Lost Your Cat?

It’s a myth that most cats will find their way home.

The most significant findings of a recent study were that a thorough physical search is likely to increase the chances of finding cats alive and most cats are found within a 500 m (1/3 mile) radius of their point of escape. Cats that were indoor-outdoor and allowed outside unsupervised traveled longer distances compared with indoor cats that were never allowed outside.

From: https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/lost-found-and-feral-cats/lost-a-cat and from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5789300/

Five things to help find your lost cat

  1. Shake a box of their favorite biscuits to entice them home.
  2. If your cat has a favorite toy, try leaving it in your garden.
  3. Cats have a strong sense of smell – leave out a regular blanket or bedding to encourage your cat out of hiding.
  4. You might find your moggy is more active at night, especially during hotter weather. Go out with a friend or family member when it is dark to call for your cat by name.
  5. Leave a bowl of water out and some food. A tasty treat such as tuna might be enough to bring your cat home.

Is my cat lost?

Not all cats are house cats. Some are inclined to wander, especially if there is fuss or food to be found elsewhere. It is normal for your cat to pop in and out throughout the day – especially if they have a taste for adventure. If your cat hasn’t returned by the time dinner time comes around, however, you might be worried that your cat is missing. Try not to panic. Cats can disappear for days at a time and return with no trouble, looking perfectly healthy. While you might be worried, they’re likely to stroll in and wonder what all the fuss is about. If they haven’t yet returned, give them a few hours before you make a plan of action.

I’ve lost my cat. What can I do?

If your pet still hasn’t returned home, there are a few simple things you can do to help find your missing cat. The first thing to do is to check your own home and garden. Cats love small cosy spaces and might be hiding in the unlikeliest of places – from cupboards to garden sheds. Check every room in your house, including any outbuildings and sheds too. Behind curtains, under duvets and even in household appliances like tumble dryers and washing machines. If you’re having building work completed, check under floorboards or any holes big enough for a cat to nestle into.

If you’re sure your cat isn’t at home, the next thing to do is to speak to your neighbors as well as any delivery people nearby. They might have seen your lost cat somewhere and can let you know of their whereabouts. Ask them to check their own sheds and outbuildings, as well as under any parked cars in the neighborhood. Remember to check homes on both sides of the road, as well as homes that have gardens that back on to yours. You could even provide neighbours with an up to date photo and your cat’s name, reminding them to keep an eye out.

Advertising on social media is a great way to get the message out that your cat is missing, particularly if you’re a member of a local Facebook community group. Post a clear photo of your cat, their name and your contact details.

It is also useful to keep a list of useful phone numbers pinned to a board in your kitchen. You can download our list below, complete with handy contact details.

How do I get my cat to come home?

If putting out the word about your missing cat hasn’t worked, there are some great tips and tricks to try at home. Cats are heavily reliant on scent and leaving out items that may entice them back to you is well worth an attempt. Things to try include the following:

  • Leave your cat’s favorite toy or some of their unwashed bedding in the garden
  • Leave an unwashed item of your clothing, which will have your scent on it
  • Place any used litter from your cat’s litter tray outside, or perhaps the contents of your hoover for a smell of home
  • Call out for your cat in the garden early in the morning or late at night, when everywhere is likely to be quieter
  • Shake a box of their favorite biscuits or treats
  • Keep calling your cat, leaving enough time for them to hear you and be led home

Lost your cat? Follow our checklist

If you’re beginning the search for a missing cat, download our checklist to tick off each action as you do it.

  • Search first. Check small spaces in your home – everywhere from cosy cupboards to garden sheds, garages and outbuildings
  • Ask your neighbors. They’ll need to check their property, sheds and garages too.
  • Is your cat microchipped? Talk to Petlog on 01296 737 600 or Identibase on 01904 487 600 to register your cat as missing
  • Speak to your local Cats Protection branch or centre to see if they’ve had a cat handed in to them. To find one in your area, visit our Find Us page and enter your postcode
  • Get in touch with animal shelters in your area. Visit catchat.org to find those local to you
  • Contact all vet practices in the area
  • Make and put up flyers with your cat’s photo and description to place around the local area – or post them through your neighbour’s letterboxes
  • Post a description of your cat on your Facebook page, as well as any local community Facebook groups

Download the checklist

Microchipping your cat

Microchipping your cat is the most effective way to ensure that they can be identified if they go missing, and keeping your details up to date can increase the likelihood of a happy reunion. If your lost cat is found and taken to a vet or animal welfare organisation, you’ll be contacted quickly.

