Most of the cats that were located had not gone far from their homes. Indoor-only cats were found 128 feet from home, on average, and indoor-outdoor cats 985 feet from home (although this distinction was not significant). For all the cats (indoors, indoor-outdoor, outdoors), the house’s median distance was 164 feet, and 75% of cats were located within 1600 feet.
This means that if your cat is missing, you should search very precisely close to home. Being cats, you will not be astonished to discover that some of those found turned up waiting by the door to be let in. Cats were often found in nearby hiding places such as hiding in a yard, in bushes, under decks, or inside sheds. Cats that were considered prying were the most likely to be found in a neighbor’s house. Most lost cars are near you.
A physical search for the cat was most likely to be successful, and this included searching the yard and surrounding area, calling the cat while looking for it, asking neighbors if they had seen the cat and would keep an eye out for it or help search, and walking around during the day looking for the cat.
The most triumphant advertising tactics were putting up posters and distributing flyers about the cat. Although many people called their local shelter about their missing cat in this study, it was not a common way for them to be reunited (fewer than 2%).
It’s also worth considering the strategies people use if they find a lost pet. It seems many people will not take the animal to a local shelter/animal control because of fears of euthanasia. Instead, the tactics they use to find owners include advertisements in the newspaper, walking around the neighborhood, and putting up signs.
Social media has grown considerably since this survey was done and is likely a much more significant factor these days. Still, it is essential to remember that some owners may not be reached by this method as not everyone uses social media.
Remember to think about what it feels like for your cat and the kinds of places where they might hide. Cats have flexible spines, and their collar bone is not connected to other bones so that they can squeeze into narrow gaps. If they are timid and shy, be quiet when searching so that you won’t startle them. Also, think about what happened before them disappearing if it gives any clues as to where they might be.
If your cat has just run out of the door, don’t chase them. Keep them insight and try to persuade them to come to you; this may involve getting low down, calling them, not looking directly at them (which can be scary to a cat), and reaching your hand or a finger out to see if they will come up to you. Shaking the treat packet may also help.
An indoors-only cat will want to get home again, so make sure they have a clear path back indoors and don’t get in their way.
Many lost cats come home by themselves.
If you are not sure where your cat is, search carefully inside the house if they are under furniture, in a wardrobe, in the basement, or some other hiding place. Cats can get into some surprising places, especially if they are fearful and new to your home. A friend had a cat hide inside a box-spring mattress. Similarly, they may be able to get inside your settee, open cupboard doors or drawers (which may shut behind them), hide in small gaps behind furniture, get in behind the washing machine or fridge, hide behind books on shelves, or curl up underneath your clean linen.
The most successful strategy is searching on foot. Most cats are found close to home and search very (very) carefully in the immediate area.
Look in places where a scared cat might hide, such as in bushes, in sheds, under decks. Remember to look up too, since cats like high places and might be hiding in the branches of a tree or on the roof of a shop or shed.
It’s a good idea to search at a quiet time of day.
After dark, you can search with a flashlight. You might see the light reflect from their eyes. When searching, take a treat packet with you and shake it from time to time, but remember a scared cat may not dare to come out to you.
If your kit is indoor-only, you could put their litter box out close to the point where they left. The idea is that cats have excellent noses and will be able to smell it. They may find it reassuring, come back to use it, or wait nearby. However, if your cat has outdoor access, there seems little point in doing this as they will be used to toileting outside anyway, and the smell may only bring other cats into the area to investigate.
Make a hiding place right by the door. A cardboard box turned upside down, and with a hole cut out to make an entrance will do. Put some of your cat’s bedding inside it. You’re providing somewhere for your cat to hide if they come back when you aren’t there to let them in. You can put food and water nearby too (but be aware that this may attract rodents and other animals).
Remember to listen in case you hear your cat meowing. If you have a baby monitor, you could leave it outside the front door in case you hear a meow. If you have a trail cam, set it up so that you will see if your cat is in your yard (or your neighbor’s yard, with permission).
Speak to neighbors and ask if they have seen your cat. Ask them to check hiding places on their property carefully, or if they will let you search their yard for your cat.
If you find your cat in a tree and believe them to be stuck, call local arborists to find one who will go up to get your cat. Sometimes shelters or community cat organizations keep a list of arborists willing to rescue cats from trees.
Make ‘lost cat’ flyers with your cat’s photo on them and put them up in the neighborhood where people will see them, such as near community mailboxes or on utility poles. Include your phone number so that people can contact you if they see your cat, but don’t put your name and address for security reasons.
Post your ‘lost cat’ flyer to social media too. Make the post public so that it is shareable, and share it with any missing pets and neighborhood groups in your area. Again, don’t post your address.
Call your vet and tell them your cat is missing. You might be able to put up a flyer at their office too.
Visit your local animal shelter and animal control in case someone has taken your cat there. Some will take details of missing cats to keep on file.
If you have recently moved house, you should also search back at your old address, as there have been cases of cats going back to where they used to live.
If you want to put out a trap for your cat, your local shelter, community cat rescue, or animal control may be able to assist.
Above all, keep searching close to home (very close to home for an indoors-only cat). This is the most important thing to do. When you find your cat, remember to update social media postings and take down the flyers you put up in the neighborhood.
Tips to Help Find a Lost Cat
- Start Looking Early
- Start Looking Close By
- Talk to Your Neighbours
- Think Like Your Cat
- Put Up Posters
- Look When It’s Dark and Quiet
- Set Up a Baby Monitor
- Use Facebook and Other Social Media
- Think Positively
- Don’t Give Up
If you think your cat is hiding nearby, you can try putting out some strong-smelling fish when it gets dark. Do it concurrently every night, then try to keep watch from a distance to see if your cat will venture out to eat it. When he is starving enough, he will venture out when he feels secure, generally under night cover.
Indoor cats that have escaped are very likely to be hiding near your house. They have panicked and gone into survival mode, so they are probably hiding within a three house radius. They are too frightened to move and will likely not respond to your calls. They are hiding in silence not to attract any predators; they are following their survival instinct.
When any cat is hurt or scared, they are likely to go into hiding and not respond to your calls. You have to remember that cats don’t think like humans. Even though they may recognize your voice, they may not respond to it because their ancestor instincts tell them its safer to remain quiet so as not to attract any attention.
Look When It’s Dark and Calm
If your cat is lost or sneaking, it may be waiting until it’s dark to come out and search for food. Therefore, it is best to try and wait until late at night when the roads are quiet to look for your cat. At this time, your cat is more likely to hear your calls and to respond. Remember to stop from time to time and listen to your cat.