8 Tips on How to Find a Missing Cat

If your indoor cat ran away, don’t fret. Most missing cats hang out close. Here’s how to find yours quickly!

Mar 14, 2024By Monika Dimitrovska
tips on how to find missing cat

We almost forget that indoor cats, like their ancestors, love exploring nature. While your indoor cat can be happy indoors, they will eventually show interest in going outside and experiencing the world.

However, when that happens all of a sudden because we forgot to shut the front door or window, it can be daunting. Your best friend suddenly went missing, and you’re freaking out. I know the feeling because I’ve been there.

Start the Search at Home

cat hiding behind bed
Image credit: he gong from Unsplash

First of all, don’t panic. Second, take note of the following tips on how to find a missing cat and take immediate action.

The moment you notice your cat isn’t home, inform your family members or housemates of the situation. Ask them if, where, and when they last saw your pet.

Next, search your home thoroughly: under beds, in closets, in small dark places, behind bulky furniture, etc. Cats love dark and secluded places, and they love sleep. They may be hiding or napping somewhere, and you worried for nothing.

If you’re certain your cat is missing, first off, don’t panic. You’re scared, but your feline is probably scared, too. When indoor-only cats leave the home for the first time, they don’t know what to do, unlike stray cats. Finding a hiding place is their first instinct.

cat hiding outside
Image credit: Vera Jetana from Unsplash

If your cat has escaped in the past, they will take the same direction and visit the same place they did before (even if their escape happened years ago).

Cats typically remain within a 3-4 house radius from where they live as long as they can find a hiding place within that perimeter.

When they find a hiding place, they can stay there for days as long as it’s safe and dry. If they decide to come out of their safe spot, it’s when the night falls, and there’s less activity.

cat hiding under bed
Image credit: Chris Yang from Unsplash

Felines aren’t nocturnal animals, as many people think. They’re crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dawn and dusk. Some kittens appear more active during the night if they haven’t yet calmed down, but that doesn’t make them nocturnal.

Luckily, most kittens calm down between 6 and 12 months of age.

A day in the life of a cat outside goes like this: they don’t start to look for food and water immediately after running away from home. They do it after about 2-3 days. Additionally, the longer they’re outside, the more confident they become.

Remember that the demeanor of your cat will determine their actions when outside. As a rule of thumb, male cats come out of hiding sooner and distance themselves from the area farther than females, so keep that in mind.

Inform Your Neighbors About the Situation

yellow and green doors neighbors
Image credit: Christian Stahl from Unsplash

Tell all your neighbors your cat is missing so they can be on the lookout. Also, ask them if, when, and where they last saw your pet. If they aren’t familiar with the cat, make sure you have a recent picture of them on you at all times for showing off.

Additionally, ask your neighbors to check in sheds and garages in case your furry friend was accidentally locked in. You can also have your neighbors drive around and call you with any sightings but advise that they never chase the cat.

The best time to find a missing cat is once it’s dark, using a flashlight. This way, you will catch their eyes in the light. We also suggest softly calling their name, shining under all desks and objects in the area, and shaking a treat jar, food dish, or favorite toy.

Avoid having many people search and call for your lost cat. This will scare your already frightened pet and drive them out of the neighborhood.

Lure Your Cat Back Home

cooking meat grill outside
Image credit: Andrik Langfield from Unsplash

Cats have special noses for various reasons. In fact, scent is their dominant sense, and if your cat has been with you for longer than a few weeks, they’re bonded to your home and the smell of it.

Here’s what you can do to attract your cat by scent:

  • Stay outside for as long as possible so that your cat can smell you and remain in their hiding spot, knowing that they’re close to home.
  • Cook up something smelly on your grill, like liverwurst or bacon.
  • Keep your windows open to release the house smells outside.
  • Hang your blanket or a piece of clothing outside.
  • Put your cat’s litter box outside.
  • Leave canned cat food outside.
  • Spread dry food around where you suspect they might be.

