Did you know that only 2 % of cat owners found their lost pets at shelters? That stomach-wrenching statistic was revealed in a recent issue of the journal Animals, which published the results of a survey of 1,015 pet households over a five-year period. So where do people find their lost cats? Read on to find out what I learned from our recent first-hand experience with cat finding experts!

When an indoor cat gets outside unintentionally, they are very easily spooked by “normal” outside things like cars, dogs walking by, or even people. But unlike dogs who tend to run when scared, cats are much more likely to find the first hiding place they can and hole up, sometimes for days in a row. So while having your cats microchipped and wearing an ID tag is super important, as is keeping your registered contact information accurately up-to-date, there are important actions you can take once your pet is lost that will increase the chances of your missing cat being found.

So in addition to following the advice in our comprehensive Lost Pet Guide (click here), here are some additional tips for finding a lost cat that has going missing outside:

  1. If you can afford to hire a pet detective, and have one in your area, the good ones are worth their weight in gold for their experience. Ask for references, and hire them sooner if you can, before the trail grows cold. You can also consider a local phone calling service like FindToto.com
  2. If possible and safe to do so, close your pets in other rooms of your home, and put their litter box right outside your front or back door (cats can smell great distances and they can recognize their scent) and leave the cracked open enough so your cat can squeeze inside late at night, when cats are more likely to be on the move.
  3. If you live in a suburban or urban environment: Put a LOST CAT flyer with a photo on every one of your neighbor’s doorsteps, and on their car windshields. Walk around at times when dog owners may be out walking their dogs, hand them a flyer, ask them if they’ve seen your pet, explain how heartbroken you are. The more people that are helping look for your cat, the better chances you are of getting a “sighting” and being able to set a humane trap in that area and catch your cat. This is what worked for Lil C in the poster above, after weeks of searching for her she was trapped inside of a neighbor’s carport just a few houses down from where she escaped.
  4. The next day, knock on neighbor’s doors and ask if they have seen your cat, hand them another flyer, and ask if you can look in their garage. (Them looking is not the same thing, as the cat will likely not come out for them.)
  5. Set up a cat feeding spot outside your home: a plastic bowl with some of your cat’s favorite food works well. Refresh daily, you can set it in a pie plate of water if ants are an issue. Ask neighbors if they can do the same.  If you notice the food is being touched at all, move the food into a humane cat trap and set it for a few hours each late night. Only set the trap while you can directly monitor it, i.e. you are sitting nearby listening, or watching from your home with a clear view of the trap. Never leave a trap unwatched, even for a few minutes. Sadly, there are cases of mentally ill people who think pouring gasoline and lighting cats in cages on fire is fun. Also, opossums and other wildlife can fatally injure themselves trying to get out of a trap, and should be released immediately if caught.

Don’t give up too soon! Cats are often found weeks after they’ve gone missing. We hope these tips help you find your lost cat!