10 Ways to Find Your Lost Cat

What to Do When Your Cat Runs Away

Lost Kitty Poster
Charles Gullung/The Image Bank/Getty Images

If you're the owner of an indoor-outdoor cat, you may be faced with a situation in which your kitty is suddenly missing. Even indoor-only cats may slip out the door unexpectedly. However, the chances are that your cat did not run away. Cats are very territorial (even the neutered ones). In fact, they will defend their territory at all costs. If driven out by another alpha cat who is bigger and meaner, cats will often seek safety indoors before running away.

The sad truth is that it's more likely a cat has been unwillingly removed from the area, injured or killed.

In order to find your cat, consider the possible reasons for his absence. However, this is the time to set aside emotions and evaluate the possibilities, with an appropriate action for each. Below are several possible scenarios to get you started.

Human Intervention

There's a possibility that your cat may have been a victim of one of the following scenarios:

  • Picked up by Animal Control
  • Picked up by another cat lover who thinks your cat is "lost"
  • "Rescued" by someone who thinks your cat is "abandoned," "neglected," or "stray"
  • Abducted for gain by professional "cat nappers"
  • Abducted by others for sick purposes (dog-baiting, ritual sacrifice)
  • Trapped and "disposed of" by a cat-hating neighbor
  • Accidental "abduction" (Cat hides in vehicle; is driven out of area)

Injured or Killed

  • By auto accident
  • By a dog or another cat
  • By wild animals (coyote, skunk, or raccoon)

Plan Your Strategy

With these considerations in mind, you can plan your strategy for recovering your cat if he is still alive, or to bring closure if it is discovered he's not. Time is of the essence, and you may need to perform all of the following actions:

  1. Check Your Yard First
    Indoor cats who slip out will usually stay in their own yards, or hide under decks, foundations, and shrubbery.
  2. Use a Baby Monitor on Your Porch
    Leave a bowl of food on your porch with an electronic baby monitor. One reader recently recovered her missing cat after three days when she heard mewing coming from the baby monitor at 3 a.m.
  3. Create Flyers with a Photo of the Cat
    Offer a reward (more about this later), and distribute the flyers door-to-door in at least a three-block radius. In addition, post the flyer in store windows and on telephone poles.
  4. Alert your Animal Control Officer
    Give them a flyer and ask them to on the lookout for your cat, dead or alive.
  5. Call Local Veterinarians
    It is possible a guardian angel brought your cat in with injuries; ask the vets if you can post a flyer in their clinics.
  6. Visit your Local Animal Shelter
    Leave a flyer and ask if a cat meeting the description has been brought in, alive or dead.
  7. Advertise
    Most local newspapers and shopping guides will allow free "lost and found" ads. Also, check the newspaper listing for "found cats."
  8. Post to Local Lost/Found Internet Pages
    Some communities sponsor websites specifically designed for lost/missing pets.
  1. Check with Local Rescue Organizations
    Ask for permission to visit foster homes that may have recently taken in a cat meeting the description.
  2. Hire a Pet Detective
    Chose a pet detective trained to track lost animals through the use of technology.

The Importance of Identification

It is important to emphasize that with proper identification, your cat may be returned to you. If your cat wears a collar and tags, most people will return him to you if they think he is lost. With micro-chipping and/or ear tattooing, many veterinarians and animal shelters will be able to notify you, even if the collar/tags were removed. Professional thieves will avoid cats with ear tattoos; they know that laboratories will not accept owned cats, and more nefarious "end users" will probably also avoid them.

Use Caution in Offering Rewards

Sad stories have been told about cruel extortionists who extracted large cash rewards from grieving pet owners under the premise of having "found" their pets.

If you advertise with an award, be sure to leave out one or two pertinent identifying details of your cat (one black whisker, one white toe, etc.) Don't leave yourself open for false hopes, and by all means, don't wire reward money until you see your cat.

Become Involved and Involve Your Neighbors

Most important of all, take steps to prevent cats from becoming lost in the first place. There most likely are other outdoor cats in your neighborhood, especially if you live in the suburbs.

  • Contact their owners and tell them of your concerns.
  • Organize a "cat neighborhood watch."
  • Stress the importance of identification for their cats.
  • Be on the lookout for strangers in the neighborhood, and if you see someone picking up a cat, get the license number and description of the vehicle. Call the owner if you recognize the cat.
  • Become familiar with the laws in your community with regard to pets. Many cities have laws that say all found pets must be turned into the local shelter. Unfortunately, many people do not realize this or disregard the law.

Keep Your Cat Indoors

Although indoor cats occasionally slip out, they rarely go far, and can usually be lured back in easily before meeting harm. It goes without saying that an inside cat is a safer cat.

Hopefully these tips will help foster a successful recovery. Remember, it's every bit as frightening for our wayward cats as it is for us.