Help! I've Lost my Cat!
As a pet owner, there are not many feelings more alarming than not knowing where your pet has gone. Regardless of how your pet got lost, we want you to have the best chance at safely finding them! Follow these tips below and you’ll have a good chance of getting your cat back home!
cats are pros at hiding and can easily sneak into odd places without you knowing! Be sure to check every inch of your home to double-check they did not get trapped in a closet, cupboard, bench, or under furniture.
As soon as you know your pet is outside or lost, get out and start looking! It is a misconception that cats always find their way back home on their own. Indoor only cats are likely to be scared and bewildered outdoors, even cats with experience going outside can easily get spooked by another animal, car, noise or chase a prey animal and travel farther from their home not knowing the way back.
Searching as soon as you know they are gone gives you the best chance at finding your pet and getting them home quickly. Bring their favorite treats, food, or even a toy with you. Cats are territorial, if they have run from your yard, they have likely hunkered down somewhere safe nearby. Often cats are within 5 houses from where they got out. Check under porches, bushes, furniture/ grill covers, cars, even up in trees, anywhere big or small a cat could use as a hiding spot. Fearful cats can fit in rather tight spots, be sure to check even in areas you think would be too small, you’d be surprised at where cats can hide!
Go Door to Door:
Create a flier with a clear photo of your cat’s face and body and your phone number, go to every house in your neighborhood and leave a copy of the flier. Ask your neighbors if they will allow you to search their yards for your cat. If they are not comfortable with you looking in their yard, ask them if they can search their backyards, under their porches, in garages, etc… If someone isn’t home, leave the flier in their front door. In many areas it is illegal to put fliers in a mailbox, please check local codes and laws before placing any lost pet fliers in mailboxes.
Download Lost Cat Fliers Here!
Lost Cat Flier Download (PDF)
Click the fields to edit the text with your information
Reward Flier Download (PDF)
Click the fields to edit the text with your information
Use this if you can only make a limited amount of colored prints
* to edit * you only need to fill out one of the "quarter sized" sections and your information will auto fill into rest of document.
Tip: If screen doors are locked, use rubber bands to attach a rolled flier to door knobs instead!
Bait your Home:
Leave your cat’s litter box outside your home, near the door or window your cat escaped from. If you do not have any other pets in the home, leave a door or window cracked so your cat may easily enter back into your home.
If you have other pets in the home, instead leave your garage door cracked with your cat’s bed food and water inside the garage. If you have a motion-activated camera, set it out so you can watch if your cat comes at night. If the camera has the option to send alerts to your phone when motion is sensed, be sure to have that setting activated.
Leave out your cat’s food and water- replacing it with fresh food and water daily. You want to keep a fresh food supply available to your cat to keep them in the area, if your kitty doesn’t have any food sources available, they may wander farther away looking for some. If your neighbors are willing, bring them some of your pet’s food to leave out as well.
Place your cats used litter box outside. The smellier the better!
Place fresh food and water outside of your home daily.
Post your lost pet info to any local shelters, animal humane societies, or animal control. Be sure to also check their websites at least twice a week to see if your pet was brought in. Many neighborhoods or towns have a Facebook group page you can post a flier and your information to. Posting on the Nextdoor app or other similar neighborhood apps is also a great free way to get your information out!
If your pet is microchipped, log on to their microchip company’s website or call them and be sure your information is up to date. If anyone brings your pet to a shelter or vet, they will contact the information registered to your pet’s chip, having updated and correct information is key to getting your pet back to you!
Utilize sites like Lost my Kitty or Pawboost, you can create a listing and a flier for free on their websites. For a fee, sites like these will send an amber alert to people located in your area, as well as create Facebook ads and mailings about your lost pet.
Place your pet's bed and your clothing next to an open door or window to help draw your pet in
*only leave doors or windows open if you have no other pets in the home, and it is safe to do so*
If you get a phone call, text, or email from any of your listings about your cat being sighted, be sure to ask the sender to be as specific as possible. Ask for an exact address, pictures are great if they can send them, or if they can send you a pinned location on google maps that is a great option too. If the reporter said they spotted them in their yard, ask if they would be willing to leave out fresh food and water or be willing to let you drop off some food for them to put out. Putting out food will help encourage your cat to stay in the area, keeping kitty in one area makes catching them much easier!
Go out at Night:
In most cases cats are going to be more active at night when it is dark and there is less noise from cars and people. If you were unsuccessful in finding your pet in the daytime, get out and walk your neighborhood and surrounding areas at night. Bring a flashlight to shine in bushes and trees, under porches, look for eyeshine.
