The moment you notice your cat is missing, the worrying begins. Your cat is a member of your family, so it’s no wonder a lost or runaway cat can stir panic throughout your household. Many families have plans and strategies in place for emergencies, such as fires, hurricanes or other disasters. These strategies help protect your family by ensuring everyone knows what to do when an emergency occurs.
Setting a plan in place for locating a lost pet can be just as effective. It can ensure every person takes the correct actions to find the cat without putting anyone in danger.
Roughly 10 million pets go missing in the United States every year. These tips for finding a lost cat can help you create an effective strategy for finding your furry friend and bringing her or him home safely.
Why cats go missing
Cats are inherently curious. Some of the most common reasons they escape are because they enjoy hunting and exploring their territory. Additionally, an unneutered male cat or a female cat in heat may run away due to the mating drive. Many times, a cat may simply be seeking food from a friendly neighbor who is providing it.
Start at home
A cat doesn’t have to leave the house to go missing. The Missing Animal Response Network (MARN) has years of experience reuniting missing animals with their human families. MARN has also performed extensive research on how to find a missing cat and where missing cats are found.
Look inside and around the perimeter of the home first. Cats can get stuck in mysterious places such as cabinets, chimneys, closets, mattress box springs and more. Indoor cats tend to stay close to home, so it’s important to check under the porch, in the bushes, and other hiding spots surrounding the property.
A 2018 study stated that missing cats were a median distance of 50 meters from home. Indoor cats were a median distance of 39 meters from home. Cats that were regularly allowed to roam farther from home were a median distance of 300 meters away.
How to look for a lost cat
Missing cats are almost always hiding. Remember the personality of your cat while searching for her or him. A social cat may be seeking attention at a neighbor’s home, but a timid cat could be panicking and hiding under a neighbor’s porch, at a nearby construction site, in the slide of a nearby playground, or someplace similar.
The best time to search is at night when lights are off and noises stop. Go outside with a flashlight and cans of cat food or treats. Open a can or shake the treats while calling your cat’s name. You’ll be surprised how far the sound of food can travel.
A safe space and familiar smells can help a cat find its way home. Place a box outside, lined with a cozy piece of your clothing and your cat’s favorite treats or toys. Set food and water inside or nearby.
Get the word out
No sign of your cat means it’s time to create fliers, post on social media, contact neighborhood watch groups, and call local shelters and veterinarian offices. Post fliers everywhere you can, especially in high traffic areas such as post offices, grocery stores, vet offices, and more.
What you put on your signs and where you place them is especially important. Post your fliers at eye level, and include a high-resolution photo of your pet, your pet’s name, age, a complete physical description, your name, and your phone number. Include the area where your cat was last seen, but do not include your physical address for safety reasons.
The best step is prevention
One of the most effective ways to prevent your pet from becoming a statistic is to identify the reasons your pet might go missing. These can include a variety of factors, such as natural disasters, loud noises (construction, fireworks, sirens), areas where your pet may easily escape, and more.
Keep your cat indoors when you expect fireworks, loud noises, or inclement weather, and repair any areas of your home or outdoor fencing where your pet might escape.
Purchase a collar and identification tag with your pet’s name, your address, and a valid phone number. Microchips are proven effective in helping families locate their furry friends. Most clinics have a universal microchip scanner, so they can alert you if someone finds your missing cat. And don't forget - Figo policyholder pets get a unique tag that can be searched via our website and used to reunite you with your kitty in case they go missing!
The moment you notice your pet is missing, don’t panic. Refer to the tips above and begin a safe, strategized search for your furry friend.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.