How to Find a Lost Cat

Itís a lot harder to find a lost cat than a lost dog. Some of the reasons include attitudes about cats, and catsí characteristics themselves. Reasons include:
  • Local law enforcement may not feel cats are important.
  • There may be no ordinances regulating cats in your community.
  • Some of your neighbors might be cat-haters and wouldnít think to call if they saw yours.
  • Most people think nothing of seeing cats roaming around, so would not be alerted if one of them was yours.
  • Cats donít bark, and may not make any sound at all, if disturbed.
  • Cats are less inclined to come when called.
  • Most cats are more wary than most dogs, and will keep their distance if a human comes near Ė even you.

So, while there are many things you can do to locate a lost kitty, some things are stacked against you because of the above. Still, here are some things to try:

Phone calls.

  • Call the police or animal control department and notify them of your loss, and to ask if theyíve seen anything.
  • Call area veterinariansí offices for the same reason.
  • Call your neighbors to be on the lookout for your kitty in their yard or garage. Sometimes Tabby can sneak through an open door, only to find herself trapped in a strange garage overnight, or longer.
  • Call the radio station. If they have a community calendar type of show, they may include your announcement about your lost cat.

Make a poster of your cat, with a picture if possible, and include information to contact you, such as a phone number. Put the poster up on community bulletin boards, not on utility poles, unless your community allows it. Usually itís against regulations to post notices on city poles. Tape a poster on the inside of your family carís windows so your notice can be seen in many locations as you travel around your town. Sometimes you can post such notices at your vetís office. Be sure to ask.

Here is a web site that makes customized posters for you, for free: Free Poster Service

Newspaper ads
Some newspapers allow free ads for lost and found, especially for pets. Check with your local paper if you want to run an ad.

Walk around.
Start by giving your home a more thorough search. Cats can go into that ďother dimensionĒ sometimes and suddenly show up at dinner time as if nothing has happened. Look under furniture and in closets. If you are sure sheís gotten outside, and start your search right away, thereís a good chance your kitty hasnít gone far. They like to explore and sniff things, so kitty might still be very close by. Just take a walk all the way around your house, then around your block. Call her, and be sure to never make any quick moves if you do see her.

This may be the most important part of all: Be sure all your pets are wearing ID tags. Some people feel a microchip is good insurance, but a tag is better in this situation. Most people wonít think to scan for a chip. And sometimes it isnít even possible. Some friends lost their pet on a Sunday. A nice woman found the animal half a mile away in a public parking lot and was able to look at the tag on the collar and called the owners from her cell phone. There were no vets open, and the police didnít have a scanning device. So even if they had thought to look for a chip, there were no resources available to do so. It was the tag that saved the day.

Statistics show that 95% of lost pets that have tags are returned to their homes, but 95% of animals with no tags never find their owners.

Be cautious.
Be wary of strangers who call claiming to have your cat. Ask them for a detailed description of the cat they have. If you're not sure it's your cat, or even if you are, meet them in a public location so you can look at the animal yourself. Do not invite them to your home. The police station is a likely spot to meet, as officers can then close the case if it is, indeed, your cat. Be especially cautious if someone is asking for money for finding your cat. There are pet recovery scams in some areas, where pets are stolen from yards, then returned as if rescued, with a reward expected.

Never give up.
There are stories of cats that have miraculously returned home after several months, or in a couple of rare cases, a year or more later. Click here to read the story of my own cat's adventure, getting lost in Alaska.

Copyright © 2009 - Dr. RJ Peters 

Dr. R.J. Peters, a retired physician, established an animal rescue shelter in 2002. She has worked with hundreds of dogs and cats and shares much of what she's learned, at The Problem Cat