ragdoll kitten hiding in a box

Get Kitty Home Fast: Action Plan to Find a Lost Cat

Have you ever had an indoor cat go missing?  It happens. Kids leave the door ajar, a loose window screen, a moment of curiosity, and Kitty finds himself outside without the slightest clue what to do out there. The best strategies to help you find a lost cat take understanding what is going on in his head.

Lost cats will hide in silence. Cats are prey for larger animals and raptors. Their ability to blend in and hide in small spaces is their primary method of protection.  Even injured cats will not cry for you.


Woman putting up a lost cat poster

Tips To Give You the Best Chance at Finding a Lost Cat:

  1. Search every inch of your house.  Cats can fit anywhere. If your fist can fit through a space, your cat can fit through that space. Check inside closets, cupboards and drawers, under the bed, behind dressers and the fridge. If you opened a chest or storage box at any point, recheck it even if you are sure you’d have noticed the cat. Check the dishwasher and dryer. Look even in unlikely places. I once found my “missing” cat in a chair wrapped up in a long tablecloth.

  2. If you live in an apartment, check the hallways, stairwells, basement, storage closets, laundry rooms, and any vacant apartments that may have had a door ajar. Ask your neighbors if they have seen your cat.

  3. Call animal control, shelters and rescues, and vets in your area. If he has a microchip, call the registration company and let them know he is missing.

  4. Call anyone that visited your property that day. Guests, workmen, delivery companies, etc. Your cat might have checked out their truck and gone for an unintended ride.

  5. Post on social media. Not just on your own profiles but local groups. Facebook and Nextdoor are good starts. A service like Pawboost.com can help your efforts. PetAmberAlert can help for a price.  Ask local friends to share to other groups they know about it. Pet FBI and Craigslist are other options.

  6. Missing pet flyers are still a good way to notify a lot of local people.  Plaster your neighborhood with a good full-body photo of your kitty, a phone number you check regularly, kitty’s name, and the location where he was last seen.  Make big posters for intersection areas or visible spots. Parks, local stores, office buildings are all important too.  Pawboost has tips on how to make a good lost cat poster.

  7. VISIT your local shelters. Go as soon as you are sure Kitty is missing. Take a copy of your poster and return often. The hold time here is 3 days before a “found” cat can be adopted out. Don’t count on the shelter to call you. Likely they won’t. Check back repeatedly, in person.

  8. Be sure to notify any feral cat feeders in the area to be on the lookout on any new cats that show up.

  9. Get out there and start searching. Get permission from your 3-5 closest neighbors in all directions to search their yard, garage, shed, under the porch, bushes with a flashlight. Look up on top of houses and up in trees. Shine the light to see if his eyes reflect the light. Repeat the search at different times and days in case Kitty got frightened and moved. Lost cats are most often found close to home. Check culverts and ditches.

Time is of the essence so get started as soon as you know that Kitty has escaped.

Strategies to Lure a Missing Cat Home:

What is the first thing people say when you tell them your cat is missing? Put his litter box outside, he’ll smell it from a mile away and come home.  Don’t do it, it doesn’t work. And it may draw other cats into the area that will fight with your cat and frighten him away from his familiar territory.

Try these strategies instead:

  • Put out food, the stinkier the better.  Try his favorite canned cat food, tuna, or sardines. Eventually Kitty will have to look for food and water.  He’s most likely to be active late at night or early morning.

  • Setting a wildlife camera trap up will show you if he has come to the food you put out.  If you seem him on camera, you will know he has stayed close by.

  • Set up a shelter by your feeding station.  Or leave your garage door or basement window open so he can get back in when he comes home.

  • Shelters and hardware stores often loan or rent humane traps.  If you can monitor the trap, this can be the ultimate way to catch a lost and hungry kitty.

Remember, no one cares more for Kitty than you do. No one else will put the same effort into finding him you are. Don’t give up, he’s out there somewhere waiting for you to find him and get him home safely.

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Last Updated on May 10, 2021 by Holly Anne Dustin

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10 thoughts on “Get Kitty Home Fast: Action Plan to Find a Lost Cat”

  1. These are great tips to help find a missing cat.

    My friend once cut her vacation short because the pet sitter couldn’t find her cat. It seems he followed the pet sitter out to the garage and she accidentally locked him in there. Luckily, he was just fine.

  2. Wow, that would be awfully scary to lose an indoor cat outside. Does your cat wear a collar with a name tag? I’m a dog person and when I find a lost dog, that’s the first thing I look for. I can understand about losing a cat in your house. I once lost a 50-pound dog in my house! She climbed up the attic steps and was afraid to come down, and the door was only open a few inches. Very informative post.

  3. Every cat should be chipped and EVERY rescue, shelter and pound should be legally obliged to scan for a chip then sign a form saying they did so. People are lazy! Get your damned cat chipped. It’s not hard. It gets them home faster and may stop a kill shelter putting them down. Get the chip checked annually on Take Your Cat to the Vet Day or Check the Chip Day.

  4. Great tips! One of our neighbors had their friendly and fabulous cat go missing for an extended period. He was finally found eight miles away and it is thought he was “rescued” or cat napped. Ferdinand now sports a GPS collar and is noticably far less trusting than previous. Sigh. Wish they’d keep him inside, but…

  5. Excellent post. We get lost cats all the time on our Nextdoor feed and everyone tells them to put the litterbox out. I tell them no. I’m gonna bookmark this to share.

  6. Great tips! Oddly enough this happened this week in our neighborhood. The missing kitty had always been an indoor cat, but someone forgot to close the door post a party. They did some of the things you mentioned. About an hour later someone went on the Nextdoor app and posted a pic of the lost kitty – who wandered into her house!

  7. I would be so scared if one of my kitties ever got lost. These are great ideas- especially checking every square inch of your home. There have been times when I thought for sure that one of my cats had gotten out, only to find that they had found a clever hiding space. I’ve learned that if I can’t find one of the cats, shake the treat bag and usually they will come out from hiding.

  8. While I hope I will never need them, these are wonderful tips. When I was a kid we had a cat disappear and he showed up again 2 years later. He was in great shape so we think someone was caring for him indoors. When he got loose, he came back to his original home. One of the happiest days of my life!

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