How to Find Your Missing Cat
Anyone who has ever had a missing cat knows how worrying it is not knowing what has happened to them, or if they are alive or dead. Unfortunately, cats do have a bad habit of getting to a certain age and deciding they now want to go explore their new territory. Cats' territory can be up to a two mile radius of their home, and naturally this makes them very hard to find if they get lost or injured while they are out hunting. It is important to remember, however, that once your cat does start to venture out into the surrounding areas, it may well be gone for days at a time, and it is not necessarily a lost cat in the true sense of the word 'lost'. The fact that your cat has been missing this long does not automatically mean that something awful has happened to them either. Frequently, this means they are just doing what comes naturally to them and patrolling their territory to make sure no other felines are attempting to take it over (and of course spending plenty of time catching the rodents that reside within it for themselves).
Some time back, I wrote an article called Where Do Your Cats Go When They Leave Your Home, and I quickly realized there were a huge amount of cat owners out there who found that article when their own kitty had gone missing. Clearly these worried owners were desperate for ideas as to what they could do to find their cats again, and for reassurance that their cats were going to either come back on their own, or at least be okay. While I know that sadly there are many occasions when something has happened to the missing cat, e.g. a car accident or an attack by a larger predator, this is not always the case. I decided to write this follow up article to help the owners of lost kitties find them again, whether the news is good or bad. We all need closure, and not knowing what has happened to our missing pet is usually worse than finding out they have died, even though the news is painful. In the best case scenarios, however, we find out our missing cat is alive and well, and we are reunited with them.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure!
Before I launch into the ways to find your missing cat, I would like to emphasize the fact that prevention is better than cure. If you take the right steps from the moment you take on your pet cat, you can most likely avoid the worry that goes with a missing cat. By 'the right steps' I mean the following:
Making sure your cat is microchipped and/or wearing a suitable safety collar with your phone number on it (avoid putting cat names on the collars because it makes it easier for a thief to 'adopt' your cat and gain its trust).
If necessary, install an invisible fence fitted to keep your cat within the boundaries of your garden or yard.
Before introducing new pets to the household that might stress out your existing cat and cause it to run away, read my article on how to introduce a new cat or kitten to your existing cats.
Get your cats neutered (spayed or castrated) as soon as they hit six months old. In the case of male cats, this will reduce their desire to travel long distances in search of females to mate with. This will also prevent them from getting into fights over females or getting knocked down by vehicles during their quest to find a mate. Likewise with females, this will stop them searching for males to mate with as they normally would were they in heat.
How to Find Your Missing Cat
Assuming your cat is missing right now, there are a number of basic steps you can take to help maximize your chances of finding your lost pet. If your cat is already microchipped or wearing a collar, there is a good chance you will be called by either a vet or a rescue centre if the cat is brought in injured or deceased. The only times this is unlikely to happen is if the microchip has 'migrated' to another part of the cat's body (which does occasionally happen), or if he or she has lost their collar while out roaming. It is worth periodically asking your vet to check if the microchip is still in the correct position around the back of the cat's neck, or if it has migrated to an awkward location (or even made its way out of the body altogether, which also happens very occasionally). If this is the case, you might want to get another microchip injected instead.
If your kitty didn't have either a tagged collar or a microchip you now need to use other methods to reunite you with your lost pet:
- Call around all the vets, surgeries and rescue centres within a two mile radius and ask if a cat fitting the description of yours has been brought in injured.
- Use your home computer to create fliers with a description and a photo of your lost cat on them. Post these fliers in as many public places as possible within a two mile radius, e.g. trees, shop windows, vets surgeries reception areas, telegraph poles, car windscreens, in the rear window of your own car and friends cars etc.
- Knock on doors in your neighbourhood and ask if people have seen your cat. Keep a photo of your kitty with you to show the homeowners and give them a phone number to contact you if they see your cat in the days to come.
- Leave out your cat's favourite food each night, preferably a strong smelling type of food in order to help attract him or her to come home again. If you are worried about this attracting rats, then place it on a raised platform that a cat can jump up to, but a rat would struggle to.
- Check local sheds and outhouses to make sure your pet has not been locked in by accident. Ask your neighbours and local businesses to do the same if they have garages, sheds or outhouses of their own.
- Might sound obvious, but look up trees. Even cats experienced at climbing sometimes go too high, (perhaps when running from a dog), and then get frozen in place, too scared to attempt to come down without assistance from a person on a ladder or a member of the fire brigade.
- Not a pleasant thought, but check local woodland for signs that your cat might have fallen prey to a larger predator such as a coyote, Great Horned Owl, Eagle Owl, mountain lion or snake. Signs might include the remains of the fur, a skeleton, the collar or even just signs of a struggle like broken undergrowth with tufts of hair stuck to the bushes.
- Visit your local schools and ask the Head Teachers to speak to the pupils in assembly and ask them to look out for your lost cat, and to notify you if they think they have seen him or her. Again a photo helps here, and a small reward can do wonders to motivate children to search the local neighbourhood on your behalf. Let's face it, children get everywhere so if anyone is likely to find your cat in an unusual location it could well be a child or teenager.
- Contact your local radio station and ask them to put out an announcement about your missing cat. They may or may not charge for this service, but it will ensure you hit a large target audience all at once either way.
- Place a 'Lost' or 'Missing' advert in your local newspaper, preferably with a photo if you can afford it, or at least with a good description of your cat if a text advert is all you can stretch to financially.
- Get T-shirts or badges printed with a picture of your cat on saying 'Have You Seen This Cat' followed by a telephone number. Wear these whenever you can and pass them out to your friends and relatives.
I hope these ideas help you to find your missing pet cat, and that when you do, your cat is alive and well. Remember though, don't panic if your cat has only been missing for a few days. Sometimes cats go missing for weeks at a time and then stroll in as if they have never been gone. It is in their nature to want to hunt, explore and enjoy the great outdoors. We just have to accept that this is something we need to get used to if we are to have cats in our homes.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2011 Cindy Lawson