Most of us who own indoor cats have at least one experience of their escape. It's a scary thing because cats, unlike dogs, do not readily respond to kind neighbors, no less strangers, who try to rescue them.
So what do you do when your kitty goes missing?
1. Prepare for the unexpected
Make sure your cat is wearing a collar with identification on it at all times. Print your cell phone number and other information on the collar or accompanying tags. Orange collars are advisable so others can identify that your cat is 'an escapee,' and not an 'outdoor cat.'
Take clear full-body photos of your cat, as well as photos of her face. If she has particular markings or distinguishing characteristics (for example, my cat has a bent tail), take photos of them as well.
I definitely recommend that you microchip all pet cats and dogs. If your pet is found and brought to a shelter or a veterinarian's office, the microchip can be scanned and you will be notified immediately that your pet has been found.
Additionally, your cat should be neutered. Neutered cats don't tend to stray like un-neutered cats. Hormones can be stronger than personal attachments when it comes to cats (and dogs).
2. Take immediate action
If you can't find your cat, make sure she is not hiding in your home. She may have been frightened by noises, or something falling from a shelf, or other factor unknown to you. Look thoroughly in, around, and under things throughout your home.
Then, go outside and calmly search around your home and nearby properties. Bring food, the smellier (fishy-er) the food, the better.
Call your cat by name calmly and softly. Listen for murmurs and movements in nearby bushes and trees. And bring a towel so that if your kitty comes close enough to you, you can wrap her in a towel and pick her up. The towel not only protects you from being scratched, but enables you to hold her more securely.
It is most important that you remain calm and talk to your cat in a loving and caring voice. She is more frightened than you are and your job is to make her feel safe.
3. Lay out your kitty's accommodations in your yard.
Your cat may be hiding around your home and the odor of his soiled litter may make him feel safe, so leave soiled litter close to trees or bushes or under a porch or other shelter. An upside-down box with an opening or a crate with bedding should also be placed outside with food your kitty adores. Fresh water too!
If you happen to have, or can borrow, a Havahart Animal Trap, all the better. Make sure you pack it with smelly, delicious cat goodies. These traps are generally used for feral cats, but whatever it takes to get your own cat home is worth the price you pay for a trap. You can find video instructions on setting up the Havahart here.
Whenever you leave a trap or food outside for your cat, you should be nearby watching. You don't want to catch racoons or coyotes! You will need to be on the watch for your cat!
4. Stay out at night
Don't forget to check your roofs! (iStock photo)
When cats are frightened, they will often wait until the dead of night before attempting to get to their comforts. My own cat would climb on the roof and not come near us (pleading with him to come down from the ladder at the edge of the roof) until it was very dark and quiet. PetMD suggests that 2:00 a.m. is the best time to be out in the yard, gently calling your escaped kitty.
5. Post your cat's photos on social media
In the few minutes you are not actively searching for your cat outside, start posting his photos on social media. One of the best places is your own neighborhood app, Nextdoor. Leave necessary details to contact you if your kitty is spotted. I like Nextdoor because your neighbors will most likely receive its notices and are most likely to see your cat around, but Petfinder, Pawboost, PetAmberAlert, and others are great resources, as well as pet hospitals and animal rescue organizations. Put ads online in local newspapers and radio and TV station websites, especially if they have specialized sections for such ads. And don't forget to read the FOUND columns!
Customizable lost cat photo (on PosterMyWall.com)
If you can, make posters in advance of your cat's disappearance to have on hand, just in case... That would be great! PetFBI and PosterMyWall, among other sites, provide formats just ready for your specifications. When your pet goes missing, post them around your neighborhood and in local coffee shops and groceries. Include your cat's photo and your cell phone number and, if you desire, a reward for her return. Revisit your postings every few days to refresh them if necessary.
6. Keep the faith
Cats have been known to return home months and even years after their disappearance. Don't give up hope and keep checking around periodically.
Cats are smart. If they are accustomed to living in a loving home, they will return to it or find another to take him in. Many of us end up homing lost cats when we can't find their owners.