Finding a Lost Cat
to Main Index] updated August 27, 2001 ©
updated September 16, 2011, © copyright, 2001, 2011
Indoor only cats hide and don't answer when you call them.
Indoor/Outdoor and outdoor cats are trapped in a shed, garage, or crawlspace.
Frightened cats hide...
Frightened cats run until they find somewhere to hide. When you are
looking for a lost cat, be sure to take a flashlight, even if it's broad
daylight. A cat can hide in a very small space, so look carefully.
can squeeze your fist in, your cat can squeeze himself in.
Look close by first!
Most cats don't go far. While a cat that's used to being outdoors will
have a regular territory he patrols and could be anywhere inside that territory,
it's probably not more than a block or two. If he's not used to being out,
or doesn't know the area, he will likely be within 300 to 500 feet of where
he was lost, if he can find a place to hide.
Look inside garages and outbuildings.
Look in garages and sheds, and ask if you can look in your neighbor's garages and sheds.
Cats often go into sheds left open while someone is mowing, and are closed in till the grass
grows out again. They go exploring when a garage is open, and hide when the door is being closed
instead of trying to run out.
Be sure to look up! He may be up in the rafters.
Look inside as well.
Check closets, drawers and behind the washer, in
the dryer and behind the water heater. Cats can get into places they can't
get out of. Be sure to look in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
Look and listen, don't just call.
A frightened cat will seldom come to you, but he may answer if
you call him, so stop and listen carefully. But it doesn't mean he's not there
if he doesn't answer. He's not likely to make a lot of noise that would attract predators.
Look in any small hole, downspouts, under bushes and even in ground covers.
Look under porches, sheds and houses, anywhere there may be a way to
get underneath, even if you think the hole is too small for your cat to
get in. Cats will choose the first likely spot when they first stop running,
and find a better spot later. Cats often hide in dense shrubs, and will
even flatten out to hide under a ground cover. If your cat can't find a
safe place on the ground, he will climb. He may get up in a tree or on
a roof. If it's cold out, cats sometimes climb up into the engines of cars,
which is very dangerous.
Make the sounds that mean dinner's ready.
Take the food outside and prepare it just as you would if kitty were
there to eat. If he eats dry food, pour it into his bowl. If he eats canned,
open the can, and dish out the food. If you use an electric can opener,
use an extension cord and take the dinner show on the road. You may not
have been able to train your cat to come when you call his name, but he
knows what the clink of a spoon against his dish means. Don't leave the
food out for him. It may attract other animals which will frighten him.
But if the weather's dry, leave some water out for him in his own water bowl.
Sit quietly and read aloud at dusk and dawn.
Take a flashlight, sit down near a place where there is plenty of safe
cover for your cat, and read aloud. Your cat is likely to be up and about
at dusk and dawn, even if she doesn't know how to hunt. She's more likely
to come to you if you are sitting quietly and she can hear the sound of
your voice when you are speaking calmly, and there is no one else around.
Hand out fliers and ask people to look in their garages and
Fliers need only have a clear photo of your cat and a telephone number
that someone will answer or that is hooked to an answering machine.
Post fliers in the area.
Just posting fliers is not as effective as going door to door and talking to people, but posting fliers can keep people from assuming your cat was dumped and is up for grabs.
Go to all the local shelters and the government agencies
charged with picking up stray and lost animals and look for yourself, at
least every other day.
Calling the animal control department or shelter on the phone is not
very effective. Any animal may become dirty, matted, and neglected looking
very quickly, including a cat that normally keeps herself very very well
You will need to go to the shelters at least every other day. Few shelters
can keep animals for more than 72 hours. It usually takes more than a few
days for a cat to be picked up and brought to a shelter.
It's important to visit all the shelters within driving distance of where your
pet was lost. In many areas stray animals are picked up by a government
agency which holds them for a period and then turns them over to a shelter.
If someone took your pet in for a few days hoping you would knock on their
door and ask about it, they might later drop your pet off at the shelter
that's most convenient for them, rather the one that's closest.
and the local paper, and in the papers in surrounding
areas. Some people only look in the newspaper to locate an animal's owner.
Advertising in the paper can also be important to establish you were actively
looking for your pet in case someone were to claim it you meant to give
it up or didn't want it.
Be very careful about scammers who claim to have your pet and ask for money to
return it. Only meet people in public places, (at the police station is a good place,)
never go alone, and never give anybody any money until your have your cat in your hands.
Contact local rescue organizations. Give them copies of your
flier. Ask shelters and rescuers if they know of anyone caring for feral cats in the area, even if they don't work with them.
Give copies of your flier to people that walk their dogs in the area.
They're more likely to spot animals than most people. If you go to the
parks early, you may find people who regularly walk their dogs together
as an informal group.
Indoor/Outdoor and outdoor cats who were taken to a new place may try to return to their old home.
While indoor/outdoor cats may try to return to their old homes, they seldom get there.
So check the old house and alert the neighbors, but don't stop looking nearby, especially
places the cat may have been closed in. If the cat is trying to go home, it will take him a
couple weeks to go just a few blocks, so be sure to let anyone at your old home know that.
He won't look like his well-fed and cared for self either - his coat will have changed,
usually darker and thicker. Ask rescue groups to help you find people who manage feral cat colonies
between the new home and the old and give them copies of your flier with as much detail about your
cat as you can.
It's best to keep cats inside a new home for a week, then only let them outside under supervision
for another week. After a week, cats almost never try to "go home" but accept their new territory.