It’s frightening to lose a pet. But clear thinking and action is necessary when your pet is lost. If you panic, you won’t be thinking clearly and you might lose precious time that could be focused on finding your pet.
Search your house first.
Unless you saw your cat sneak outside, there is a chance they might still be inside your home. They might have a new sleeping or hiding place and are having a good, long nap. Search all the nooks and crannies you can think of (even places you think they can't reach), shaking their favorite treat bag or toy, or bring some especially stinky treats. Cats are masters at blending in and hiding in plain sight - and squeezing places you didn't think possible! Check high and low indoors first.
Search your immediate area.
Once you're sure your cat isn't in your house, check the areas surrounding your home. Start by searching under your porch, in sheds, garages, under bushes and in trees and shrubs outside and around your home.
Many cats stay close to home if outside, even indoor only cats that manage to get outside. There’s a good chance they are close to home, but might be scared and/or hiding: there are a lot of noise and unknowns that may scare your kitty into hunkering down in someplace they feel safe.
Try to think like a cat. If you were your cat, where would you think to hide? Maybe they feel safer up high, so be sure to check trees, even the roofs of sheds or houses in case they scaled it to get some height.
Circle the areas your cat was last seen, calling their name (or whistling, or however you usually call them) and use whatever usual tricks you have to get your cat to come to you. Shake their favorite packet of treats or dry food, or maybe a favorite toy that makes noise. As you do so, make sure you pause after each time you call to give your cat time to respond. Listen for any meows or sounds of movement near you.
Place Food, Water, and Litter Box Near Your Home.
Cats have a much better sense of smell than us humans. Start by placing wet canned food, extra stinky if you can, near where you think your cat may have gone to lure them out of any hiding spots.
You can also place your cat's litter box outside, or spread their used litter around the corners of your property. Your cat may catch the familiar scent and find their way home, or come out of their hiding spot once they smell something familiar.
Post to Social Media.
Sites such as Nextdoor, Pawboost, Craigslist, and Facebook can help you mobilize your neighbors to help in your search. Neighbors can post sightings and photos to help if they have your missing pets details. Because of this, it’s always good to keep recent photos easily available in case your cat goes missing.
Even though social media sites such as Nextdoor can be helpful, not everyone is active or pays attention to social media posts. Old-fashioned missing pet flyers are still a great way to let local people know that your cat is missing. This is particularly effective if you have an active walkable community.
Let Your Neighbors Know.
If you know your neighbors, making them aware that your cat is missing can increase the chances of finding your cat. And even if you don’t know your neighbors, it still might help in your search for your missing cat (and introduce you to your neighbors).
Check Animal Control and Shelters
If your pet is found by a local person, they might take your cat to animal control or a local shelter. Don’t just call or check these sites online, go visit them in person. Many facilities are understaffed or have mostly volunteers. Even if your cat is chipped that doesn’t guarantee you be will contacted.
Ensure Your Cat Is Chipped and Tagged.
This is more of a pre-emptive step, but it is a great idea to get your cat microchipped - and especially if they are an indoor/outdoor cat, has a collar with your contact information. It's essential you make sure that this information is up-to-date with your current contact information and address if you've recently moved or changed phone numbers. This can increase the chance of finding your missing cat. Vets can also scan for chips and help return your missing cat if they are brought to a vet's office or shelter.
If your cat is microchipped, alert the microchip database their chip is registered to immediately.
How To Catch Lost Cats
If you find your cat (yay!) but they don't immediately come out when called, try not to get frustrated and remain patient. They are likely frightened and confused and may be wary of approaching too quickly. Grab those treats we talked about, call them by name in a quiet voice (or the voice you'd normally use when you feed them dinner). If they are running from you, walk slowly behind, calling and reassuring them. Cats are more hardwired for "ambush" hunting, so their stamina for running won't last too long. As long as you're patient, you should be able to get them safely home.
If your cat is too scared to be caught after everything, some shelters or TNR programs will rent out their humane cat traps. You can bait the trap with smelly food or catnip and even put a blanket or towel that smells like home inside to lure your cat into the trap.