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.
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