How your cat reacts in a new environment depends greatly on their personality. An adventurous cat may be more likely to roam, whereas a skittish cat may seek a safe hiding spot. Once a cat has left their comfort zone, almost anything can scare them even more. Most indoor-only cats tend not to travel far (sometimes even as close as your next-door neighbour’s home).
Start the Search Indoors
Check your home very carefully, searching in every nook and cranny. Enlist other people to help you, as different people notice different things. Once you have looked everywhere, look again. Not all missing cats are lost, yet all cats are masters at hiding in obscure and seemingly impossible places.
Social media can be the key to finding lost cats – access to your friends, family, and a community of fellow pet lovers at your fingertips. Post your cat’s name & picture online, asking for anyone willing to share your post and/or help join your search party. The search must start now. Contact the following Facebook pages and your community’s social media page(s) to post your cat’s information. Many communities have a lost and found pet group in addition to their main community group.
Notify Veterinary Clinics and Shelters
Contact local veterinary clinics in your own community, surrounding communities, and all of the 24-hour veterinary hospitals in the area, advising them that you have lost your cat and to contact you if any information becomes available. Provide each organization with a copy of your lost poster. To create a lost report in Calgary, call the City of Calgary Animal Services at 311, the MEOW Foundation at (403) 554-4607 and the Calgary Humane Society at (403) 205-4455. Visit the Calgary Humane Society and Calgary Animal Services websites every few days to check the cats that have been turned in to their facilities. Outside of Calgary, contact your local cat rescue, local veterinarian, humane society or municipal government for information on how to proceed.
Notify Your Cat’s Microchip Company
If your cat has a microchip, also contact the microchip company to notify them that your cat is missing and ensure they have your current contact details.
Move the Search Outside
Grab a good flashlight, treats +/- a recording of your other cat’s meow and start the search.
Wear comfortable clothes that can get dirty.
Make sure everyone takes along a fully charged cellphone.
Take Advantage of Your Cat’s Acute Senses
A cat’s sense of smell, hearing and sight far exceed our own; use this to your advantage when searching for your lost friend. Remember, just because you don’t smell/hear/see them, doesn’t mean they don’t smell/hear/see you.
Use smelly and/or enticing foods and treats; this may be your cat’s favourite packaged treats, wet food, tuna, sardines or catnip.
TIP: Add hot water and warm the wet food, tuna or sardines slightly in your microwave; this will help the odour linger and travel further.
Shake the treat bag, call your cat by their name or in the same way you call them for dinner.
TIP: Record the meow of another cat at home and play this on your smartphone while you are out looking for your lost friend.
Put yourself in their paws
Begin your search at the suspected exit point from your home. Look around. Where would you go if you were your cat? Put yourself in their paws. Look on the ground for fresh tracks in mud or on the sidewalk for an idea of which direction your cat may have travelled. Extend your search from your yard to your neighbours’ yards in every direction. If you have helpers, spread them out in different directions. Remember, cats are skilled climbers – look up and down. Using your flashlight, look under porches, decks, stairs and tarps; look inside small openings, sheds and garages; and look up in trees or on fences. If the weather is harsh, focus on areas that would protect your cat from the elements. Cats will most likely run along the sides of homes as opposed to running in a more exposed area so pay special attention to hiding spots close to home.
Don’t be shy… Talk to everyone!
During your search, alert everyone you see about your missing cat and knock on every door, making sure to show them your cat’s picture. Ask them if you can check in their yard, shed and garage; you will search more thoroughly than they will. You are feline-focused. Notify your mailman, paper boy, kids, and anyone else you can think of that is outside on a daily basis.
TIP: Alert kids in the area; they notice everything and are sometimes keen to work for the reward. Dog owners are another great source of information, as their dogs may have noticed your cat or picked up on their scent. Ask the dog walkers if their dog was acting strange in a certain area for no apparent reason – they may have found your cat’s hiding spot.
Bring the inside outside
Upon returning home, leave food and water outside your home. Place your cat’s bedding, their used litter box, and some of your unwashed clothing outside; these are familiar scents. Remember, their nose knows! If the weather is unfriendly, place the food and water in an area protected from the elements, but still easily accessible by a scared kitty. If possible, keep your garage door open slightly and set up food, water and bedding inside. Leaving a baby monitor near the food may help you hear if there are any visitors.
Using a humane trap
Setting up a trap can be a successful and safe means of catching your kitty. Traps must be checked often to ensure the welfare of the animal inside; it is possible that you may catch another cat or a wild animal. Visit this page for tips on how to set up a trap.
Healthy Paws Forward Veterinary Hospital provides a trap rental service. MEOW Foundation also rents traps (up to one week, maximum). A deposit is required, but will be refunded upon return of the trap.
If you trap another cat: If you know for certain that the cat is an owned outdoor cat in the area, return the cat to its owner. If you trap a cat unknown to you, especially if it appears to be a stray, refrain from opening the trap and take the cat to a local veterinarian who accepts stray animals. Take a picture of the cat and post it to the lost and found pet pages listed above. Click here for more information about what to do if you find a lost cat.
If you trap a wild animal: Minimizing the animal’s stress is the safest approach for both you and the animal. Remember, they will often be quite frightened. Avoid putting your fingers inside the trap or standing close enough to the trap where the animal could bite or scratch you (or spray you if it is a skunk). Placing a towel or sheet over the trap can also provide some protection. Release the animal immediately in the same area where it was trapped. Wear heavy gloves as you open the trap door and tip the trap forward, pointing it away from your body. If the animal does not run away immediately, use a stick to hold the door open, by placing the stick through the wires and vacating the area so the animal can leave on its own.
Continue the search – dusk & dawn The best times to search are at dawn and dusk, as the neighbourhood is typically quieter and small birds and rodents may be flying and scurrying about, a potentially irresistible temptation for a hungry or curious cat. Every night before going to bed, check the safe spots and traps and call out to your cat one more time. If you have recently moved, expand your search to your previous home and hang posters in the area in between your previous and new homes.
Make a missing cat poster and plaster your neighbourhood. Deliver the poster door to door. Hang the poster at bus stops, pet stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, schools, churches, community centers, on lampposts, and at major intersections in the area. If you have access to sandwich boards, make a big poster to place at the major intersections entering your community. Create a lost poster with your phone number, a close-up colour picture of your cat, your cat’s name, and the words “Lost Cat” (+/- “Reward”) in a font large enough that people can see it from their vehicles and as they walk past. If offering a reward; do not quote an amount, as people may not think the offer is worth the effort. Indicate if your cat is on any medication; this may deter people who agree with the saying “finders keepers”. You may also consider adding vertically cut strips with your contact info at the bottom of the page for people to tear off. Download a free lost poster. You simply have to insert your cat’s information and print it off.
TIP: Slip posters in a plastic sheet cover (with the opening at the bottom) to prevent the poster from getting damaged by rain or snow.
Keep Hope in Your Heart
The search can be physically and emotionally draining; stay strong. Cats are amazing! There are countless stories documenting a lost cat’s return weeks, and even months after they first went missing. Keep the search alive and current by periodically updating your posts on social media, calling all of the vet clinics and agencies above and hanging “Still Missing” posters in your neighbourhood.
Is it actually possible to teach your cat how to come on command? Yes! The information obtained from a simple Google search for “training your cat to come when called” could keep you and your cat busy for some time.