Moved house or changed a phone number? You’ll need to let your microchipping company know so that your details that are on file can be amended.Find out more about microchipping your catDownload: Microchipping guide

Understand how you can help outdoor cats

From the Humane Society of the United States

If you’ve encountered a cat outdoors, you’ve probably wondered whom the cat belonged to or if they even had an owner. Outdoor cats are sometimes owned cats whose owner lets them out. Often, however, they are community cats—ferals or strays. You can help these cats in different ways. 

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Stray cats

Stray cats may be friendly and approach you for food or attention or they may be too scared to let you get close. But they will usually eat immediately if you put food down for them. Use caution, since you don’t know how these cats will react.

There are many ways you can help these cats:

  • If the cat has identification, try to contact the owner.
  • If you can get the cat into a carrier, take them to a veterinarian or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip.
  • Contact animal shelters, veterinary offices and rescue groups to let them know about the cat you’ve found. Someone may have filed a lost cat report that is a match.
  • Ask neighbors and mail carriers if they’re familiar with the cat.
  • Post signs and place free ads in local newspapers.
  • Create a “found pet” profile at The Center for Lost Pets.

It’s helpful if you can provide shelter for the cat while you search for their owner. If no owner is found, you can try to find a good home for them or adopt the cat yourself. If you take the cat home with you, have them examined by a veterinarian before introducing them to your other cats.

Feral cats

The cat you’re helping may be feral if they approach you when extremely hungry, but will only eat the food you’ve provided once you’ve walked away. A cat is probably feral if they’re still unapproachable and cannot be touched after several days of feeding. Don’t try to handle a feral cat. Most feral cats can’t be adopted because they’re too afraid of people.

One sign that a cat is a spayed or neutered feral is a tipped or notched ear (if the tip or section of an ear has been surgically removed). A stray cat who is spayed or neutered may also have a tipped or notched ear.

Stop overpopulation with TNR

Food and water are important parts of caring for community cats. But some people who are new to looking after these cats often don’t realize that if they don’t find a way to have the cats spayed or neutered, the number of hungry cats may soon become unmanageable as more and more kittens are born. Doing Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) will keep this from happening to you and the cats. 

How to do TNR

If you’re already feeding community cats, you may soon find yourself overwhelmed by kittens, kittens and more kittens—unless you take quick action to get them spayed and neutered. Use our community cat resources to get these cats spayed and neutered while their numbers are still manageable.

Find community cat resources

Resolve conflicts with neighbors

Outdoor cats can often be the cause of complaints; from a cat who stalks birds at a neighbor’s bird feeder to a group of community cats (known as a colony) on a neighbor’s property. If you are helping people keep cats off their property or resolve nuisance complaints, we suggest the following resources:

Work with local groups

Get help

If you’re really lucky, there is an organization or agency in your area that can help you TNR the feral cats you’re feeding. They may also be able to help find homes for friendly strays and kittens. If this help isn’t available in your community, you may still be able to find veterinarians who are willing to provide low-cost services for community cats.

Provide help

Organizations and agencies that care for community cats need all the assistance they can get. Even if you’ve never seen a feral or stray cat, it’s likely that they are in your community. You can make a big difference by doing the following:

  • Spay or neuter your own cats before they can reproduce at four to five months of age.
  • Get involved with or help to support organizations or agencies that help community cats.
  • Become a community cat caretaker.
  • Volunteer to socialize feral kittens.
  • Volunteer to help at a spay/neuter event for community cats.
  • Fundraise or write grant applications for an organization or agency helping cats.
  • Educate your neighbors and community about outdoor cats.
  • Donate to our Community Cat Program Fund.

Start your own group

If there’s no local group helping community cats, you may decide to start one. Talk with others in your community and find some like-minded individuals to help share the workload.