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How to Find Lost Cats :: Caring for Your Cat

In order to find your cat, you need to consider the possible reasons for his absence, many of them distressful. However, this is the time to set aside emotions and to rationally evaluate the possibilities, with an appropriate action for each.


How to Find Lost CatsIn all liklihood, the owner of indoor-outdoor cats will eventually face the sorrow of having a cat turn up missing. However, the chances are good (or bad) that your cat did not run away. Cats are very territorial (even the neutered ones) and will defend their territory at all costs, and if driven out by another alpha cat who is bigger and meaner, will seek safety indoors (if allowed that option) before running off. The truth is that the chances are more likely that a cat has been unwillingly removed from the area, injured, or killed.

In order to find your cat, you need to consider the possible reasons for his absence, many of them distressful. However, this is the time to set aside emotions and to rationally evaluate the possibilities, with an appropriate action for each. Here are several possible scenarios, to get you started:

By Human Intervention

  • Picked up by Animal Control
  • Picked up by another cat lover who thinks your cat is "lost"
  • "Rescued" by someone who thinks your cat is "abandoned," "neglected," or "stray"
  • Abducted for gain by professional "cat nappers"
  • Abducted by others for sick purposes (dog-baiting, ritual sacrifice)
  • Trapped and "disposed of" by a cat-hating neighbor
  • Accidental "abduction" (Cat hides in vehicle; is driven out of area)

Injured or Killed

  • By auto accident
  • By a dog or another cat
  • By wild animals (coyote, skunk, or raccoon)
With these thoughts in mind, you can plan your strategy for recovering your cat if he is still alive, or to bring closure if it is discovered he isn't.

Time is of the essence, and you may need to perform all of the following actions:

  1. Make up flyers with a photo of the cat, offer a reward (more about this later), distribute the flyers door-to-door in at least a three-block radius, also post in store windows and on telephone poles
  2. Ask your Animal Control Officer to stop by; give him/her a flyer and as that s/he be on the lookout
  3. Call all the veterinarians in your area, in the event a "guardian angel" brought your cat in with injuries; ask if you can leave a flyer there
  4. Visit your local animal shelter; leave a flyer and ask if a cat meeting the description has been brought in, alive or dead
  5. Visit your local school and ask that children keep their eyes (and ears) open for information about your cat; hand out flyers, if allowed
  6. Advertise in the newspaper - most will allow free "lost & found" ads
  7. Check the newspaper listing for "found cats"
  8. Post to local Internet pages specifically designed for lost/missing pets
  9. Check with local rescue organizations; ask for permission to visit foster homes that may have recently taken in a cat meeting the description
  10. Hire a "pet detective," preferably one with tracking dogs and other technology designed for that purpose
The Importance of Identification
It is important to emphasize that with proper identification, your cat may be returned to you without having to go through all this stress. If your cat wears a collar and tags, most people will return him to you if they think he is lost. With micro-chipping and/or ear tattooing, many veterinarians and animal shelters will be able to notify you, even if the collar/tags were removed. Professional thieves will avoid cats with ear tattoos; they know that laboratories will not accept owned cats, and more nefarious "end users" will probably also avoid them.

Use Caution in Offering Rewards
Heart-rending stories have been told about cruel extortionists who extracted large cash rewards from grieving pet owners, under the premise of having "found" their pets.

zSB(3,3) If you advertise with an award, be sure to leave out one or two pertinent identifying details of your cat (one black whisker, one white toe, etc.) Don't leave yourself open for false hopes, and by all means, don't wire reward money until you see your cat.

Become Involved and Involve Your Neighbors
Most important of all, take steps to prevent cats from becoming lost in the first place. There most likely are other outdoors cats in your neighborhood, especially if you live in the suburbs.

  • Contact their owners and tell them of your concerns.
  • Organize a "cat neighboorhood watch."
  • Stress the importance of identification for their cats.
  • Be on the lookout for strangers in the neighborhood, and if you see someone picking up a cat, get the license number and description of the vehicle. Call the owner, if you recognize the cat.
  • Become familiar with the laws in your community with regard to pets. Many cities have laws that state all found pets must be turned into the local shelter. Unfortunately, many people do not realize this, or disregard the law.
  • Write letters to your newspaper. Point out the Golden Rule with regard to "finding" someone else's pet.

Julie Atkinson has done all of the above since her two cats turned up missing around Christmas of 2000. Although she has not yet found any trace of PeeWee or BettyBoop, she has discovered a mysterious coincidence of close to 600 missing cats in her home city of Antioch, CA since then, and is fighting a one-woman battle with the city fathers for investigative action. Read The Missing Cats of Antioch for the story.

Indoors is Safest
Although indoors cats do occasionally slip out, they rarely go far, and can usually be lured back in easily before meeting harm. It goes without saying that an inside cat is a safer cat .

Here's hoping that you never have to go through the worry and turmoil of a missing cat, but if you do, that these tips will help in a successful recovery. Remember, it's every bit as frightening for our furkids as it is for us.

Related Articles:
Dealing with Hairballs
Keeping Your Cat out of the Sandbox or Garden
Should You Let Your Cat Go Outside?
Care of Feral Cats
Plants That Your Cat Shouldnt Eat

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