your area.

Reach Out to the Local Community

Use the power of social media to help find your furry friend. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great tools to get information across quickly and efficiently. If you use the right keywords, searching for pets found in your area should be a breeze.

Don’t discount other forms of media either – most local papers have a section where you can publish a lost pet advertisement. Some local radio stations also have segments for airing community ads.

Talk to Animal Service Providers

Contact your local vets and pet rescue shelters to ask if they have seen your cat. If they allow it, put a poster or two up so you can reach pet-friendly people who will keep an eye out for your cat for you.

Your local animal welfare agency might be able to help you find your furry friend if you let them know that your cat has gone missing. Be sure to inform them of the relevant details like the physical traits of your cat and your contact information.

Important Things to Remember

Cats don’t stray far from home unless they have been accidentally transported away. They are creatures of habit that prefer to stay close to familiar territory. Even if they are lost, many cats have a homing instinct that helps them travel long distances back to their homes.

Don’t panic and put your lost cat plan into action as soon as possible to prevent your cat being lost for longer than necessary. Be persistent and don’t give up hope – if your cat is afraid, she might hide for a long time and only return home after she feels safe. This can take days or even weeks.

Wrapping Up

Once you’ve been reunited with your pet pal, bring him to the vet for a check-up to make sure your cat doesn’t have any lasting physical reminders of their adventure outside. If your cat has not been microchipped yet, now is the time to get it done. If you know how or why your cat ran away, take some time to address the problem to prevent losing your cat again.

Remember to remove the posters you have put up in your neighborhood while you were looking for your cat, and to provide updates to anybody who has been helping to keep an eye out for you. For many people, knowing that your cat is home and safe is more than enough thanks. Most important of all, give your much-missed feline friend plenty of cuddles and enjoy having them back.
Woman petting a ginger tabby cat on couch

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