How to find a lost cat
Cats go missing for any of a number of reasons. It usually involves one of
the following scenarios:
An outdoor cat has been frightened, chased, injured, or “adopted” by someone who
thought the cat was homeless.
We’ll address all these scenarios, but the key is to keep your cats from
getting lost in the first place. These days, pet experts recommend that cats stay indoors. See indoor cats:
If you’re getting a new cat, read my article on how to introduce your new
cat to your home: new cat.
If you’re moving, read my article on how to move with your cat: moving.
And indoor cat who has never seen the surroundings of your house will
quickly become disoriented if she does get out. For this reason, I recommend teaching your cat how to play outdoors under supervision. Then
she will know how to find the door and ask to be let back in. Please see my article indoor cats:
Cats often spook and flee when something unusual is happening at home. Some
cats are more timid than others, so know and respect your cat’s unique personality. A party, visitors, repairmen, a new pet being introduced
to the household, etc., often creates the “perfect storm” of motivation and opportunity—someone leaves the door open, and a frightened cat
will seize the chance to escape the commotion. To prevent this from happening, provide your cat with a place to hide during the situation. A
bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, or even a large closet will do, as long as she has food, water, litterbox, and a comfy place to chill
If you must take the cat with you when you travel, understand that she’ll
be stressed and try to figure out how to get home. No matter how much you love your cat, and no matter how much your cat loves you, a cat does
not behave like a dog. A dog might panic and flee, but a dog’s top priority is to find you. When a cat panics and flees, her top priority is
to find home.
Put her in a carrier for the car ride as well as for transport from car to
indoors and vice-versa. Consider getting your cat microchipped. Yes, it does cost money, but especially if you have
only one or two pets, it’s reasonable—and well worth it. Also get her a collar and tag. Most pet stores now have a tag imprinting machine on
site, so you don’t even need much lead time. Be sure to put your cell phone number on it!
Now, supposing your cat does go missing:
If it’s an indoor cat who’s escaped through, say, a torn screen, consider
leaving the screen open in case she wants to return via the same route. Now, do not do this if you have another cat who may also
Cats can hide in surprisingly small spaces. Look in places closest to the
house first: bushes, trees, drainpipes, crawl spaces, the roof, in the undercarriage of your car, etc. Call your kitty. If she is nearby, she
will probably answer. If she is trapped or injured, she may be unable to come but can still hear you calling. Call Kitty, then be quiet and
Remember to look up! Cats often climb trees when frightened, and, contrary
to popular belief, they often do get stuck and cannot get down. Read my article on how to get cats out of trees: cat stuck in tree.
If she left because of some change at home (visitors or a new pet), she may
be watching from nearby to see when it’s safe to return. If possible, get rid of whatever might be causing the problem—at least temporarily,
to see if your cat returns. Then make some adjustments to make her more comfortable with the new situation.
Put up “lost cat” signs. It’s mind-boggling how quickly and easily people
give up on finding a lost pet. Often a “lost” cat will be found a few doors away, because some kind person thought the cat was a stray. Put
your pet’s picture on the posters, and make the print big so people driving by can quickly recognize your cat if they’ve seen her.
Offer a reward. You don’t need to specify an amount; the word “reward” will
draw attention. (But do be prepared to offer the finder a reward, although he or she may refuse it.)
Call the local radio station if they have a “pet patrol” feature, where
they’ll report lost and found pets at no cost. If someone has your pet and is trying to find you, they’ll likely be listening. Do it more than
Same for the newspaper: most newspapers will run lost and found pet ads at
no cost. Look in “found” first; if your cat isn’t there, place a “lost” ad.
Visit the shelters. They may check for you if you call, but it’s a better
bet to look for yourself. Leave a picture of your cat there, so if he’s brought in, they’ll pick him out right away. Also check the “DOA” list
if your shelter has one—a log of animals that were brought in already dead. If your cat is there, at least you’ll know what happened. And
don’t just check the nearest shelter—your cat may have accidentally hitched a ride in someone’s vehicle and then jumped out some distance from
home. It happens! This is where microchipping can make all the difference.
Spread the word around your neighborhood that your cat is lost. If someone
is taking care of your pet, the sooner you get him back the better—if the person becomes attached to your cat, you may have a harder time
claiming him, and your cat may have decided he’s happy there too.
As a last resort, you may need the help of one or both of the following
people: a pet detective and an animal communicator. These professionals are easy to find online. I will personally recommend Carl Washington,
Pet Detective. He charges $60 for a consultation (last I checked), and correspondingly more for additional services.
For more information about pet communicators, please read my article:
Pet folklore is full of amazing stories of cats who turned up months or
years later, cats who traveled great distances to find their people, cats who accidentally stowed away in vehicles, luggage, or furniture, to
be discovered safe and sound…. But far greater is the number of stories with sad endings or no endings at all. Losing a pet is heartbreaking
for both the person and the pet.
In summary, do these three things:
1. Don’t lose your cat in the first place.
2. If you do lose your cat, look soon, look thoroughly, and look tenaciously.
3. If you still can’t find your cat, get in touch with a pet detective or animal communicator.
You owe it to your cat.
©Lisa J. Lehr