Finding Lost Cats
Cats in the Bag | Tips for Finding Lost and Missing Pets
Missing Animal Response Network | Lost Cat Behaviour
Your pet has gone missing, the most important thing that you need to do right now is don't panic, you must take control of the situation. You need to stay calm and begin taking steps towards finding your cat, this guide will help give you a clear plan for finding your cat and guide you through the things you need to do.
The odds are good that you will be reunited with your furry friend but you must act quickly, the majority of lost cats either return home or are found so its important to keep hope strong and continue your efforts to find your pet.
Proactive Steps for Your Cat's Security
First let's discuss some proactive steps that should be taken to give your cat some security should it go missing, if you have not done these things then we strongly recommend them once you've found your cat.
- take several close-up color photographs of your cats – these photos will be valuable if your cat is ever lost;
- fitting your cat with visible identification, such as a collar with tags;
- having your cats microchipped and registered with current contact information for formal identification.
Steps to Finding Your Lost Cat
Now lets move onto finding your lost cat, we are sure you are well aware of the dangers your cat can face outdoors, which is why it is important to act quickly and take a proactive approach to finding your cat. Do Not Wait, don't wait even one day hoping your cat will return, every step you take early on will increase your odds of finding your pet, there is little time to waste so lets move onto step #1.
If at all possible all of these steps should be done on the first day that they cat has gone missing, do not wait!
STEP 1 | Search In and Around Your Home
Cats who are ill, injured or scared are inclined to sneak off and hide. In case your cat is hiding or inadvertently got trapped somewhere in your house, search your home thoroughly – keep calling its name as it will be familiar with your voice. Animals find their way by scent as well as sight and sound, so place some strongly scented articles outside your home such as sweaty clothes, favorite bedding and toys, the litter box, smelly food like sardines or tuna, cheese, bacon or freshly cooked chicken.
If you have a secure entrance, such as a fenced back yard, you should leave the patio, or other, door / window slightly open so you cat can get back in. Often cats that try to come home are not seen or heard by their owners when they come back, leaving an entry point open for your cat will enable it to get inside when it comes home. For safety reasons we do not recommend leaving windows or doors open when you are away or sleeping.
STEP 2 | Report Your Lost Cat
To report your lost cat, immediately call your local animal shelter (Stratford-Perth Humane Society is 519 273 6600 at 125 Griffith Road, Stratford), local veterinarians during the day, emergency clinics after 5 p.m., and pet identification microchip registries. Some of the major microchip companies provide resources for making lost pet posters and offer insurance in case your lost pet is injured or becomes ill while lost.
STEP 3 | Search Your Neighbourhood, Talk to Everyone and Leave Your Phone Number
The good news is that the majority of cats either return home on their own or are found within 2km of their home. When you first realize your cat is lost, search the neighbourhood. It may be hiding, so look under bushes and porches, in garages. and in other likely hiding spots.
Use a powerful flashlight, even in daylight hours, for checking dark spaces. Enlist the help of friends, neighbours and family members to search. Call your cat's name and stop regularly, be quiet and listen for it to make a noise in reply; stopping and waiting, especially in areas where your cat was definitely seen by someone, can also help your pet catch up to you, especially if they're older, injured or scared. Many search parties sweep through areas too fast for a cat to catch-up and work up the courage to approach.
Cats which have become displaced tend to be more active during the evening hours, they will hide most of the day and begin to come out during twilight and be active through the evening. It may improve your odd's to go searching around this time if a search during the day did not yield any results. Also always make sure there is someone home around this time and that the cat has a way to get back in as its most likely to visit your home during the evening hours as well.
It may be beneficial to carry something familiar to the cat with you, such as a favorite toy or their favorite treats. Many cats respond to the sound of their treat bag being shaken or the sound of their favorite toy and this may be the extra incentive the cat needs to come out of hiding.
It is also important to note that cats which have become displaced can find it hard to trust people, even their owners, or simply (much like a child) dont want to come in just yet. If you do find your cat outside and it seems hesitant to come to you then follow these steps to keep from spooking it.
Be calm, rushing towards the cat or acting frantic will likely scare it away. Say its name calmly and softly, use some of cats "come here" phrases but not forcefully. If you have some treats or the cats toys with you then offer them to the cat, but again don't be forceful, and move slowly. Approach the cat slowly, inching towards it, but if the cat looks like its about to turn and run then stop and back away a little until it has focused back on you again.
Once you're within arms length of the cat let it sniff your hand, if you have treats then try offering them to the cat. Once the cat allows you to pet it or eats out of your hand and is distracted you should be able to grab it quickly, but only when your absolutely certain you can get it in time.
Note: some people recommend using a blanket, or something similar, to throw over the cat in order to catch it, and while this can work it does have its risks. The biggest risk being if you fail and the cat gets away it will be much harder to gain its trust again, if you choose to emply this method then do so at your own risk.
