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How to Find Lost Cats

My Cat Ran Away

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Lost Cat Poster

Be sure to distribute flyers everywhere

Franny Syufy
In all likelihood, the owner of indoor-outdoor cats will eventually face the sorrow of having a cat turn up missing. Even indoor-only cats may slip out the door unexpectedly. However, the chances are (for good or bad) that your cat did not run away. Cats are very territorial (even the neutered ones) and will defend their territory at all costs, and if driven out by another alpha cat who is bigger and meaner, will seek safety indoors (if allowed that option) before running off. The truth is that the chances are more likely that a cat has been unwillingly removed from the area, injured, or killed.

In order to find your cat, you need to consider the possible reasons for his absence, many of them distressful. However, this is the time to set aside emotions and to rationally evaluate the possibilities, with an appropriate action for each. Here are several possible scenarios, to get you started:

By Human Intervention

  • Picked up by Animal Control
  • Picked up by another cat lover who thinks your cat is "lost"
  • "Rescued" by someone who thinks your cat is "abandoned," "neglected," or "stray"
  • Abducted for gain by professional "cat nappers"
  • Abducted by others for sick purposes (dog-baiting, ritual sacrifice)
  • Trapped and "disposed of" by a cat-hating neighbor
  • Accidental "abduction" (Cat hides in vehicle; is driven out of area)

Injured or Killed

  • By auto accident
  • By a dog or another cat
  • By wild animals (coyote, skunk, or raccoon)

With these thoughts in mind, you can plan your strategy for recovering your cat if he is still alive, or to bring closure if it is discovered he isn't. Time is of the essence, and you may need to perform all of the following actions:
  1. Check Your own Yard First
    Indoor cats who slip out will usually stay in their own yards, or hide under decks, foundations, and shrubbery.
  2. Use a Baby Monitor on Your Porch
    Leave a bowl of food on your porch, and aim an electronic baby monitor at it. One reader recently recovered her missing cat after three days when she heard mewing coming from the baby monitor at 3 a.m.
  3. Create Flyers with a Photo of the Cat
    Offer a reward (more about this later), and distribute the flyers door-to-door in at least a three-block radius, also post in store windows and on telephone poles.
  4. Alert your Animal Control Officer
    Give him/her a flyer and ask that s/he be on the lookout for your cat, dead or alive.
  5. Call Local Veterinarians
    It is possible a "guardian angel" brought your cat in with injuries; ask the vets if you can post a flyer in their clinics
  6. Visit your Local Animal Shelter
    Leave a flyer and ask if a cat meeting the description has been brought in, alive or dead
  7. Enlist Neighborhood Children
    Visit your local school and ask that children keep their eyes (and ears) open for information about your cat; hand out flyers. Ask for permission from school authorities before talking directly to children.
  8. Advertise
    Most local newspapers and shopping guides will allow free "lost & found" ads. Also Check the newspaper listing for "found cats"
  9. Post to Local Lost/Found Internet Pages
    Some communities sponsor web sites specifically designed for lost/missing pets.
  10. Check with Local Rescue Organizations
    Ask for permission to visit foster homes that may have recently taken in a cat meeting the description.
  11. Hire a Pet Detective
    Preferably one with tracking dogs and other technology designed for that purpose.

Next > The Importance of Identification

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