Cats like to wander, so there is a good chance yours goes missing now and then. In our experience, it is not unusual for a cat to be MIA for 24 hours at a time. Some cats even disappear for two to three days at a time. But, no matter how often they do it, or how street-smart they are, it can still be a worrying time for you.
Of course, if you are new to owning a cat, the idea of your precious bundle being out of your sight for a few minutes can be distressing, let alone an entire day. Carry on reading to find about everything your feline, including:
- How long do cats go missing for?
- Why do they go missing?
- What can be done to find a lost cat?
- How to prevent cats from getting lost
How Long Do Cats Go Missing For?
It isn’t uncommon for cats to go missing for 24 hours, especially if they like spending a lot of time outdoors. In some cases, cats can even stay away from home for up to 10 days at a time. We also know of cats that leave home while their humans are away on holiday, returning soon after the family arrives back. And in some instances, cats that have been missing for years have eventually been reunited with their owners.
Why Do Cats Go Missing?
Understanding why they go missing could help you prevent it from happening to your cat. Let’s take a look at the three most common reasons cats go missing.
1. Unneutered cats can get lost while looking for a mate
One of the most common reasons unneutered male cats leave their home is to find a mate. Some cats might only have to wander around the neighbourhood before they pick up the scent of a female cat in heat, while others will travel for miles and miles.
Unfortunately, if the object of a cat’s desires is locked inside a house, the male will simply wait it out until an opportunity presents itself. This means your cat could be gone for a day or two, or even as long as a week. And it isn’t just male cats that go missing in pursuit of a mate. Unspayed females, although they won’t travel as far, will also go looking for a mate when they are in heat.
One of the most effective ways to stop this from happening is to have your cat neutered or spayed. Not only will this simple procedure stop your cat wandering off in search of love, but it will also help prevent unwanted litters.
2. Cats go missing when their environments change
Cats are sensitive to change in their environment and are known to go missing when a new baby or pet makes an unexpected appearance. To stop your kitty feeling unloved or neglected, it is a good idea to prepare it for upcoming changes where possible.
Make sure your cat is always well looked after with access to fresh water, tasty food and a clean litter box. And if you are unable to provide it with the attention it is used to, ensure there is plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Not even indoor cats are immune to going missing if they no longer feel like they are the cat’s whiskers.
3. Cats go missing when they are scared
While a cat’s lightning fast reflexes often get it out of dangerous situations, they can also get it into them. When your cat is suddenly startled, it will leap into the air and run away as fast as it can. Unfortunately in its attempt to get away from whatever startled it, your cat can become disoriented.
Older cats will usually find their way home, even after a day or two, but kittens or less streetwise cats could get lost. If you are worried about your cat going missing, you should consider getting a cat GPS tracker. These nifty little gadgets will give you peace of mind and keep track of your cat when he is outdoors.
What To Do When Your Cat Goes Missing
It is not unusual for cats to go missing for a few hours a day, especially if they enjoy being outside. But if you notice your cat is gone longer than normal, there are a few things you can do to ensure its safe return.
Do a thorough search
Before you panic, it is best to do a thorough search around your house, your garden and your cat’s favourite hiding spots. Be sure to check inside garages, sheds, as well as your neighbours’ properties. And don’t forget bins, gutters, under hedges, and compost bins. Cats are notorious for finding the best places to hide, so grab a torch (if it is dark), some tasty treats and start thinking like a cat.
Try and remember your cat’s past behaviour. Did it go missing round about the same time last year? The warmer weather during spring and summer often has cats wandering off for longer stretches at a time. Or it could be that your kitten is feeling confident to travel a little further than usual.
Let other people know
Once you have searched high, low, and anywhere in between and your cat is still missing, it is time to let other people and organisations know. Post a recent photograph on the different social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Take advantage of pages that have been set up specifically to help find missing cats, such as Cat Aware and Missing Pets GB. Remember to include a full description with their age, name and last known whereabouts, as well as any distinguishable features that will make it easier to identify your cat.
You can also further your search by creating a missing pet flyer and check with local shelters, your vet, and community forums. If your cat has been missing for a few days, it is worth asking boarding kennels in your area. There are also some great lost and found websites that have reunited lost cats with their owners.
Leave food and water outside your door
It is a good idea to leave some food, water, your cat’s favourite treats and even its toy outside overnight. A scared cat will often make its way back home after dark when there are fewer people and less traffic around. If you have a baby monitor, you could place this near the bowl of food to pick up meowing sounds.
Check old addresses
It is not uncommon for cats to go missing in search of their old home, so if you have recently moved, ask your previous neighbours to keep an eye out for your cat. And if you have rehomed or adopted a cat, check with those owners too. It isn’t uncommon for cats to travel many miles to their old address.
What You Can Do To Keep Your Cat From Getting Lost
There really is nothing more distressing than when your cat goes missing or is lost. And even if you think it will never happen to your kitty, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure yours doesn’t end up on a lost or found poster.
Microchip your cat
Although it is not a legal prerequisite in the UK to microchip your cat, we suggest you do it as soon as possible. June is National Microchip Month, so it is the perfect time to get it done. And remember if any of your contact details have changed, you need to update these with your microchip database.
Use a collar with a name tag
Because not everyone knows about microchips, a collar with your cat’s name and your contact details is essential. Not only does a collar help identify your pet, but it also stops people thinking it is a stray. Make sure your contact details are on the tag, as well as on the inside of the collar.
Make sure your cat is neutered or spayed
As we have mentioned before, unneutered cats will travel long distances if they pick up the scent of a female in heat. To prevent this from happening, you must have your cat neutered (or spayed) as soon as possible. Not only will this stop it roaming the streets, but it will also prevent unwanted litters.
Provide your cat with plenty of stimulation
Cats are intelligent creatures and need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Make sure you spend quality time with your kitty every day and set up activity areas in your home. Scratching posts, hammocks and lots of toys will stop your cat wandering off in search of excitement. Also, establish a set routine for mealtimes so that your cat doesn’t feel the need to hunt for dinner.
Don’t leave your cat out overnight
Even the most street smart cats need to feel secure when it gets dark. Make sure you bring your cat in if you are away for the day and at night. Knowing your cat is safely indoors will give you peace of mind, and keep your cat safe. This is especially important during heavy rainstorms or annual celebrations such as Guy Fawkes when your cat can become disoriented.
Let us know if you found this article helpful? Perhaps your cat has gone missing before, and there was a happy ending to the ‘tale’? We would love to hear about it, so feel free to share in the comments below.