What to do when your cat goes missing

Last edition we looked at why cats get lost and established that most cats can temporarily lose their bearings and become displaced and are likely to be hiding out or trapped, closer than expected.

A small proportion of cats may be seriously unhappy in their current home and decide to relocate. In these cases, it is advised you see a behaviourist to suss out and try to remedy whatever is going on in your home that has prompted your cat to go on the run. Sometimes another cat is the culprit!

For the displaced cat there are a few key tips that can really help the process of relocation and reuniting with your pet. But first, we should do everything to stop the cat wandering in the first place.


Neutering- sexual interest is directly related to wandering off familiar territory. Intact cats of either sex are highly motivated to go in search of a mate, get into scraps and expose themselves to other dangers in the environment.

Microchipping- lost cats may end up in rescue or at a vet, where it will almost certainly be scanned for a microchip. A chip makes it more likely the cat is reunited with its owner, but do ensure chips are updated if you move.

Play and interaction- the right sort of interaction with your cat means it will stay closer to home, where all the good stuff happens. A decent diet, scratch posts and interactive games are all vital in giving cats outlets for their hardwired hunting instincts. Bored cats, or cats on a poor diet, are more likely to hunt for food or entertainment.

Fireworks and thunderstorms- exposure to sudden bangs can make most animals panic and run. Try to anticipate firework events and bad weather and keep your cat shut inside for that period.

What to do when your cat is lost

Search your home and garden- Injured or sick cats will hide silently in the strangest of places, so go into every nook and cupboard; look up the chimney, in the shed and through garden undergrowth. Do not forget to look up trees and on accessible roofs. Ask your neighbours to do the same.

Call your cat- call your cat as you would for feeding time, do not shout or sound anxious. Do this at regular times and then stand and listen carefully and calmly. Give your cat a chance to reach you or to respond. They might be injured and unable to reach you.

Flyers- list the last area your cat was seen, colour of fur, markings, special features, collar description, age, sex, neuter status, and temperament- is the cat normally shy? Provide a photograph, a phone number and microchip status; leaflet all around the neighbourhood, including places like pubs, bus stops and shops.

Report your cat – is missing through organisations like Animal Search UK; Battersea Dogs and Cats Home; National Pet Register and Celia Hammond. Alert the local vets, animal rescue centres and your local R.S.P.C.A branch.

Do not give up- Remember a cat can go for up to twelve days without food and even water, only after this time might they be prepared to come out of hiding in search of sustenance. If your cat does not appear in this time, slowly and systematically expand your search area. Circle areas on a map.

If you find a cat that seems lost- make a paper collar or tag with your number on it asking the owner to phone you.  Try not to assume the cat is lost, it may simply be exploring and not lost at all! Cats that are ill or elderly may also seek out other food sources.


Photo by Lloyd Henneman Unsplash