Top 10 Tips For Finding Lost Cats

If you’d like read only the top 10 list, please scroll down.

September is National Preparedness Month. You might also like to read or bookmark our tips of preparing your cat for a weather emergency at

Cats have a way of finding us when we least expect it. Some are luckier than others and find what they’re looking for. Last Friday, a cat swirled around the legs of my husband and his two friends as they smoking cigars on the porch of the office. They admired the beautiful cat but I’m the one who received the call from hubby, “What should I do. It won’t go home.”

I arrived with food which the cat ate but not ravenously. It looked healthy enough and wore a collar but with no ID. He sneezed and I thought, better to leave him over night. I made a bed under a lawn chair and decided if he was still there in the morning, we’d bring him to the vet a block away. Sure enough, there he was and off he went to be scanned for a microchip. Nothing. This would have had a quick happy ending by simply having a microchip. The vet said his sniffles were a virus and that he was a young neutered Bengal. All the shelters were full so you can guess the rest.

Bengal Boy or B.B. (he refuses to tell me his name) is contagious and isolated in our kitchen and dining room. He’s still snuffly but not as congested and is eating, napping and playing happily. He has none of the fear or anxiety of a lost or abandoned cat and it remains to be seen whether he’s cat #6 in our household. I’ve done everything possible to find his guardians. It appears they don’t want to find him. For others who are terrified at the thought of a missing cat, I suggest being prepared. All cats, even if they don’t go outdoors need identification, ideally a microchip. You never know when the opportunity to escape can occur. Again, all cats benefit from training; at the very least learning to respond to the “come” command.

Of the many cats I’ve known over the years, I’ve lost four. Two never returned. I know the heartbreak of looking for and missing a beloved cat. My cat Coco (Merlin’s sister) went missing many years ago in Toronto. I canvassed the neighborhood, put up posters and felt her presence nearby. I kept looking and calling but she was stuck up a tree, so high up I couldn’t see her and she refused to make a sound. Finally, after being in said tree for two days and two nights, someone called me from the flyer who said he’d seen her. A neighbor found the longest ladder I’d ever seen and since the fire department didn’t rescue cats, I put my fear of heights on hold and climbed up and down the tree, dangling Coco from my outstretched arm to avoid being shredded. A small crowd cheered. Coco went on to other adventures but neither she nor Merlin ever climbed another tree.

Cats have a natural homing instinct which in some cases have guided cats to travel hundreds of miles back to their home. Depending on the situation the results can differ. A shy indoor cats tend not to travel far. While an adventurous indoor/outdoor cat is more likely to roam. A  fearful cat may not trust their inner compass and get confused.

When I moved to my last home in Canada, Merlin escaped into the woods as soon as the movers left. Exhausted after a long day, I had no choice but to go looking for him. I knocked on neighbor’s doors and before long I had the entire street looking for him. Merlin returned at bedtime nonplussed as ever. “See mom, I wanted you to meet the neighbors and make new friends.” He never got lost again.

Top 10 Tips For Finding Lost Cats

1) Not all missing cats are lost or want to be found. Cats are notorious for hiding in impossible places. Before you assume kitty is missing, make a thorough search indoors, around the porch and garage armed with a flashlight and treats. This is when the cat training pays off. If a cat is injured, trapped or hyper stressed, they may not respond to a command but it improves the odds.  Yes, some cats leave home for whatever reason and don’t want to be found. Try anyway. The stats for lost cats returning home without intervention are about 2%. The odds are improved by having a microchip.

2) Don’t waste time. If you know your cat is missing, grab your cellphone with a photo of your cat uploaded, flashlight and treats and head out. Wear comfortable clothes and soft-soled shoes. Don’t panic. Breathe, try to be calm and think like a cat. If you were a cat where would you go? Begin around your house and spread out to the immediate neighbors on all sides. Where does your cat normally head? What is the most likely escape route? What are their favorite bushes or hiding spots? Crouch low under porches, scan high on roof lines and tree branches. Could something have recently happened to spook them? Construction or a new neighbor’s cat or dog? Or has anything happened recently in your home to upset them; like the chemicals from getting your carpets cleaned or bringing out suitcases for a trip?

3) While you’re searching, knocking on neighbor’s doors, asking pedestrians, showing the photo, you will be trespassing in neighboring gardens. This is no time to be shy. To save time, multi-task during the search: call your vet, all the other local vets and shelters and leave a missing cat report.

4) When you return home, leave food and water outside your door. Fearful cats will often slink out after dark. Go outside one last time to check and call their name before bedtime. You need to get your rest. Leaving no stone unturned to find your cat takes energy. In the quiet darkness, try to communicate with your cat. Imagine their face, call their name and connect heart to heart. Try to tune into where they might be. It may be a feeling, an image or sound. Reassure them that you will help get them home.

5) If you haven’t already made a missing cat poster, make one.  This where having millions of photos of your cat comes in handy. Pick a large close-up showing details of the face and another photo showing the entire body, ideally standing up.  If you’re not computer savvy, you can glue a photo on a piece of paper and use a marker by hand and print a stack of copies. If you are using a computer, use the largest font size possible for visibility at a distance. Color photos on neon bright paper show well use plastic page covers in case of rain. Include: your cat’s name, description, any special identifying marks or collar, when last seen and where, your phone and e-mail but for security reasons not your name, address or amount of reward in case you are offering one. I also like adding a strip of contact info at the bottom which several people can easily tear off.

6) Enlist family and friends to help post flyers and spread the word. Have push pins, tape and staple gun depending on the surface. The best posting spots include street intersection poles, local bulletin boards at grocery stores, library, laundromat and community center.

7) Post missing cats reports at online at Craigslist, local online newspapers like Patch etc. Use social networking like Facebook and Twitter.

8) Visit all you local shelters even if say they don’t have a cat of your description.

9) If you’ve recently moved, extend your search to your old neighborhood.

10) Persevere! Cats have returned weeks and months later. Keep networking, and asking neighbors if they’ve noticed anything. Keep your flyers or posters  fresh with a “Still Missing” header.

I hope you never lose a cat, but just in case, be prepared and make a copy of this list.

Do you know this Bengal boy? Let me know if you’ve seen him.bengal-cat-male

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