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How to Find a Lost Cat

Whether your cat has a knack for escape artistry or they’ve mastered the game of indoor hide-and-seek, a lost cat can instill panic in even the calmest cat parent. To help get your cat back home (or out of hiding) to their customary purrs and pounces, we’ve rounded up some tried-and-true techniques that have helped others reunite with their best friends.

Learn more about how to find a lost cat below or search our national database to find your missing cat.

How To Find A Cat Lost Inside Your House

If your cat missed their mealtime or failed to turn up for their usual nap in the sun, check to see if their indoor explorations led to accidental confinement inside your house.

  • Retrace your steps, and check places where your cat may have followed you or someone else in your household.

  • Check your closets, cupboards, spare rooms, the pantry, the basement, the garage, the bathroom, or any environment in which your cat could be trapped behind a closed door.

  • Remember to look up: your cat may have realized that the top shelf of your linen closet makes a fine place for a rest, or they may have gotten scared and followed their instinct to climb.

  • Look for small, cozy spaces like laundry baskets or empty boxes—these prime napping arenas may make your cat difficult to spot at first glance.

  • Look behind, around, inside, and under potential hiding spaces like washing machines, furniture, beds, crawl spaces, or storage areas.

Who To Call When Your Cat Is Lost?

Wondering who to call when you lost a cat? Begin your search in a snap on Petco Love Lost. Simply upload a picture of your cat and search our robust database. Powered by facial recognition technology, we help match found animals to reported lost pets nationwide.

  • Next, try your local animal shelter or animal control agency—and visit in person, if you can. Let them know when you noticed your cat was missing, provide a picture of your lost pet and give them your contact information, with a backup contact to ensure that you can respond to any cat sightings promptly.

  • If your cat is microchipped, make sure that your information is up to date so that you are reachable if your cat happens to be recovered and scanned. Can’t remember where your cat is chipped? Try using search tools like the American Animal Hospital Association or Michelson Found Animals universal pet microchip lookup databases.

  • To get the word out, circulate brightly colored flyers or posters (the larger, the better) with simple, easy-to-read phrasing. For an easy flyer template you can print at home, upload your pet to Petco Love Lost and visit your dashboard to print your pet listing. You can also use our optimized shareables to get the word out on Facebook, Nextdoor and Craigslist.

How To Find A Missing Cat Outdoors

Begin by conducting an immediate physical search outside your home, in your yard and around neighboring homes.

  • Check under bushes, shrubs, decks, in window wells, in outdoor storage areas or sheds, in bins or under tarps, or other areas where a small pet could easily hide.

  • Ask your neighbors for help and let them know how to contact you if they spot your missing cat.

  • Check your vehicles and ask your neighbors to check theirs to see if a window or door was left open, giving your cat the opportunity to explore inside.

  • Be sure to respond to any pet sightings promptly and get help from an expert if you’re not sure how to capture or recover your cat.

  • Remember that a scared or injured cat may be most comfortable venturing out of hiding when it’s dark and quiet, so setting a humane trap at night or searching in the evening can be beneficial, too.

How Far Do Lost Cats Go?

Data from Lost Pet Research & Recovery indicates that 78% of missing cats are found outdoors.

“When cats are displaced into an unfamiliar area, the cat is most likely hiding in silence, often not far from the escape point,” says pet detective Kat Albrecht of Missing Animal Response Network. “Conduct an aggressive, physical search of the immediate area—understanding that the cat might be close by but hiding in silence.”

Although you may want to call your cat’s name as you search, it’s important to know that you may not get a meow in response. According to Albrecht, meowing could reveal a cat’s location to a predator—so if your cat is scared or hurt their instinct will be to remain silent, even if their pet parent(s) are nearby.

How Long Can A Lost Cat Survive?

Cats have excellent survival instincts, and some return weeks or months after their family has reported them lost. Some cats take as many as 10 to 12 days before they are hungry and thirsty enough ready to break cover (come out of hiding) and return home, enter a humane trap or return to the window or door from which they escaped.

Though lost cats have been known to travel tremendous distances—sometimes through an accidental car ride—many are found relatively close to home. Data from the Missing Animal Response Network shows that the median distance found in lost cats (how far the lost cats traveled) was roughly 344 yards, or about a 17-house radius from their home.

Should I Put A Litter Box Outside For My Lost Cat?

No. Although some pet rescue resources suggest that putting a litter box outside for a lost cat may be helpful, it can do more harm than good. According to Albrecht, the scent could attract other (potentially aggressive) cats into the yard where a missing cat may be hiding. “Cats are territorial, and when an indoor-only cat escapes outdoors, the cat is often hiding within the territory of another (outside) neighborhood cat.”

It’s also not advisable to sprinkle used litter around the yard. “The entire litter box meme is one of the biggest myths out there,” says pet detective Kimberley Freeman of Lost Cat

“Cats bury their poop for a reason. Putting it out on display invites in the neighborhood cats to investigate the new intruder, potentially chasing your cat farther from home.” She adds, “The smell can also draw racoons and coyotes.” Rather than risk it, try a careful physical search of the area instead.

The Mighty Pet Microchip

Microchipping is a crucial preventive measure in ensuring that your cat won’t be lost for long, should they ever go missing. According to a study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats are 21.4 times more likely to be returned home from a shelter if they have a registered microchip.

“So many families tell me the main reason they didn’t chip is that it was too stressful to get a cat in a carrier and to the vet just for that,” says Freeman. But it’s definitely worth the trip. If your cat should ever become lost, a quick scan of their microchip can help point paws toward home.

Although it’s nerve wracking to lose a beloved cat, try to stay calm, remain hopeful—and look to Petco Love Lost to help spread the word and bring your best friend back home.


Author: Andrea Quarracino

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