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How To Find A Lost Cat: A Step-by-Step Missing Cat Guide

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: February 9, 2024 - Author: Rebekah Carter
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: February 9, 2024  
Author:  Rebekah Carter

Figuring out how to find a lost pet can be easier said than done. Cats are naturally good at hiding, running, and getting into tight spots, so they can go missing more often than you’d expect. 

In fact, some experts say around 15% of pet parents lose their kitty within 5 years of bringing them home.


Whether your outdoor cat hasn’t come home for a few days, or your indoor kitty managed a quick escape from an open window, you’re likely to be filled with anxiety and panic.

The most important thing you can do to ensure you get your feline friend home as soon as possible is to stay calm and come up with a plan.

Ideally, you’ll want to establish your plan before your cat goes missing, so you know how to jump into action when something goes wrong.

Fortunately, we’ve got some top tips to get you on the right track.

How To Find a Lost Indoor Cat

This might sound like a pretty obvious tip, but it’s easily overlooked when you’re struggling to find your feline friend. 

After checking your cat’s usual haunts, you might be tempted to immediately sound the alarm and start printing “missing” posters and flyers. 

However, your pet may be closer to home than you’d think. Remember, cats like small, cozy spaces, so they may be hiding in places you wouldn’t typically expect, such as in cupboards or household appliances. 

Check the drum of your washing machine or dryer. If you have small nooks and crannies around your home, give them a closer look. Kitties can move almost like liquid at times, so don’t rule out a space because you think it’s too small for your cat. 

If you’re absolutely sure your furry pal isn’t present inside of your home, it’s time to start searching through the surrounding areas. 

According to one study conducted in 2017 into missing cats, the average feline was found around 50 metres away from home for outdoor cats, and 39 meters for indoor cats. 

Go outside and check your garden, sheds, garages, and even the neighbors’ yards if possible. It’s also worth talking to your neighbors to find out whether they’ve spotted your cat wandering around. 

One good tip could also be to check the houses you used to live in with your cat. If your cat escapes and gets confused, it may go back to the home it knew before.

How To Find a Lost Cat Outside

If you’re absolutely positive your cat isn’t around the house or in your garden, the next step is to consider your options. 

If you already have your kitty microchipped, the first thing you need to do is check your chip details to determine whether anyone has already found and scanned your missing cat. 

Unfortunately, a microchip won’t allow you to instantly find your feline friend, as you’ll need to wait until someone is able to scan the data. 

This is one of the reasons why many people opt for collars with GPS tracking capabilities as an alternative. 

Checking your microchip contact information early on is a good idea, however, as it means you can ensure your contact details are all up to date for when someone does find your pet. 

After you’ve dealt with your microchip, here are some of the following steps you can take to track down your loved one.


Step 1: Make some calls

First, you’ll want to get in touch with as many people as possible, who might be able to help you find your cat.

Contact your neighbors, family members, and friends who may be able to assist with the search. 

It’s also worth getting in touch with local veterinary hospitals, local vets, animal control agencies, and local shelters

Often, when someone finds a cat roaming the streets, their first instinct is to take it to a professional institution.

Step 2: Use social media

Thanks to the internet revolution, we’re no longer reliant exclusively on calls and texts to sound the alarm when something bad happens. You can also jump onto social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. 

Check out neighborhood groups on Facebook to see if someone has reported seeing your cat in their garden. 

You can also publish pictures online to help people identify your cat, and the process is much faster than waiting for an ad to be printed in a newspaper. 

Outside of Facebook, you can also try local Reddit groups, or the Nextdoor app, which links you to your local neighborhood to share posts and notices. 

Make sure you provide everyone you contact with clear information, relevant photos, and any critical details. For instance, you may want to inform people that your cat is often nervous around strangers.

Step 3: Hit the streets

While technology and social media can make it a lot easier to find a missing pet, sometimes the best strategies are still the old-fashioned ones. Getting out and roaming the streets yourself in search of your pet can be a great way to find them. 

The great thing about this strategy is you can actively get involved in calling your cat’s name.

Research suggests cats are able to identify their cat name, as well as the voices of their owners, so they may be more likely to come to you than a stranger.

While you’re out and about, make sure you bring some posters with you, so you can hang them on lampposts and walls, anywhere you think your cat might go. 

You can consider offering a reward for your pet’s safe return, to encourage people to get looking.

Step 4: Set up a (Safe) trap

If you’ve spent hours on the streets with no luck, return home and make it easier to “capture” your cat when they eventually find their way back. 

You can buy or rent humane traps to place around your home, which allows you to set out food and water as bait for your feline friend. You can also consider placing some of your cat’s favorite things outside so they can recognize the scent. 

