How to Find a Lost Cat
If your cat becomes lost, act fast and don’t give up. How quickly and carefully you search, and how persistent and resourceful you are, can determine whether or not your cat will be found. The Pet Spotter App is a great place to start if you’ve lost a cat. The app allows you to post lost information directly from your phone to the petspotter.org website. You may also post lost information directly on the website. The post can be printed as a poster and all posts are emailed to shelters and vet hospitals in your area. In the event that your cat is lost, here are some more tips:
Your cat needs you
The important thing to remember is that your cat can’t tell you where he is—you are responsible for his safety and rescue. So please don’t give up after only a day or two. We recommend that you keep looking for as long as six months, if necessary. There are reports in the media of “miracle cats” who return after a year or more. Your cat could be a miracle cat.
Look closest to home
If you did not actually see your cat slip outside, be sure to thoroughly search your home. Cats have been known to hide in the most remote places, such as closets, empty boxes, and under furniture. If you live in an apartment, be sure to check the hallways, stairwells, basement, storage closets, laundry rooms, and any vacant apartments that may have had a door ajar. Also, check with neighbors as they may have either seen or taken in your cat. Most lost cats who have always lived indoors will not go far from home. Many are discovered hiding just a few doors away or even a few feet from the front door. Start by looking under nearby porches, in basements and garages, in bushes, and even under cars. Once outside, your cat will likely be wary or frightened of any human voice and may not recognize you or come immediately when you call. Don’t be discouraged if he doesn’t respond. Call to your cat as if you’ve just seen him, using an upbeat voice, the kind of voice that you normally use to greet him. Call your cat’s name often and listen for a reply.
Be a detective
As you search for your cat, ask everyone you meet if they’ve seen him. Children are particularly good sources of information as they are usually outdoors more often than adults. Ask people walking dogs, the mail carrier, owners of nearby businesses, and people coming to and from work. The more people you include in your search, the more likely you are to find your cat.
As soon as possible after losing a cat, post signs to alert the neighborhood. Put a good description and photo of your cat on your signs, and make sure to offer a reward. Color copies are generally preferable to properly distinguish your cat’s features. Include where and when the cat was lost and a telephone number and email address where you can be reached. If your cat has been microchipped, include the microchip identification number (also, alert the microchip company that your cat is lost). To be effective, you must blanket your area with these lost signs, beginning within a one or two block radius and gradually expanding the area. Ask friends to help you slide signs under the doors of neighbors’ houses and apartments, and to post them at local businesses and veterinary hospitals. Place the flyers in visible areas, even on the windshields of parked cars.
Offering a reward
Offer what you can afford. It’s not the amount as much as the idea that seems to motivate people. Children are especially likely to help when they hear about a reward. Rewards of $100 or more are not uncommon today, and, if you have been searching for a long time, offering an increased reward may help spark renewed interest and effort from neighbors and friends.
Set up a temporary outdoor feeding station
Leave fresh food and water outside on a porch or in a sheltered area close to your home. Set up a large, sturdy box lined with an old towel or other items that smell familiar to your cat. If your lost cat should return while you are asleep or away from home, food, and shelter may save his life.
When to look
The best time to look for a lost cat is when it’s dark and streets are quiet as the cat may be too fearful to come out during the day when there is more activity from people and traffic. Take a flashlight with you and search under parked cars, in yards, under bushes, and in alleys. It’s a good idea to take a friend along at night for safety and to bring some canned cat food or tuna or salmon to attract your cat.
Notify humane agencies
Call all the animal shelters and veterinary hospitals in your area, beginning with the municipal animal control agency. Be sure to provide a good description of the lost cat and ask them to post your sign or take down specific information on your cat, should he be brought there later. Consider delivering a photo of your cat or sending a picture via email—so many cats look alike, it's hard to provide a comprehensive description over the phone. Be sure to continually and frequently check with shelters as unclaimed animals often are at risk of being euthanized.
Place ads in newspapers and on websites
Be sure to post a lost ad in the Lost and Found classified section of all local newspapers or on websites such as craigslist.com, petfinder.com, pets911.com, lost-pet.org, and lostpetsos.org. Beware of people answering your ad but asking for reward money before they return the cat—this almost always is a scam. You also should read the Found ads or entries in all the local papers or the aforementioned websites, just in case a caring person found your cat and is trying to find you.
Once your cat is home
Check your cat for possible bite wounds or cuts or scrapes which may require immediate veterinary attention. Initially, keep him separated from other pets in the household until you have determined that he is healthy and reacclimated to his environment. A visit to your veterinarian is necessary to check for infectious disease and parasites. Be sure to have your veterinarian insert a registered microchip if the cat does not already have one.