It is the moment every pet owner dreads, it leaves the whole family distraught, when your beloved pet goes missing.
If you think that your cat is missing, try to remain as calm as you can because after all cats love their homes and are probably a lot closer than you think. Cats are very curious creatures and can disappear for days at a time with no trouble at all. However, most cats prefer the outdoors and can be tempted to wander off for food. They can get into very small and extraordinary places which can sometimes mean that they get stuck in someone’s garage, shed or car and this can mean that they can be missing until found and released or they manage to find a way to escape. Lots of people mistake family owned cats for strays and take them in or hand them in to a local animal charity or shelter.
Knowing what to do and how to respond if you think you have lost your friendly cat is crucial as the sooner you take action then the more likely you are of having a safe return.
When you first realise that your cat is missing, start with a thorough search of your home and garden. Look in corners, under furniture, in boxes, appliances, cupboards, on top of tall furnishings and under the car. Your cat may (hopefully) be hiding or having a nap in a new hiding place. Once you are sure that your cat is not on your property, the next 24 hours are critical and there are some key things that you should do to ensure a reunion with your feline friend.
If it’s unlike your cat to wander off, begin your search right away. You know your cat and what their temperament and habits are, so trust your instincts.
It may just be that your cat has decided to take a longer stroll in the neighbourhood than normal, so it is ideal to spend around 45 minutes circling the area that he was last seen, calling his name. Next, ask your neighbours if they could perform a similar search of their property in case your cat wandered over their way.
Make sure that you pay attention to houses with other cats as this is often a distraction. Pay close attention to garages, sheds and cars as they could have got trapped whilst wandering and shake a box of their favourite dry food or treats to entice him. Whilst you are out on the lookout for your wandering cat, leave the cat flap open in case he decides to make an appearance back home.
Who to inform
The next protocol is to inform the correct people. Firstly, contact your microchip company and let them know that your cat is missing – ensure that all your contact details are up to date so that they can get in touch with you quickly should they hear the whereabouts of your cat. It is essential that your pet is microchipped and now most vets will not treat them unless they are.
Next, inform your local vets, pet charities and shelters to see if anyone has handed them in. It would be a good idea to give them your contact number just in case anyone calls them to say they have found your cat. Social media is a good platform to get the word out about your missing pet and if you aren’t on social media ask a friend who is, would they mind posting it for you. Using the recent photo of your pet as a visual cue, let all your Facebook and Twitter friends know that your cat has gone missing. Those that live in your local area will be able to help with the search or at least keep an eye out for your wandering pet. Those that don’t live close to you can still be useful by sharing or retweeting your post to help spread the word.
Make lost posters
Make and print out posters with a recent picture of your cat informing the public that they are missing. Put up as many posters and flyers as you’re allowed to as this will encourage your community to keep an eye out. Be really thorough in your description on the flyer so that there aren’t any mix-ups. Be sure to include a photograph, your contact details and the date and place your cat was last seen. Ask local vets, post offices and pubs would they mind putting your poster up so that the word can reach more people in your area. If you live in a major city, then it might be a good idea to provide local restaurants with the poster as cats tend to gravitate towards areas with plenty food.
There are still things that you can do at home to help your cat find his way back. You could leave his favourite toy, unwashed bedding or litter tray in the garden – sheltered from the rain – as these are all familiar smells and may help him recognise his way back into the home. Try going into the garden and immediate vicinity late at night calling him as this is when it is the quietest and if he is trapped this is when you will most likely here him.
With any luck your cat will soon be found and be back at home, ruling the roost as always. It would be prudent to keep them in for a week or so after a disappearance, in order to acclimatise them to your home and their territory once again. For tips on entertaining your cat and keeping them active as they are kept indoors, have a look at our guide here