Top 5 Strategies to Find a Missing Cat

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: December 18, 2019
Top 5 Strategies to Find a Missing Cat

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Losing your cat can be a terrible and devastating experience. However, it is crucial to get to work as soon as possible in order to find the missing cat and bring it back home. The more time you let pass, the more difficult it may be to recover your cat. Cats are real survivors, and will be able to use any opportunity to start a new life.

Has your cat disappeared? Do you think it may be lost outside? If you are wondering what to do, we at AnimalWised are here to help you find your best friend, with a list of the top 5 strategies to find a missing cat. Keep reading to find out the most effective steps you can take if your cat is lost.You can also share a picture in the comment section so that other users can help you out. We wish you the best of luck!

You may also be interested in: Top 5 Smallest Cat Breeds in the World

1. Search around your house and neighborhood

If you have an outdoor cat that enters and leaves the house as it pleases, or you think the cat might have gone out for a specific reason - to meet a mate, for example - you should know that it will probably return sooner or later. So, if only an hour or two has passed, it may be a good idea to first wait for the cat at home. Make sure you leave a window or the kitty door open, so that your cat has a way back in.

On the other hand, maybe your cat has been missing for longer than usual, or it never goes out and appears to have escaped without a cause you can identify. In such cases, the first place to look for the cat is the areas closest to your home. A recent study showed that physical searches increased the chances of finding a lost cat, and that 75% of cats thought to be missing were found within a 500 meter radius[1].

Of course, if you cannot find the cat near home, expand your search to other areas around and beyond your neighborhood. You can walk or use a bike to get around more quickly. If you decide to go out in search of your cat, remember to leave food and water outside your door, or an open window, in case the cat decides to return while you are out. Of course, you can also also ask someone to remain at home while you go out in search of the missing cat.

Tips to improve your search for a lost cat:

  • If you remember the last place you saw the cat outside, start your search there.
  • Bring tasty treats that can help entice the cat out of a hiding place.
  • Call the cat's name and use the sounds with which you call to them at home.
  • Pause once in a while to listen for any meows or tell-tale noises that may help you locate the cat.
  • Look in nooks and crannies, up trees or under bushes - anywhere the cat could be hiding or stuck.
  • Ask your neighbors or passers by if they have seen the cat. You can use a photo of your cat on your phone to show them.
  • If it is night, take a flashlight to help with your search.

Remember that if your cat isn't used to leaving the house, it may be easily scared and look for a place to hide or shelter. This is why it is important you do a thorough search of the area.

Top 5 Strategies to Find a Missing Cat - 1. Search around your house and neighborhood

2. Use social media to spread awareness

Social media has a very wide reach, and is a great tool for getting your message across to lots of people. It is another good strategy you can use for finding a lost cat. Although physically looking around the neighborhood seems to have the highest success rate, you can also use social media posts to boost your search for the missing cat.

We recommend putting up a post that includes a clear photograph, the cat's name, a brief description, your contact number and any additional information you think might be helpful. For example, you can include details about your cat's personality so that a person who sees it will know how to approach the cat without frightening it. Including as many details as possible may help you find the missing cat faster.

It is also important to use as many platforms as you can, to get the message out to more people. You can post about your missing cat on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks. Don't forget to make the post public and to ask friends and family to share your post so that it reaches more people.

Besides posting on your personal profiles, make sure you also share the post or tag any neighborhood animal associations, lost cat support groups or local animal shelters. The more you do, the greater the chances of finding your cat.

Top 5 Strategies to Find a Missing Cat - 2. Use social media to spread awareness

3. Get in touch with local animal shelters

Besides tagging them in your ‘missing cat’ social media post, you can also directly phone an animal shelter or rescue association in your city or neighborhood. Give them all the necessary information about your cat and its chip number, if it has one, so that they can check if a cat of similar description has been found or brought to the shelter.

If they are nearby, you can also visit the shelter or agency. Many animal rescue homes are at full capacity and some of them may find it difficult to in keep track of all arrivals or to keep animals for long periods of time. If a day or two has passed, and your cat is still missing, your best bet is to go to the shelter in person, as some shelters can only hold animals for three to four days.

Top 5 Strategies to Find a Missing Cat - 3. Get in touch with local animal shelters

4. Put up a missing cat poster

Putting up ‘lost cat’ fliers is another effective way of reaching more people, especially those who don't have social media accounts or may be unlikely to see your post. Of course, first make sure flyering is allowed by your local council. Don't forget to add the following information on you poster:

  • A good quality picture of your cat
  • The cat's name
  • A short description
  • Your name
  • Contact information (a telephone number is better than giving out your home address)

Additionally, remember to keep a look out on trees and posts for any ‘found cat’ posters that may be of your cat.

Top 5 Strategies to Find a Missing Cat - 4. Put up a missing cat poster

5. Ask at veterinary clinics in your area

You cat might be in a local vet's clinic, if they were found injured or involved in an accident, and were lucky enough to have a person who took them there. Don't hesitate to contact the vet clinics in your area to ask if your cat may be there. Make sure to take a copy of your ‘missing cat’ poster to leave at the clinic. Other pet guardians who come in may recognize your cat from the flyer and can then contact you if they find the cat. In addition, if the lost cat has a microchip, veterinary clinics can be particularly effective at helping you locate them.

Top 5 Strategies to Find a Missing Cat - 5. Ask at veterinary clinics in your area

Still haven't found your lost cat? - More advice

First of all, don't despair. Your cat may well return home by itself. One study showed that of all the lost cats recovered, over 60% were found because they returned home on their own[2]. Cats are independent minded, and especially if your cat is used to being outdoors, trust that it can probably find its way back home when it wants to. If you want to know more about cats that come back on their own, check out the video below on whether cats come back when they run way.

On the other hand, the techniques and strategies you have been using to look for your missing cat could still pay off, so don't lose hope and keep up the search. Be patient, and if necessary repeat the 5 steps described above to help recover your cat. Following these tips will help improve your chances of finding the lost cat. Remember: search close to home, use social media, put up posters, and visit local animal shelters and veterinary clinics. Don't worry about annoying people - the most important thing is to find your cat. Most people will be understanding and helpful.

Good luck, we hope you find your cat soon!

How to prevent losing your cat

While you may think the best way to prevent a cat going missing is to make sure it can never leave the house, locking your cat up indoors is not always a good idea. Cats are independent and curious by nature, and allowing your cat to go outside can be beneficial to both their physical and emotional health and well being. Of course, there are also risks involved and if you are worried about your cat escaping or getting hurt, here are some precautions you can take:

  • Positive environment: if your look after your cat properly and it is happy in your home, it is more likely to come back, even if it likes to go on the occasional adventure.
  • Sterilization: this can help prevent the cat from escaping to meet a mate (especially with female cats), or getting into fights with other cats outside. Keep in mind that you should always consult a vet about the advisability and methods of sterilization.
  • Collar: putting a collar on your cat - with an identification tag that has your number on it - will make it easier for you to find or recover your cat if it gets lost or goes missing,
  • Microchip: implanting a microchip on your cat is an even more effective way of being able to locate the cat if it goes missing. While a collar can fall off, a microchip is placed under the skin, and useful in identifying cats that are brought into animals shelters or vet clinics.

For more information on how to prevent losing your cat, consult this article on why cats run away and how to prevent it.

If you want to read similar articles to Top 5 Strategies to Find a Missing Cat, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  1. Huang, L., et al. (2018). Search methods used to locate missing cats and locations where missing cats are found. Animals, 8(1).
  2. Lord, L. K., et al. (2007). Search and identification methods that owners use to find a lost cat. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 230(2), 217-220.

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