Lost & Found Tips
First, don’t give up. Persistence is key, and you may need a combination of search strategies. A systematic approach based on typical lost cat behavior, as well as your cat’s personality and habits, will maximize your chances for success.
Start with a thorough physical search of your immediate area, focusing on your home and property and working out from there. A 2017 study revealed that most missing cats are found less than a third of a mile from where they escaped. Indoor cats who get outdoors are typically found less than three houses away.
Ask friends and neighbors to help with the search, and check under decks and porches, in garages and sheds, and other places where a cat could hide or get trapped. Keep in mind that a cat who is unused to being outside, or a cat lost in an unfamiliar area, will likely be scared and won’t respond to your calls. It can take a few days before they relax enough to emerge from their hiding spot.
Spread the word
Knock on doors and hang large, colorful “lost cat” posters in your area. Alert dogwalkers, mail carriers, joggers and anyone else who regularly visits your neighborhood, as well as anyone nearby who feeds outdoor cats. Use local social media sites and missing pet registries to help get the word out.
When people know your cat is missing, they’ll want to help. Otherwise, they may assume the cat who showed up in their yard is abandoned and needs a home.
Bring in technology
Just because no one has seen your cat doesn’t mean they’re not close by. A scared cat will often hide during the day and only venture out late at night when the neighborhood is quiet (and most people are sleeping).
Start placing food and water in a safe spot in the area where you suspect your cat is hiding (a large plastic storage container turned on its side can protect the food from rain). Use a motion-activated camera to see if your cat is eating the food. Once you know your cat is visiting the feeding station and what time they typically show up, set a humane trap to capture them. Most animal control agencies and many rescue groups will have a trap you can borrow. (Be sure to monitor the trap and quickly release any wildlife or other animal you unintentionally capture.)
If you suspect your cat is trapped or hiding under a building, use an amplified listening device or plumber’s camera to check hard-to-reach places.
Submit lost reports to your local animal shelters and animal control agency, and ask if there are other local animal welfare organizations that may have your pet. Depending on where you live, the shelter may only be able to hold a lost cat for as little as 72 hours before placing them for adoption, so don’t delay.
If your cat has a microchip, alert the microchip company so that your cat can be flagged as lost.
Visit your local shelters as often as you can to check if your cat is there, keeping in mind that it can take weeks before a lost cat lands at a shelter.