Help! My Cat Is Lost!

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Think your cat might be lost? First of all, don’t panic. Stop and think, when was the last time you saw Kitty? That will give you an idea of how long she’s been missing. Think about your own movements since then—did you leave the house, open windows, have company or do anything differently than usual?

If Kitty is food motivated, think about what her trigger is. She may come running at the sound of the can opener or the rattle of a foil treat bag. Canned tuna, warmed, will get a cat’s attention too. If those things fail, start a search. Go room to room and close the door as you search. You don’t want Kitty to walk out behind you as you look under the bed. If you’re sure you’ve searched thoroughly, close the door when you come out too. That way Kitty can’t go into a room you’ve searched while you’re in the next one.

In bedrooms, check the underside of the mattress. Torn fabric may give away Kitty’s hideaway. The same goes for recliners, chairs and other furniture she could get under and into. Check the closets—cats like dark spaces. Don’t miss the shelves—high places are favorites too. Mimi3908, a TCS forum member, says if a cat’s head can fit in a space, his whole body will.

Cats are the silent type when hiding so if Kitty is in seclusion, how would you know if she’s coming out while you’re asleep? Ritz, another TCS member, suggests sprinkling baby powder around any crawl spaces or openings where Kitty could have gone. Telltale paw prints will give away her hiding place.

Check dresser drawers too, especially if they are the kind that roll shut on their own. One cat lover nearly fainted when opening the underwear drawer (second from the top) and an angry furball hurled herself out. Getting in was easier than getting out.

Just in case, put a small dish of food and water in each room. You’ll be able to tell if she’s come out to eat.

When your cat is lost outside your home

If Kitty is outside and not responding to your calls, some of the same things will work. Try the can opener, the treat bag and warmed tuna. Kitty may be in a panic and too stressed to move. Does Kitty like to hide under things or climb high inside the house? That’s a clue to where to look outside. Kitty may be under a bush, behind the firewood or on a tree limb.

Place some of Kitty's special things outside near the back door. Items such as her bed, a worn sweaty or slept-in t-shirt with your scent, and even the indoor litter box. The scent may be very comforting to Kitty and may draw her out of hiding. Consider sprinkling trails of used cat litter leading to your house from various directions. If there is snow on the ground even cats with outdoor access get confused as the usual smells are covered, so something that smells of home could guide them back again.

Recruit neighborhood kids to help. A scout troop might be able to earn a badge for pitching in to find Kitty. Stress how important it is to look everywhere, to stay safe and to not scare Kitty when she’s found. Most cats don’t go far when they first venture out so your yard and the neighbors’ yards would be the place to concentrate the search.

If there are no results, ask the kids to go door to door. Someone may have seen Kitty and realizing she’s got a home, taken her into their house or to the vet to be scanned for a microchip. Make sure to repeat visits to houses where no one was home the first time.

Signs, particularly with Kitty’s photo on them, are effective. Everyone likes to help and the neighbors will watch for her. Put your cell phone number on the sign so you can respond instantly to any sightings. Don't leave it all to the neighbors though. Go out there and set an example by actively and visibly searching for your cat.

Notify vets and groomers in the area. Non-cat people may take Kitty there to see if anyone recognizes her. If you have pet insurance, many offer lost pet help in the form of Lost Cat templates for posters, email notification of vets within a five or ten-mile radius (some people stop at a vet’s office near their work, not home) and more.

If the city has a pound, check there, in person. Animals are usually only held for a few days so time is of the essence. The Humane Society or APA, rescue groups and pet supply stores are also good places to leave information about Kitty’s absence. Photos help as what you notice most about Kitty may not be the same as what someone else would see.

Make sure Kitty is microchipped, just in case. If she’s a chronic escapee, nanny cams placed near doors or windows can chronicle just when she left and how so you can block any escape hatches for the next time.

Most of all, don’t panic. Everyone has had the experience of calling and calling Kitty with no answer only to find Kitty sitting quietly nearby.

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

12 comments on “Help! My Cat Is Lost!