Visit Animal Places

cat animal shelter
Image credit: Alisa Matthews from Unsplash

Visit local animal control agencies, shelters (both municipal and private), rescue agencies, and veterinary hospitals in your area. One of them may already have your cat.

When describing your pet, provide a recent photo and the following details:

  • Where your pet was last seen.
  • When it was last seen.
  • Your name and phone number.
  • Pet’s name, breed, color, and sex.
  • Collar details.
  • Any medications your pet is on, and your vet’s name.

Note: If you suspect your cat was stolen, contact the police.

We also suggest checking in with shelters daily by phone or physically visiting in person with photos of your lost pet.

Start Advertising

man petting a cat
Image credit: Parker Coffman from Unsplash

Spread the word about your lost pet by posting notices at grocery stores, community centers, vet offices, and other spots. Use newspapers and radio ads, mentioning details like sex, age, weight, breed, color, and markings.

Note: When describing your feline, leave out one identifying characteristic. If someone calls saying they’ve found your cat, ask them to describe them.

We also suggest using online platforms like:

  • Craigslist
  • Fido Finder
  • Lost Dogs of America
  • Lost Pet USA
  • Missing Pet Partnership
  • Fur Alert
  • Local FB groups

Use the Power of Social Media

social media apps
Image credit: dole777 from Unsplash

Email your local friends, colleagues, and family about your lost pet, and ask them to share the info.

Moreover, use local “Lost Pet” Facebook pages or create your pet card to share across your social networks. Make it clear on your FB post that you want location sightings sent to you privately, not posted publicly.

Note: Quick phone calls work best for sharing this information.

Create a “Lost Cat” Flyer

missing cat flyer
Image credit: Arizona Humane Society

Make a standout flyer to grab people’s attention and boost the chances of finding your pet, but make sure you stick to one design for consistency.

You can also use websites like lostmykitty.com, findtoto.com, TabbyTracker.com, and www.Pawboost.com to help create and distribute your flyer.

Spread your flyers strategically:

  • Post them at dog parks, pet stores, grooming shops, and vet offices.
  • Target busy spots like grocery stores, gas stations, bars, cafes, and restaurants.
  • Cover lampposts and trees near where your pet was lost.
  • Put flyers in bustling commercial areas.
  • Focus on schools and place flyers at kids’ eye level since they’re often more observant about animals.

Don’t Fall Prey to Pet-Recovery Scams

man holding money
Image credit: Allef Vinicius from Unsplash

If a stranger claims to have found your cat, ask them to describe the feline thoroughly before you provide any information.

If they don’t mention the identifying characteristics you left out of the “Lost Cat” flyers or advertisements, they may not really have your cat.

Moreover, watch out for people who insist that you give or wire them money for the safe return of your pet. Finally, never meet a stranger alone in a private place to retrieve your cat.

Can Cats Find Their Way Home if Lost?

kitten hiding outside
Image credit: Monika from Pixabay

Absolutely! Lost cats have a special knack for finding their way back home, thanks to their homing instincts. Using the sun, stars, and Earth’s magnetic field, they navigate their way.

Have you heard of the Florida cat walking about 200 miles home after getting lost during a family vacation? Then there’s the cat Ninja, who walked a whopping 850 miles back to his old home because he missed it so much.

Keep Your Hopes Up

woman and cat hugging
Image credit: Mel Elías from Unsplash

If your cat goes missing, keep hope alive. Many lost pets find their way back home. Try various ways to locate your cat, and you might reunite sooner than you think!

And, as a proactive measure, once your cat is back, consider putting a collar with contact info on them. This simple step can be a big help if they ever wander off again.

Monika Dimitrovska
By Monika Dimitrovska

Monika is a pet enthusiast and seasoned copywriter with a tech degree. She loves writing, but her heart belongs to her two mixed dogs, Buba and Bono, a mother-son duo. Bono’s siblings found loving homes, sparking Monika’s advocacy for neutering and deepening her curiosity about animal care.

But Monika’s pet family doesn’t end there. She also has two cockatiels and two rescue cats, proving her home is a haven for creatures big and small.