A cat litter box, a cat toy, and even their kitty bed can help here. 

Most local animal shelters and many rescue groups will have a trap you can borrow. 

To boost your chances of getting the right results, it’s also worth thinking about installing a camera so you can track what happens outside of your house, and around your traps. You might notice your cat avoids coming into the trap but hangs out in your garden for a few hours each day. 

Once you know this, you’ll be able to determine when you’re most likely to encounter your furry friend.

Step 5: Hire an Expert

Pet detectives weren’t just made up for movies. There are actually experts out there who specialize in finding missing pets.

While you might need to pay a little extra for a pet detective, it can help to know someone else is involved in bringing your kitty home safe and sound. 

Make sure you provide your expert with as much information about your cat as possible. Tell them about its personality, and where it likes to go. 

While your expert is working, make sure you continue to do your part by contacting shelters and other locations.


What to Do When You Find Your Cat

The first thing you’re likely to do when you find your missing cat is smother them with affection.

However, it’s worth being cautious about how you approach a cat depending on how long it’s been missing. 

Once you get your kitty back in your home, check them over for signs of pain or discomfort. They might be dirty, or a little beaten up if they got into an altercation with another animal. 

In general, even if your kitty looks the same as always, most vets will recommend taking them in for a quick physical exam. 

Together with your veterinarian, you’ll be able to check your cat for any potential problems, including wounds, signs of dehydration, cuts, bites, ticks, and fleas

If something does appear to be a little off, your vet might recommend getting some bloodwork done to check for more significant problems. 

After you’re sure your cat is in good condition, give them time to readjust to their household routine, and don’t be concerned if they seem a little isolated or withdrawn, they may be confused. 

Ensure you don’t smother your furry friend too quickly, as this could be overwhelming. You’ll also need to update anyone you’ve asked to join you in your hunt for your kitty, to let them know they’re safely back home.

You can update your social media posts and call your friends.

How to Stop Your Cat from Getting Lost

No matter how cautious you are about ensuring your cat doesn’t stray too far from home, there’s always a chance they could go missing. 

Notably, it’s not just outdoor cats who end up lost. While it’s more common for cats that roam freely around the neighborhood to disappear for a while, indoor cats can escape at times too. 

To reduce your risk of problems in the future, you could consider making your cat an indoor feline, and keeping close track of all the windows and doors exiting your home. It’s also a good idea to get a microchip for your pet if you don’t have one already. 

A microchip is a pain-free and inexpensive way to ensure people know who to contact if they find and scan your kitty. 

At the same time, make sure you’re aware of the kind of things that might prompt your cat to run away.

For instance, group celebrations and parties can lead to a greater risk of a door being left open. 

Fireworks and thunderstorms can confuse an outdoor cat and send them further afield. Your cat might even avoid coming home if they’re feeling unwell. 

If you’re particularly concerned about your pet going missing, you could also consider looking into the GPS tracking tools available on the market today. Beacons and collars are available specifically to help you track your pets if they wander out of your home. 

These often come with apps you can use to get updates on your animal’s whereabouts.


How to Find a Lost Cat: FAQ

Why do cats run away?

It’s easy to see your cat running away as a sign they don’t like living with you. However, the reality is that kitties can run away for a range of reasons. Unneutered cats can run off in search of a partner, while all cats can end up being distracted by the desire to hunt and explore.

How long does it take to find a lost cat?

This is a difficult question to answer because there’s no specific rule of thumb when it comes to how long a cat might go missing.

Most cats will attempt to get back home pretty quickly if they end up lost because they’ll be keen to rediscover the comfort and food they have at home. 

If your cat is missing for more than 12 hours, this is usually a sign it’s time to act.

What are my chances of finding a lost cat?

The odds of finding a lost cat after they go missing can vary.

According to one study from 2018, around 61% of lost cats were found within a year of going missing, and 34% were discovered within about 7 days. 

The longer your cat is missing, the less likely it is you’ll find them, so it’s important to act as quickly as possible.

How To Find A Lost Cat: Summary

Losing your cat is one of the most worrisome and stressful experiences you can have as a pet owner.

However, just because your cat is missing doesn’t mean you have to lose hope. If you have a plan in place and you’re ready to act quickly, you should be able to bring your furry friend back home. 

With a little luck, you’ll never have to encounter this issue yourself, but if the worst does happen, stay calm, and use the tips above to start tracking down your missing friend.

About the author

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated animal lover. Her Savannah cat, Roscoe, has a lot of attitude, while her Maine Coon, Dukino, is full of love. When not writing, she’s looking after her cats and researching ways to help them live their best possible life. Her passion for animals and natural skill for writing led her to pursue pet blogging.