Yesterday we looked at what to do if your dog is missing. Many of the steps for finding a missing cat are the same, but we’ll look at a few key differences between searching for a missing cat and a missing dog. Your strategy should focus both on helping your cat find its own way home and on searching in the locations where it is most likely to be, from your own neighborhood to local shelters.
Finding Their Way Home
Cats have strong homing instincts. However, if you’ve done the right thing and protected your cat by keeping her indoors only, she may become disoriented if she accidentally gets trapped outside. Most cats that are raised entirely indoors find the outdoors frightening and confusing. If your indoor cat has gotten lost outside, you may be able to help her find her way home. Try putting some dirty laundry out on your porch. The smell will help to attract your cat back to the correct house even if she doesn’t visually recognize the exterior of her home.
Quizzing the Neighbors
If you’re missing a cat, it’s a good idea to canvass the neighborhood asking neighbors to check their sheds and garages. A frightened housecat will often head straight for the nearest dark, enclosed space. That often means hiding and getting shut in an unfamiliar building. Ask your neighbors also to rap loudly on the hoods of their cars before starting them until you find your cat. Sometimes cats crawl under the hoods of cars to hide, with lethal results if the engine is started while the cat is inside.
Shelters and Rescues
File a missing pet report immediately and check every shelter’s new arrivals every day if possible. If there are too many shelters near you to get to each one every day, make sure you at least visit every shelter once every three days. Many cities have only a three-day stray hold for cats, after which they may be adopted out to a new family. Don’t rely on shelter workers to check new arrivals against their missing cat reports and call you if a cat fitting your description arrives. This may happen if there’s a slow day and a particularly dedicated volunteer on staff, but feeding, watering and medicating the shelter’s residents is prioritized over going through dozens to hundreds of missing reports and comparing them to every new arrival. Take responsibility and check the shelters yourself.