9 Steps to Take if Your Cat Goes Missing


I don’t know about you, but I’ve lost or misplaced a few cats in my lifetime. It’s just about the worst feeling I’ve ever had, and I know from experience that it’s really hard not to be overwhelmed by a trifecta of the least useful emotions on the planet — guilt, fear, and panic. But the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and try to stay calm while you take the following steps.

1. Search inside your house first

Cats can get into all kinds of ridiculously small spaces. Check in closets, drawers, behind doors, inside or behind appliances, and even in areas where you wouldn’t imagine your cats could go, like chimneys, for example.

2. Search just outside and around your house

Inside-only cats that find themselves outdoors get very scared, and often they’ll hide near their home. For example, one of my indoor kitties escaped once and I found her under a deck by the back door. When you look around outside, call your cat’s name quietly and bring some of your feline friend’s favorite treats. A friendly voice combined with shaking a treat jar or opening a can of stinky food can lure almost any cat out of hiding.

3. Make a poster

If you don’t find your cat indoors or just outside your home, make a poster to place in mailboxes or around the neighborhood. This poster should include a recent photo of your cat, a brief description including one or two distinguishing features and any special medical needs. Don’t forget to include a callback number or email address.

4. Use social media and classified sites

Post the information about your missing cat on your local Craigslist or other online classified sites and on social media. Lots of lost pets have been found because their information was shared on Facebook! If your social media posts are limited to friends only, don’t forget to set your missing-cat post to public so it can be widely shared.

5. Expand your search

The day after your cat goes missing, expand your search to your block or within a quarter mile on either side of your home, including neighbors’ sheds or barns (with their permission). Look in roadside ditches, just in case. Distribute the poster around your neighborhood and in stores.

6. Call around

Contact animal shelters, your local animal control officer, and area veterinarians. Provide a copy of your poster to them if possible. If your cat is microchipped, make sure they know that and that they know the chip number. (Protip: If your cat is microchipped, keep your contact information up to date with the chip registry!)

7. Search close to home again

If you haven’t found your cat yet, search the perimeter of your property again. Bring the means to carry your cat if you should find her injured or dead. Don’t give up hope.

8. Consider talking to an animal communicator

An animal communicator may be able to give you some ideas about your cat’s location. Keep in mind that a lot of animal communicators don’t like to take on missing-pet cases because no matter how good they are at other types of animal communication, these cases tend to have a much lower success rate.

9. Prepare yourself to make a hard choice

At some point, you may have to accept that your cat either doesn’t want to be found or can’t be found. One of the most difficult parts of grieving a missing pet whose fate is unknown is coming to this acceptance. You’ll probably find that just about the time you accept that your cat is gone for good, she’ll show up on your doorstep looking at you like, “Hey, what’s the big deal?”

Has one of your cats ever gone missing? What did you do to try and locate her? Did I miss any important tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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