Think like a Cat:
If your cat has been away from home for a few days, you should know that they may have regressed into survival mode. This means that even the friendliest cat may be relying on their instincts to survive, so they may not come to a person when called and may even run farther off if approached. Advise neighbors and even add to your fliers “do not chase if seen”.
What is Eyeshine?
When light hits a cat's eyes it reflects off a part of the eye called the tapetum, causing their eyes to glow. The tapetum is a part of the eye that helps cats be better hunters in low light and nighttime. Get low and shine a light around- if you see eyeshine stop and calmly try to get close enough to identify if it is your cat vs another animal.
Your cat may not recognize you if they are in survival mode. If you see your cat do not chase them. Instead, calmly sit in the area. If you have treats or food with you, try gently scooting close enough to your pet to toss some food in front of them. Stay lower to the ground, you’ll seem less threatening to your cat lower to the ground than when you are standing and walking. If they go for the food, keep giving them small treats to gain trust, see if you can lure your pet to you with the food or if they will allow you to scoot closer with it. If your pet isn’t fearful this just may help you get close enough to pick them up! If your cat just scurries off at the sight of you or people in general, you will need to enlist the help of live traps.
Use live traps:
If your cat is too fearful to approach humans for help you may need to catch your pet using a live trap. Live traps are a humane way to capture animals. When baited with food, an animal will enter and trigger the door to close behind them safely locking them inside. There is a learning curve, and some special steps to take to successfully trap an animal. Check out these instructions from Best Friends for tips for catching feral cats for TNR, even though your cat isn’t feral the basic principles of trapping will be the same.
Check your local shelters and rescues, many times they will have traps that can be loaned or rented.
Do not Give Up:
Grief fatigue and exhaustion is a real thing you may start to feel, especially if it has been weeks of searching. Finding a lost pet can take weeks, even months. Many people start to rationalize that their pet must have gotten taken by a wild animal, hit by a car, or stolen, and will give up looking too early. Fliers will stop being updated and online posts will expire, only for days later someone spots your pet and be unable to find the information to contact you.
Cats are very resourceful and can survive months on their own before being found or getting hungry and tired enough to approach a human for help. It can be hard work getting a lost pet home, but no one will fight as hard to get your pet home as you, you are their best advocate! Do not give up!
To spread hope that you too can find your lost pet, read Coco's story here!
While these next tips are not always necessary, they can help enhance the above activities to boost the chances of getting your pet home.
Enlist help from your family and friends, the more eyes out looking the better, and the more moral support you have from people who care will help boost your spirits and keep you going.
Change your answering message on your phone to ask anyone calling about your missing pet to leave you a detailed message of the location they were seen. You could also ask them to text or email you photos of the location if possible. This way, if you cannot answer your phone for any reason, callers are still encouraged to leave you detailed information about your pet.
If you have gotten no reports of your cat in your neighborhood, we highly recommend starting handing out fliers to surrounding neighborhoods and communities in any direction. Online posts are great but getting out in person talking to people in the area while handing out fliers not only gives community members a face to the story but will also encourage community members to get involved. If you don’t have a printer at home, go to a Kinkos, library, or any other copying/printing site and make as many colored copies of your flier as you can. Go door to door and leave your flier at every house and business.
Cover your fliers in laminating sheets or in plastic page protectors, use these to tape to light posts, trees in local parks, or anywhere else that it is legal to hang a flyer outside. The plastic will help protect fliers from wind rain and sun damage making them last much longer outside.
Many dollar stores sell large neon poster paper, use these to create large brightly colored signs with a large picture of your cat and your contact information. Be sure to check them weekly to make sure they are still readable and that they haven’t blown away. The more fliers and posters you can get out the better!
Offer a reward for sightings. You’ll want to be careful with how you word this, so you do not get false claims from people looking just to collect cash. We recommend offering a reward only for a photograph sighting that can be sent to you via text or email. Asking for a photo along with an address of the location will help make sure it’s your pet and that you know exactly where they are. You can offer a reward for as much or as little as you can afford, doesn’t have to be cash either, you can offer a reward in gift cards too- just be clear what the reward is and how to claim it on your fliers, be sure to follow through with rewards if you offer them.
To download editable versions of our fliers click here
Red- Search the immediate area around your home in a 5-home radius. This is likely where your cat will be the first few days of being missing.
Yellow- If you occasionally allow your cat time outside or if your pet got spooked, broaden your search farther out to a 10- home radius.
Blue- If you haven't gotten any sightings or reports of your pet in over a week, start searching father outside your neighborhoods