1) Not all missing cats are lost or want to be found. Cats are notorious for hiding in impossible places. Before you assume kitty is missing, search indoors, around the porch, and your neighbor’s yard. Bring with you a flashlight and a tasty, smelly treat. This is when a cat trained to respond to the “come” command pays off. If a cat is injured, trapped or hyper-stressed, they may not respond to a command but it improves the odds.
2) Don’t waste time. If you know your cat is missing, grab your cellphone with a photo of your cat uploaded, flashlight and treats and head out. Ask pedestrians, knock on your neighbor’s doors and show the photo. This is no time to be shy. Leave a missing cat report with your vet, Animal Control, all the other local vets, shelters and rescue groups.
3) Wear comfortable clothes and comfortable soft-soled shoes. Don’t panic. Breathe, try to be calm and think like a cat. If you were a cat where would you go? Begin around your house and spread out to the immediate neighbors on all sides. Where does your cat normally head? What is the most likely escape route? What are their favorite bushes or hiding spots? Crouch low under porches, scan high on roof lines and tree branches. Could something have recently happened to spook them? Construction or a new neighbor’s cat or dog will make a cat escape? Or has anything happened recently in your home to upset them; like the chemicals from getting your carpets cleaned, bringing out the cat carrier or bringing out suitcases for a trip?
4) When you return home, leave food and water outside your door. Fearful cats will often slink out after dark. Leaving a baby monitor near the food may detect faint meows. Go outside one last time to check and call your cat’s name before bedtime. Try to get some rest. In the quiet darkness, try to communicate with your cat. Imagine their face, call their name and connect heart to heart. Try to tune into where they might be. It may be a feeling, an image or sound. Reassure them that you will help get them home.
5) If you haven’t already made a missing cat poster, make one. It doesn’t have to be fancy but make sure the words “Lost Cat” are large enough to be visible from a passing vehicle or pedestrian. Luckily most of us have a gazillion photos of our cats of. Choose or crop a large close-up showing details of the face and another photo showing the entire body, ideally standing up. If you’re not computer savvy, you can glue a photo on a piece of paper and use a marker to write the text by hand. Color photos are preferable especially if your cat has a unique color or markings. Copies printed on neon bright paper show well and use plastic page covers in case of rain. Your poster includes your cat’s name, description, any special identifying marks or collar, and where last seen, specifying cross streets. Include your phone and e-mail, but for security reasons do not add your name, address or amount of reward. Add contact the contact information at the bottom of the page cut into four or five vertical strips that can be easily torn off.
6) Enlist family and friends to help post flyers and spread the word. Have push pins, tape and a staple gun depending on the surface. The best posting spots include street intersection poles, local bulletin boards at grocery stores, library, laundromat and community center.
7) Post missing cats reports at online at Tabbytracker Craigslist, or Nextdoor.com. Use social networking like Facebook and Twitter. Ask everyone to share.
8) Visit all your local shelters even if say they don’t have a cat of your description.
9) If you’ve recently moved, extend your search to your old neighborhood.
10) Persevere! Cats have returned weeks and months later. Keep networking, and asking neighbors if they’ve noticed anything. Keep your flyers or posters fresh with a “Still Missing” header.
11) Take a large cardboard box and flip it over. Cut a cat sized hole in the side and place it outdoors with some soft bedding inside. Weight the bottom down and make this a safe place your cat can return to. Place food and water and litter pan nearby and shirt/shoes with your scent.
12) The best time to search for a lost cat is when the world is asleep, which is 2 AM. Go out with a flashlight and food. You can take a few cans of cat food with you, stand out in the open and pop the cans, or shake a treat jar. You will be surprised how the sound can travel in the quiet of the morning, and oftentimes your cat will appear within minutes of the first can being opened. Enterprising cat owners have also recorded the sound of their can openers opening a tin of food, and played the tape over and over while looking for their lost cat.
13) Check the trees on your property; if you live near the woods, then the soiled litter is the best attractant for your cat. She will scent her scent over the wild critters and come to the comfort zone she is used to.
Not every cat will return home, but if you cover all your bases as completely as you can, you can lessen the probability that your cat will stay lost. As hard as it sounds, you have to stay focused and not become stressed. Your cat will sense any stress coming from you, and may stay hidden until you calm down. Most cats go to ground immediately-which means they hide close to the home they know- unless they get chased off or scared away. If you can hold your emotions in check, you increase the odds in your favor.