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Lost & (Hopefully) Found: How to Find a Cat

October 7, 2011

This week we’ve had a welcomed mini heat wave in Chicago. It’s sad to admit, but after several weeks of downpours and 50-degree days, a sunny 75-degree day seems like perfection.

It’s enough for anyone to forget their cares. But it’s times like these when we, as pet owners, need to be especially watchful of our pets. Leaving a window screen up or keeping the front door open for longer than necessary can result in a lost pet — something you’d never want to happen, especially on a beautiful day.

But the sad fact is that when the weather becomes nicer, the number of lost pet fliers dramatically increases across town. The fliers posted on the door to the left are only a few that my shelter has put up. It’s heartbreaking, because we always see the posters go up — never come down.

However, things don’t need to be hopeless.

Here are some tips and tricks to find your Max, Patches or Smokey:

  • Double-check: Do you just think your cat may have ran out of your home, or did you actually see it? Do a quick check around your home to make sure.
  • Work Quickly: An indoor cat isn’t safe outdoors, especially a special needs cat. She won’t have the skills or savvy to know how to survive outside, especially when it comes to larger predators, cars and animal control.

Photo courtesy Tulane Publications

  • Staying Close: Odds are your cat is probably closer than you think. Cats are extremely territorial, so she’ll want to stay close to home. However, since she’s terrified and in unknown territory, don’t expect her to come to you, no matter how close your bond. She’ll probably seek shelter (under a deck, bush, etc), and she won’t meow.
  • Post Simple Fliers: Think minimally. Put “LOST” above a clear, color photo of just your pet, with your phone number and an alternative below. Make sure the photo is clear and recent — and again, in color. Black and white photos are fine, but they’re hardly accurate. You want someone to immediately recognize your cat. In addition, don’t include any other information on the poster. And when putting them up around town, don’t be stingy on the number of staples you use. Put a good number along each edge. This will make sure they’re not torn down. If possible, laminate the fliers — especially if bad weather is coming.
  • Offering a Reward is Useless: You don’t want to put a dollar sign on your cat’s head. If someone does see your cat, he may not report the sighting in hopes that he’ll be able to catch her. And you certainly don’t want him chasing your cat, which could terrify her even more.
  • Get Some Help: Share your fliers with your neighbors (all around your home — on your block and behind you, too), and ask them to keep an eye out for your kitty. Odds are your cat will stay in the area, so you’ll want as many eyes watching for her as possible. If you’re friends with these neighbors, clue them in on ways they can help you catch your cat. (Give them a can of her favorite food, etc.)
  • Remember the Chip: If your cat has been microchipped, contact the company and let them know she’s lost. The company will send out lost pet alerts in your area.
  • Don’t Give Up: If it’s been a few days, go back and refresh the posters you’ve put up. Most likely many will have been rained on, faded or covered with another flier. Perhaps this time you could print some new fliers and add a line: “Still missing as of (date).” This will show people that you’re still actively searching. You may even want to put up a post on Craigslist or take out an ad in your local paper. Mention the loss on Facebook and other networks your local friends are on. Similarly, keep your eyes open for “Found Cat” fliers or postings around town. Contact local shelters and animal control, in case they find her before you do.
  • An Evening Plan: Buy a can of a particularly aromatic brand of cat food (or your cat’s favorite). Open it loudly, then place it in your yard. Turn off all of your house lights, except one. Where that light shines, place your cat’s litter box. Make sure everyone’s quiet, and there’s nothing that could spook your cat. Keep watch, and if you see your cat approach the cat food, open your back door so she can get back in.

    Photo courtesy avantard

  • Try Dry: If the wet food plan doesn’t work, try keeping out some of your cat’s dry food. Keep some out in your neighbor’s yards too, just in case. It won’t be as fragrant, but it won’t go bad as quickly.
  • Try a Humane Trap: This type of trap is commonly associated with TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs, and you can likely rent one from your local shelter. Once your cat wanders inside the trap, a mechanism trips and will shut the door, containing the cat.
Has your cat ever escaped before? What techniques did you try in order to find her? Please share!
2 Comments leave one →
  1. JacquieB permalink
    October 8, 2011 3:49 am

    Thank you, a very thoughtful and helpful article!

  2. January 13, 2012 10:02 am

    Hi all, this resource may help you too — it’s a great piece explaining lost-pet scams. Even if you haven’t lost your pet, you may want to check it out just to be informed!
    The article can be found here:

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