STEP 4 | Visit Local Animal Shelters
Visit animal shelters in person to accurately describe your cat (Stratford-Perth Humane Society is 519 273 6600 at 125 Griffith Road, Stratford). Walk through the stray animal sections and leave posters with your cat's description, picture and your contact information, including instructions if your cat has urgent medical needs. This helps shelter staff recognize and care for your cat when found. Visit or call daily to make sure the shelter knows that you're still actively searching for your cat – it's not uncommon for shelters to have minimal hold times for animals before putting them up for adoption or euthanizing them; this wait-time may be as little as three days, so it's crucial to check animal shelters every day.
In addition,while this is not something you want to think about, Animal Control (which is often located in the same building as your local shelter) will be the ones to know if your cat has been injured or killed on the road.
STEP 5 | Post Flyers Everywhere!
At the bottom of this guide we have provided a download of a template for a lost cat poster which you can edit and use.
Make many flyers and post them everywhere you can within a 2km radius of where your cat was lost. Flyers result in more found pets than any other method ! Prepare posters with a large type size that's easy to read from a driving distance. The headline should read LOST CAT or something similar that draws attention to the poster – see sample poster at the end. Include the following :
- a picture of your cat (a color photo of the entire body is best)
- your cat's breed or mix of breeds
- a basic description of your cat, including color, gender, age, size or weight
- where your cat was last seen
- your phone number and e-mail. Do not include your name or address!
- a reward can help, but don't state the amount.
- to avoid imposters and scams, be sure to withhold several identifying marks and characteristics of your lost cat. You may need to use these to verify that a person has actually found your pet.
Place your posters in convenience stores, grocery stores, pizza parlours, gas stations, barber and beauty shops, laundromats, community bulletin boards, schools, churches, veterinary clinics, pet stores and other animal-oriented businesses. If local bylaws allow, put the posters on lamp posts, telephone poles and sign poles.
STEP 6 | Be Vigilant in the Evening Hours
As mentioned earlier, cats that have become displaced tend to be more active during the evening hours which is why you need to be especially proactive during this time. Cats that are lost will hide during the bulk of the day and only begin to emerge once the sun begins to set. Twilight through to the late evening are the most likely times that a lost cat will go in search of food or its home, although they will remain active through the night and may visit the home during the night.
It is important for someone to always be home during this time, if possible leave a door or window slightly open so that the cat can get back in when it comes to visit the home. If searching during the day hasn't worked then try going to search right around sun-down or a little after, your cat is more likely to be out and about during that time so your chances of coming across it may be a little better.
STEP 7 | Use Your Local Newspaper and Radio Station
Advertise in the local newspaper and on the local radio station. Again, a reward can help, but don't state the amount. Be prepared to receive some false alarm calls : as soon as some people see the promise of a reward, they're likely to call about any cat they've seen, whether it fits the description of yours or not.
Some newspapers allow people to place free advertisements for pets they've found, so be sure to scan the newspaper to see if your pet has already been found by someone.
STEP 8 | Surveillance (Optional)
Often a cat that is not ready or lacks the courage to come home may visit the house every night to eat the food you've left out but won't come in or gets spooked easily. The problem here is that something will likely always eat the food at night and you have no way of knowing if its your cat or just another animal.
This is where surveillance comes in, not only will you be able to know with certainty if your cat is coming around, but it can also give you a little hope seeing your cat healthy and well. Alternatively if you don't see your cat then thats likely an indication that it has moved away from your area and you should widen your search perimeter and perhaps put up flyers in neighborhoods further away.
A very simple surveillance system can be setup with the use of a webcam and surveillance software on your pc. You will need:
- A PC
- A webcam
- A USB Extension Cable that is long enough to make it from your PC to the door/window you intend to use
- Surveillance software, such as Active Webcam which can be freely downloaded here
- Both the USB cable and webcam can be purchased very inexpensively from discount electronics stores such as Factory Direct and Surplus stores.
Setup is quite simple, begin by installing the webcam on your PC as per its instructions then download and install Active Webcam. Configure active webcam as instructed, it comes with detailed help documents if you need any help. Active Webcam has many features, some of the important things to set are; the alarm when something enters view, how long it should record, sensitivity of the motion detection and the directory where you want the videos saved.
Then just set up the webcam at the door or window overlooking the area you want to monitor, it typically works best to aim it at the food bowl. You should have a light illuminating the area, not too intense but enough so that you can see the webcam clearly, porch lights work well.
You now have a surveillance system that will alert you to anything that comes to eat that food and will record when it sees something, you can review the videos it took over night to see if your cat has been coming home and this will also give you a great indication of what time the cat comes around which may help you catch it.
STEP 9 | When You Find Your Pet
Go around and take down all of your old flyers and thank everyone who has helped you - very important.
Never Give Up
The human-animal bond is a strong one, and it can be devastating to lose a pet. The above guidelines will increase your chances for success. Be thorough and persistent in your search efforts, and don't give up hope ! Lost cats have been reunited with their families weeks, months and sometimes even years later.
Lost Cat Poster
The poster is in Microsoft Word format, .doc, and can be downloaded here
If you do not have Microsoft Office or Microsoft Word then you can download a completly free and full featured office suite called Open Office, it is availably 100% free at openoffice.org
Good luck and best wishes from everyone at Feline Friends Network!