Losing one’s cat is a panic-inducing experience that can leave you feeling completely helpless. That’s why you should be informed and have a plan of action in advance to know how to find a lost cat.
A former police Bloodhound handler with a background in human search and rescue, Kat Albrecht is the founder of Missing Animal Response Network. The idea of applying human search methods to finding lost pets came to her when she lost one of her dogs and used a human search dog to track him.
Hundreds of organizations and individuals have benefited from her online pet recovery training. A number of them are listed on her website and offer their services on how to find a lost cat.
Because of her training in human search management, Kat knew different types of people behaved differently when lost. She made similar observations when comparing lost cats to lost dogs.
She and her search dog would often find lost cats close to their homes under decks, concealed in bushes and inside sheds. Unlike dogs, who run when frightened, cats tend to hide quietly when scared or injured, often not meowing when called.
Her experiences were validated in a 2017 study conducted by the University of Queensland, Australia in which she participated that found 75 percent of missing cats were found within a 500-meter radius from their point of escape (for indoor-only cats, the median distance was only 50 meters).
“What the study showed confirmed what I had discovered,” Kat says. “The primary way to look for and find a missing cat is to get on your and your neighbors’ properties to conduct a physical search.”
The goal of Missing Pet Partnership, says Board President Brigid Wasson, “is keeping pets in their home and reuniting missing pets with their owners.” She says the organization highly recommends microchipping all pets and keeping the information current. Cats with microchips are up to 21 times more likely to be reunited with their families.
The organization’s website provides useful information on how to find a lost cat and addresses the differences in looking for an indoor-only cat versus an indoor-outdoor cat.
“Acting quickly when your cat is missing is of the utmost importance,” Brigid says. Studies indicate approximately one-third of cats are found within the first seven days.
She suggests finding out where your local city shelter is and going there in person. Shelters in some states have holding times as short as 48 to 72 hours, after which your cat can be put up for adoption or euthanized.
Brigid echoes Kat’s advice saying, “A close physical search is very often the way a cat is found.” She recommends knocking on doors, posting signs and making door hangers. It’s also a good idea to inform those working in your neighborhood, such as landscapers and mail carriers.
Because cats are often found close to home, online efforts should have a local focus. Many communities have local lost pet pages on Facebook. Brigid suggests using websites like HelpingLostPets.com, with a database that allows for geo-targeted posting and searching.
Nextdoor is a free social network for neighborhoods that’s accessible online and through an app. Over 85 percent of U.S. neighborhoods have a presence on the platform, making it a useful tool when looking for a lost pet. It has two ways of facilitating recovery of lost pets: a lost pet post and the Pet Directory.
Jen Burke, director of local media for Nextdoor says, “Whether it’s a family that’s lost a dog, cat, cow or lizard, the Nextdoor community rallies together to find the missing animal.”
Two days after joining, Nextdoor member Vivian noticed a cat she didn’t recognize in the backyard of her San Jose home. She logged onto the site and saw a post by a neighbor looking for her missing cat, Jake. After comparing the cat in her yard to the description in the post, she had a hunch she’d located the lost cat — she was right!
When posting about a missing pet, members have access to their immediate network as well as those of neighboring communities. Additionally, last year Nextdoor launched a Pet Directory where members can upload a photo of their pet along with a written description.
This database is a helpful tool when it comes to quickly identifying and reuniting found pets with their families. In just the last year there have been nearly 200,000 posts about lost or missing cats on the platform resulting in countless happy reunions!
Tamar Arslanian resides in New York City with her two rescue cats, Kip and Haddie. She is the founder of IHaveCat.com and author of HarperCollins’ Shop Cats of New York, a Cat Writers’ Association Muse Medallion winner. Find her on Instagram and Facebook at @ihavecat and @shopcatsofnewyork.
Thumbnail: Photography ©Page Light Studios | Getty Images.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!