Romeo March 30, 2022
In my opinion, when you lose your cat, the best action is to post advertisements and informing. In particular, advertisements on websites for lost and found animals, as well as pet shops and veterinarians in the area where you live. A few months ago, my cat jumped off the balcony and got lost. I stickd the posters of it on the streets and in front of the neighborhood veterinarians and posted an ad... I also assigned reward for the finder. A week later, the person who found the cat called me and returned the cat.
MaryamG April 7, 2020
Hi My cat is missing for 6 days now 😿 we have called the vets and local animal shelters. We have posted his pictures on local WhatsApp and Facebook pages. We live in traffic area .. we call his name a lot.. no answer. He is not nurtured.. ant advice would be greatly appreciated
    Furballsmom November 26, 2020
    As an update, I am so glad your furbaby came home, and by joining the site and posting about it, that we were able to help you :)
    softcushion March 13, 2021
    I'm in the same situation at the moment! My male cat, two years of age, has been missing for 2 weeks now. He has done this before but that was about a year ago and a 1 week. He came back injured. We have recently moved into a new house in a relatively new area. (4 weeks ago roughly) my family has two male cats (brothers) and the first one actually went missing for around 1 week before coming home. As soon as he came back the current one who is missing left. I'm going to keep putting some litter, food etc to try and lead him home. If another few days passes I'm going to start asking my parents to contact neighbours etc. and call up some cat organisations. Description: Tabby cat, short haired Quite slim White paws and torso Grey with dark grey stripes Greenish eyes that can vary In Australia, Melbourne Donvale and Doncaster are possible areas where he might be. We currently live in Doncaster but used to live in donvale close by.
solomonar September 9, 2019
I regularly lost contact with my (indoor only) cat. Mysterious places to hide. I noticed the different perspectives: my eyes are 1.6 meters above his eyes. I also used to walk my cat. He proved excellent skills to enter places that I did not see at a first sight. Humans do not actually see all objects in the surrounding, but the brain mostly reconstruct shapes and places following a learnt algorithm from the experience and collect only a limited information (this is what I learnt, perhaps they are better theories around, but I do not know them). This makes searching something in known places a very difficult exercise. On other words, we see what we program ourselves to see. This applies to all objects, not only to cats. To cope with, I search by mapping the environment in layers and asking myself what I see and attempting to identify new the objects or their current locations, comparing to what I remember. Although it looks complicate, this strategy is really simple and for me works 90% of the cases. Not to mention it fights Alzheimer (so far ... :-) )
MrHandsomesMama March 9, 2018
For most of my 27 years my family has had indoor/outdoor cats. As such we have lost almost every one of them at some point in their lives. After my cat, Figaro, who I watched being born and was mama to for 6 years disappeared and was never found my mom and I changed our policy. We tried absolutely everything in this article and even in the comments. I even called or online searched all shelters and the like, and had my mom check any that had a cat matching her description. As I said we never found her, but because of sending my mom to the shelter we ended up with a look-alike kitty who was scheduled to be euthanized that day. So my mom brought her home and ever since we habe never let out cats outside!
Margret July 21, 2016
I had a cat back out of her harness at a rest stop in a desert area when we were on a long car trip.  She found some brush to hide under all day, didn't respond to calling, my husband thought she was gone for good.  But I insisted on staying until night and, sure enough, as soon as it got dark out and she thought she was invisible, she came out.  I found her by the tinkling of the bell on her collar.
ellesbells September 7, 2015
I may be crazy...but out worked for me. My baby was gone 4 months. I had almost given up. I knew he had to have some source of water. I scoured the neighborhood looking for small creeks. Hoping three neighbors would just think i was only nuts...i went to both creeks in as much clothes i could wear to sweat myself up to a good stink and soaked clothing. Call me gross ...but it worked. I tried to get as far down to cat level as possible and markrd trees mailbox posts all the way back to my house. (At night. Didnt want the neighbors watching...ev3ry mailbox stand touched every one with stinky sweat.) then every 3 feet when i got to my own drive way. And a straight trail to the front door. He was home in less than 36 hours. Dlvet said he mght have gotten disoriented either beeing off meds...or had to run from predator and lost his way. He also laughed at my..uhm..creativity...and then said it was smart. It worked for me and cosby. With a lot of sweat and determination you might get lucky too. Though I hope you never have to. Hope it helps someone.
reflex62 February 15, 2015
You might want to wait until it gets a little quieter in the area which usually means towards the evenigns. This happened to me once. My cat wanted me to find her but she was too scared to come out  because of the traffic and unfamiliar noises/territory. So when it is quieter, go outside and call her/his name. They will come to you. Don't give up.
catzsnot January 18, 2015
In my experiences I have found that when in panic mode, the cat is not too far away from the house.  Just hiding somewhere close by.  I have had great luck with 'conversing' with my cats so they are very vocal.  When I have had to search for them, I can always call them and listen carefully for them to call back.  It helps to locate them.  Of course all situations are different.  I have worn a bell on my necklace and the cats had one on the collar.  Can always locate them that way and when I ring my bell they come running.  Should always microchip but as far as collars go, the ONLY ones to use are Beastie Bands.  In the event your cat gets lost you want all the identification help you can get.  Have never lost a collar on the cats.
jtbo January 12, 2015
I forgot to mention scent trails, wet food and water mixed, drip it across from far end of yard to near door, cats can tell how long ago it was made and which direction scent trail was made, if refreshing precisely after certain time cat learn very quickly when is time to be 'found out' to get food. Wet food is there just to give water scent, water then makes scent into grass, sand, snow, anything it touches.
jtbo January 12, 2015
If cat can't find way back or is spooked by anything outside (can be just a gust of wind if indoor kitty) it is likely that cat goes into panic mode which is to ensure survival of the cat. Issue with panic mode is that even known toys, people, sounds and smells are kind of forgotten, cat just runs to first hiding place it can find, if cat can't detect any noises or movement it can then move to better hideout. If cat in such state is searched it will move to new hideout from backside of searchers, using all the cover available. Bushes are great places for them to hide in, they can see and remain unseen, also often those allow to swap hiding spot, making finding them impossible. Good thing is that such panic mode lasts only 20-30 minutes from last scary thing, best tactic I have found has been stay out of sight, and go to yard at 40 minutes intervals, making same motions and sounds as when at indoors playing and having petting session. My cats eat canned food and I have associated them with tapping can meaning dinner time, works incredible well. Of course mine are feral origin, I have never had a kitty that would of been socialized at early age, so maybe those allow even approaching, but mine are such that when they want to be hiding it is quite pointless to approach them, because they spot me far before I spot them and change places. Based on cameras I have found that even at summer they really never were more than 4 hours out from yard, but I could not see them until after 48 hours sometimes. So for me let kitty find me works best

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