According to American Humane, approximately 10 million pets go missing in the United States each year, and 1 out of every 3 pets will become lost at some point in their lifetime. Although millions end up in shelters, over 80% of unidentified lost pets are never reunited with their owners.
Knowing how to prevent your cat from going missing, as well as what to do in the event it happens, will increase the odds of getting your pet back.
There Are Two Types of Missing Cats
When a cat goes missing, it’s important to understand that indoor only cats, and indoor/outdoor cats typically require a different approach for a successful recovery.
Common Behaviors of Cats That Go Missing
When a cat is displaced, whether they are indoor only, or indoor/outdoor cats, they will hide and go into what is referred to as, “Survival Mode”.
Survival mode is when a cat’s natural instincts kick in, and their primary focus is to protect themselves and avoid drawing in predators.
They will not meow, and they will typically not respond to being called, even by their owners. This does not mean your cat does not want or need help, nor does it mean they do not love you; they are just scared.
When An Indoor Only Cat Goes Missing
The good news is, when “indoor only” cats escape, they’re almost always within a few houses from where they got out.
They will hide under porches, in garages and sheds, and nearby wooded areas, and they may not come out, even when their owner is calling them.
Tips for recovering an indoor cat include:
- Searching your own house and property.
- Get permission from your immediate neighbors to search their property.
- Sit outside late at night, when there is no activity, and quietly call to your cat.
- Place food and water somewhere that you cat can find it, but do not put their liter box outside, as this has been proven to be ineffective, and even counterproductive.
For cats that remain nearby, a technique for recovery that has been successful for many people is to go outside very late at night, when things are quiet with less distractions, and softly call their name.
When An Indoor/Outdoor Cat Goes Missing
A cat that is used to spending time outside knows the routine of coming and going, so when they go missing, it’s usually because of the following reasons:
- They have been chased from their yard/territory by a predator, or even another cat.
- They have been struck by a car. According to the Humane Society, “Cars kill about 5.4 million cats each year”.
- They have been predated. Outdoor cats are easy prey for predators
- They have been taken in by someone who does not know they have a home.
Steps to Take If Your Cat Goes Missing
- First and foremost, take action immediately. This cannot be stated enough. Taking action right away will give you the best opportunity to recover your pet. As time passes, the likelihood of being reunited, quickly begins to diminish.
- Get the word out as quickly as possible.
- Notify the police and animal control.
- Contact all animal shelters in your area and file a missing cat report.
- Get on social media and post everywhere you can.
- Print “Lost Cat” flyers asap and hang them in high visibility areas around your neighborhood. DIY flyers can easily be printed at home. Place the flyer in a gallon size ziplock storage bag and hang it upside down (to help keep it dry) using a staple gun, thumbtacks, or tape. Also hang flyers in public indoor places like vet offices, the library, local stores, and the post office.
- Consider trapping your cat. Most shelters have traps they can loan you, or you can find an organization that will do it for you, and many offer their services for free. A hungry cat will often be lured into a trap with food.
How To Prevent Your Cat from Going Missing
The #1 way to keep your cat form going missing may seem pretty obvious; keep them inside. People often debate this subject for various reasons, but the bottom line is, if you choose to allow your cat outside, you need to be aware of the potential dangers, and understand the risks.
It goes without saying that a cat that is allowed outdoors should have some sort of identification, and typically people use “breakaway collars” in case they get caught on something.
A collar with an ID tag is also a good idea for indoor cats that are “escape artists”. If you have a busy household, make sure anyone who has access to your home is vigilant when coming and going to prevent your cat from getting out.
An even more effective method of providing identification is to have your cat chipped. A microchip can be read for free at any shelter or vet. And as an additional level of protection, consider adding a GPS tracking device to your cat’s collar.
An Important Message for Indoor/Outdoor Cat Owners
For those who allow their cats to go outside, PLEASE be responsible by spaying and neutering them. The overpopulation problem is real, with a staggering 1.4 MILLION Cats being euthanized in shelters across the US every year. If cost is an issue, please contact your local Humane Society or shelter to inquire about low-cost spay and neuter programs in your area.
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