My friend Rene (from It's All About the Cats!) recently had one of her kitties escape the house and she had to learn a lot about finding a lost kitty very quickly. She very generously wanted to do a guest post so all of this information is in one place for anyone else who might find them self in the same situation.
What I know about finding a lost cat
On a November evening, our cat Tucker slipped out of the house. As an older cat, he sleeps often, so I'd assumed he was napping somewhere, but later in the evening I realized he was not in the house! After 11 days of searching, we had a happy ending and I found him. I learned a lot about missing cats in that time and want to share it in case you have this happen to you.
1. Be prepared beforehand. Microchip (or at the very least, have a collar and ID tags) your pet. Upon researching missing pets, I learned part of the population is anti-microchip, but it could be an important tool in reuniting you with your pet.
2. Start searching immediately. We had the unfortunate advantage of letting 90 minutes or more pass before we even knew he was missing.
3. Talk to your neighbors! We knocked on every house on the street, introducing ourselves and handing out our posters. I believe this face-to-face contact saved our Tucker, since a neighbor two houses away was the one who called us upon a cat sighting (which turned out was our Tucker!). We found nearly all of the neighbors to be helpful. In fact, some searched with us and offered to talk to others and pass out flyers. Also ask neighbors if you can check their garages or sheds in case your cat slipped inside.
4. Put up posters. We asked nearby businesses, restaurants, and other places with community boards to hang our posters. The more people who see the flyer, the better.
5. Put a classified in your newspaper. We were able to list both a print and online ad for little money. There are still people who read the classifieds and don't go online.
6. Contact your local shelter(s) and vets' offices. I visited our local shelter daily, and had a friend visit another shelter daily. Don't assume they will call you if your pet is brought in. I wanted to see the stray cats for myself.
7. Search at dawn, dusk, and during the night. Cats in hiding will only come out if it is quiet. I found Tucker just after dusk. Call his/ her name and listen for any response.
8. Use a powerful flashlight to scan the area. Look for reflections of eyes. Watch for movement in and under porches, shrubs, decks, open garages, etc. We told our neighbors that we would be out searching with flashlights. Many of them allowed us to go into their backyards and search.
9. Keep searching (on foot)! Jim and I searched every single day for 11 days! Gently call your pet's name and/or use familiar phrases while walking. For instance, I have a silly song I made up for Tucker and would sing that, along with other things I'd tell him (are you a good boy?) Also, when searching carry extra flyers and treats with you. I shook a treat bag as I walked.
10. While we have read and heard many stories about cats staying very close to home (within a few houses), this was not the case for Tucker. He was found a number of blocks away, having crossed a busy street. Take any call or sighting seriously and keep searching. We searched two neighborhoods for a week.
|This map shows how far Tucker was found from home. Most cats stay very close to home and hide.|
11. There is a "threshold period" of 10-14 days, where may cats are driven to come out of hiding from hunger or thirst. This was true for our Tucker. We had checked the place where he was found daily for a week before he allowed himself to come out of hiding and be seen.
12. Have a support network. I cried on many shoulders, and it helped keep me going. Don't be afraid to reach out if you need support, help, or just want to cry.
13. Don't listen to negative comments! We heard just about everything when Tucker was missing. Many people don't know what to say in negative situations, especially if they don't have a pet. You know that your pet is important, so ignore anyone who doesn't understand.
14. Post some "lost" listings online, but be wary. Some websites just want to sell you "services" or send you spam instead of finding your pet. Read the fine print carefully.
15. Rent or borrow a live trap. Set it with stinky food (sardines, tuna, etc.) near the point of escape. Be sure to monitor the trap every hour or two. While a live trap didn't help us, we know of a neighbor who trapped her missing cat that way.
16. Put out a sign in your front yard. We had our lost poster both on the front door and in a stake in the front yard, so there was no question of where to return the cat.
17. Talk to people on the street--mail people, construction workers, dog walkers, etc. I passed out many flyers this way. These people are walking around the neighborhood and could sight your cat.
18. Post something on craigslist, both in the pets and lost-and-found area. Also consider Facebook and other social media. Ask friends to share your posts. Wisconsin has a "lost pets" page on Facebook--check to see if your state or community has a similar page.
19. Contact the microchip company and alert them that your pet is missing. This flags your account.
20. Put out used laundry (we used pillowcases) or the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag on your property. Cats' noses are very sensitive and it may help him/her home.
21. It may seem obvious, but if you didn't see your cat escape, search your home thoroughly. Jim and I used flashlights to check every closet, cabinet, drawer, etc. inside.
22. Ask friends or co-workers for help. I asked co-workers who lived in different parts of the city to pass out flyers at their vets' offices, emergency clinics, etc.
23. We did not use this tip, but someone suggested using Google voice to create a special phone number that is easy to remember (like FIND-KITTY) and redirect it to your phone number.
We found this page especially helpful in explaining lost cat behavior: http://www.missingpetpartnership.org/recovery-lostcat.php
We want your lost pet to be reunited with you! This is a photo my husband took right after I got Tucker home
What to do when your cat comes home:
1. Check over your cat for injuries/lameness/etc. If you see a serious injury, please go immediately to a vet's office! Tucker, though thin, was whole and uninjured, so we scheduled an appointment for two days later.
2. If you have other pets, separate them for a few days. Your cat will smell "different" to the other cats and you may need to re-introduce them. Plus, your cat has been traumatized and needs quiet time.
3. Feed your cat small, frequent meals for the first few days. She/he may not have had much food and you don't want to upset the digestive system by feeding a large meal. We also feel it is important to NOT feed dry food. Your cat will need the moisture of a wet diet.
4. See your vet within a few days. We had blood work taken and a thorough physical examination. We also brought in a stool sample to check for parasites.
5. Keep your cat quiet for several days. Tucker slept a lot the first few days home. We made sure he had access to warm places for resting.
6.Your cat's personality may be different for a while until he/she adjusts to being back home. Let him/her lead the way and do not force anything on him/her. Tucker was especially needy and stuck close to our sides, and we let him do so. He needed the reassurance and frankly, we did too.
7. Don't forget to remove your posters, online postings, call the microchip company, etc. to let them know your pet has been found.