If you’re trying to find a lost cat, putting up a few signs is only the beginning. There are many other things you can do to help your kitty get home as quickly as possible.
If you’ve never had to find a lost cat, I hope you never do. And if you have ever had to, I hope you never have to again. I’m dealing with this right now (NOT my Pimp or Moo — a cat I was helping rescue who got out her first night) and have learned some really important things along the way, and wanted to share my 10 Best Tips for Finding a Lost Cat with you all, just in case.
Without going into too much detail (that’s another post for another time — hopefully with a happy ending), I rescued a cat from my office parking lot whom I love and have fed for the past three years. She went to a small rescue at a woman’s house where she would be safe, and ended up somehow getting out her first night. She has no idea where she “lives” since it was just night #1, so she could be anywhere.
I’ve been at this for a few days now, and have had some things work really well. Here are my tips:
1. Post color signs with a picture of your lost cat. A black-and-white photo is better than nothing, but no one can really tell what your cat looks like. Color is key, so people recognize him when they see him.
2. Post signs ASAP. Yes, you want to get out there and look for yourself (and you should, if you notice the cat get out and he’s close!), but if it’s been a little while or you’re not sure when he got out, post signs all over you neighborhood as soon as possible. The quicker you get them up, the quicker your neighbors will know to keep a lookout — and then you’ll have all their eyes looking, too … not just yours. More eyes = more chances to spot kitty!
3. Include two contact numbers on your signs. Life happens and sometimes you don’t answer the phone right when it rings (showers, phones left in other rooms, accidentally left on vibrate, etc.), so have a backup number for people to call in case they can’t reach you right away. If someone spots your cat, time is of the essence and you want to have someone get there right away.
4. Laminate your fliers. If you have the extra time and money, this makes your lost cat signs weatherproof and bend-around-road-sign-proof. I laminated signs for my lost cat and they’re still good as new, four days and three thunderstorms later. This is less work for you (no need to repost them after it rains) and better because the color and ink won’t run.
5. Go door-to-door in the area and leave a flier at every single house. Yes, this can get expensive — that’s a lot of color copies! — but it’s your most effective bet. Even if people see the signs you hang, chances of them remembering your number or running back to the sign if your cat crosses their path could be slim. But, if they have your information and the cat’s picture right in their home, they’re much more likely to make that call quickly and as soon as they see your lost cat! Also, no need to worry about weather ruining these.
6. Include a QR code on your signs. A QR code is that little black-and-white square you’re starting to see in print ads and things lately. You scan one with an iPhone app and it pulls up a URL you’ve set it to. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can see and create one here. You’ll see what it is!) Upload your photo somewhere on the Internet like a post on your blog, Photobucket, or flickr and set the URL to the URL of it. This way, people who know what they are can scan the code on your flier and voila! they have your contact information and everything right on their phones now. It’s like instantly saving the whole flier! Even if everyone doesn’t know what it is or use it, some will — and that’s better than nothing!
7. Create a website for your lost cat and include it on your signs. I just thought of this one and am kicking myself for not doing it right away. Same as the QR code above, people might find it hard to remember phone numbers (I’m pretty sure smartphones have made us phone-number-dumb.), but they might remember a simple website name. You can make it simply www.find_____.com with _____ being your cat’s name. A URL like that is only about $10 at godaddy.com or similar sites, and you can create the site itself really easily and for free with Blogger or WordPress. Keep it updated with important details: your contact info, additional pictures of your cat, a downloadable (and printable!) version of you sign, where your cat was last spotted, and any other information about him that might help.
8. Refresh the signs after a few days. Like anything else, people just don’t see things after they’ve been there for a while. After a few days of driving past your signs, they don’t stand out anymore or they might think your cat is already found and stop looking. I bought some bright neon labels and printout out “STILL MISSING Sat., 9/24” on them and stuck one on every sign that had been up for a few days. All of the sudden, your signs stand out again and people will read them all over and stay alert for kitty. Also, they provide a date, so no one thinks you just forgot to take the sign down and removes it themselves; they’ll know it’s current.
9. Leave out cat food in various places. Cats tend to stay where there is food. If your lost cat is roaming, giving him a dependable food source will hopefully keep him where the food is. If anyone calls to say they’ve seen him around their house, ask permission to leave a little dry food there (wet will get gross quickly — unless the cat was JUST seen, then the stinkier, the better!) and keep replacing it daily. Most people won’t mind as long as you say you’ll take care of it. You can also leave it in several areas around where he went missing, just for added help.
10. Enlist as many friends as you can to help you with all this. It’s tiring looking for a lost cat. Trust me, I know. It’s absolutely consumed me for the past five days. Split up and get the fliers to each house quicker, set out new food where you put it down, search the neighborhood thoroughly faster, and take turns responding to sightings if you need to. It’s a tough time, but it’s important to stay sane and focused so you can keep at it.
Some other things you should also try:
— Post a Lost Pet ad in your local paper or classifieds.
— Post your Lost Pet ad on Craigslist.
— If your cat is microchipped, microchip subscription companies like HomeAgain will send out Lost Pet alerts to subscribers in your vicinity (And for the love of everything, get your cat microchipped when you find him!).
— Post your sign on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social networks and ask your friends to share.
— Post signs in local businesses.
— Keep an eye on the websites of local animal shelters and visit if you haven’t found your cat in a couple days.
And most importantly, keep at it and don’t give up! Hopefully your kitty will be safe and sound and home soon!