It isn’t uncommon for cats, especially outdoor ones, to wander off occasionally for a day or two and then return home, totally unaware of the stress and worry they’ve caused. But what happens if yours go missing for an extended period? In this article, we are looking at what you need to do if your cat is lost. Our step-by-step action plans will help you stay calm and collected while you look for your missing moggy.
Finding A Missing Outdoor Cat
Because outdoor cats are known to wander, you will need to extend your search and call in the help of rescue centres and local vets. Here’s what else you need in the event your moggy goes missing.
1. Be prepared
You know the saying “shoulda woulda coulda”? Well, it definitely applies here. Rather than wishing you should-have-would-have-could have done everything to find your cat safely after it’s gone missing, it’s better to do everything necessary before it happens.
As a responsible pet owner, you need to make sure:
- Your cat is microchipped and is wearing a quick-release collar whenever it is outside. The tag should include your current contact details, and the information on the microchip database should be up to date.
- You have recent photos of your moggy. These should include full face and body and any discerning features that will help people identify it.
- You have a step-by-step plan in place that you can follow should your cat go missing. For many people, their first reaction when they find out their furry family member is lost is sheer panic. A plan will help you stay calm and save you a lot of time.
- Print this action plan out and keep it somewhere safe just in case you need it.
2. Don’t panic
We know it’s much easier said than done when you’re worried about your cat’s well-being, but the first thing you need to do is not panic. Outdoor cats are notorious for going missing, often returning home a day or two later. If this is something your kitty does, give it time to come home before you raise the alarm.
3. Search locally
In a pet owner’s panic, it’s completely normal to overlook the obvious. If your cat is missing, we suggest doing a thorough search in and around your garden and home. While it might seem strange, it’s a good idea to think like a cat during your search. Where is your cat’s favourite hiding spot? Is there a secluded area it likes to hang out?
Search everywhere inside your house and in the garden including all the bedrooms, cellars, basements and lofts. Check washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers, in dustbins, sheds and garages. Look in outdoor sheds, barns, garages, greenhouses and around cars.
4. Ask neighbours to check
Still keeping your search local, speak to your neighbours. This includes all the homes along your street, as well as neighbouring roads and houses that back onto yours. Ask your neighbours to look in their outdoor buildings, gardens and even inside their homes.
Remember to take a recent photo of your cat with you, and leave your contact details. It might be a good idea to mention certain habits or quirks your cat has that will make finding it a whole lot easier.
5. Call around
If your cat hasn’t returned and you have been unable to locate it after it has been missing for more than 24 hours, it’s time to start making phone calls.
For microchipped pets, your first point of contact should be Petlog. They are the UK’s largest database for microchipped pets, open 24/7, 365 years a day and will flag your pet as missing. Local rescue organisations and vets also use this website when lost animals are brought in.
6. Create “Missing Cat” posters and flyers
Never underestimate the power of a poster or flyer. There are various websites where you can design a “missing pet” poster for free, so be sure to check them out.
When designing your poster, remember to include:
- A recent photo of your cat.
- A description that will help people identify it as your pet.
- The day, date, time and location your cat went missing.
- Your contact details.
TIP: If you are offering a reward, it’s a good idea to leave some information out when describing your pet. Should someone contact you about your cat, you can check that detail with them. This will weed out any people taking chances!
Put the posters up near high-traffic areas including schools, recreational centres, shops, post offices and parks. Your local vet will also be more than happy to put a missing pet poster up in their practice.
Ask neighbours you know if they wouldn’t mind sticking the posters on their gates and doors and in their windows. Remember to do the same at your house.
Distribute the flyers to as many homes as possible in your area. You can also place them on people’s cars, after you have their permission, of course.
Important: Please don’t look for your cat on your own late at night, distributing flyers or putting up posters. Ask friends and family members to accompany you!
7. Use social media
When your pet goes missing, different social media platforms can be used to reach a wider audience. Post your missing cat poster on your local community page and ask friends to share far and wide. Cross counties if necessary. If you have Twitter, you can also share your lost cat poster or flyer there.
8. Encourage your cat home
Use your cat’s excellent sense of smell to find its way home. Leave items with familiar scents around the garden or in the outdoor cat shelter. Items of unwashed clothing, cat bedding and toys and even used litter from the litter tray can be used to encourage your cat to come home.
9. Call rescue centres
If, after 10 days, your cat is still lost, you should get in touch with local shelters and community organisations that take care of feral cat colonies. There is a very good chance your cat will latch onto a colony for companionship and food if it can’t find its way back.
How To Find Your Indoor Cat That Is Missing
As stressful as it is when your outdoor moggy goes AWOL, losing indoor kitty ups the ante. This is because cats that spend all of their time inside aren’t as street-smart. Not used to the great outdoors, they will be overwhelmed by the different smells and sounds, including traffic, children and dogs.
When looking for your lost indoor kitty, your modus operandi will be slightly different than when you’re trying to find a lost outdoor cat.
1. Spread the word
Let your neighbours know as soon as possible. Take a photo of your cat and give them the date and time it went missing. If your cat responds to its name or any nicknames, you should inform people of this too.
Use Facebook to spread the word. Post a clear photograph and last known whereabouts of your pet on your page, as well as your community page and ask people to share it.
Also, check to see if your local area has a “missing pets” page — the more people who know about your cat, the better the chances of finding it.
2. Use familiar scents
Unlike outdoor cats that can travel a fair distance, an indoor cat will be more likely to stay closeby. Think about making a trail using clothing items, pillows, cushions and blankets around your garden and close to thick bushes. If your cat is hiding out in the garden, it will hopefully pick up the scent and find its way home.
Another good idea to bring a cat home is to place its litter box at the door. Indoor cats are incredibly picky about where they do their business, so the familiar smell of a litter tray should entice your runaway back to the safety of its house.
3. Timing is important
There is a very good chance that an indoor cat will be nervous in such unfamiliar surroundings. It may have also been spooked and bolted up a tree. Your lost kitty will probably be hiding during the day and won’t respond to your calls.
We suggest doing a thorough search at night when it’s quieter, and your cat is more likely to hear your calls. There is also a better chance you’ll hear its meowing if it is stuck up in a tree, or in your or a neighbour’s garage or shed.
4. Check with your local vets and shelters
Check with any local vets and shelters. Even if your cat was wearing a collar when it left it home, it could have come off. Rescue centres and vets can scan for a microchip, and if your contact information isn’t up to date, they may not be able to get in touch with you.
Rather than just calling shelters, it’s best to pop in so you can look through the kennels yourself. With the high number of lost pets, it’s not always easy for the staff to have current information about the newest arrivals.
5. Don’t give up
Whatever you do, don’t give up. With persistence and patience, your kitty is bound to turn up. Keep looking, posting and checking for updates on Facebook, speaking to your neighbours, vet and the local shelter.
We really do hope you found this particular article helpful. Remember to print it out and keep it handy, so you have an action plan should your cat ever go missing.
As always, we love hearing from you. We want to know if your cat’s ever been MIA. How long was it away? And what did you do to find your furry friend? Let us know in the comments below.