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.
In 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
- 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:
The Importance of Identification
- 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
- Ask your Animal Control Officer to stop by; give him/her a flyer and as
that s/he be on the lookout
- 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
- Visit your local animal shelter; leave a flyer and ask if a cat meeting
the description has been brought in, alive or dead
- Visit your local school and ask that children keep their eyes (and ears)
open for information about your cat; hand out flyers, if allowed
- Advertise in the newspaper - most will allow free "lost & found" ads
- Check the newspaper listing for "found cats"
- Post to local Internet pages specifically designed for lost/missing pets
- Check with local rescue organizations; ask for permission to visit foster
homes that may have recently taken in a cat meeting the description
- Hire a "pet detective," preferably one with
tracking dogs and other technology designed for that purpose
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
stories have been told about cruel extortionists who extracted large
cash rewards from grieving pet owners, under the premise of having "found"
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
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
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.
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 Shouldn’t Eat