How to Find a Lost Indoor Cat – The Ultimate Guide

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How to find a lost indoor cat

“My cat is missing, will he come back?” If your precious housecat or indoor cat has gone missing, panic sets in fast. Where is s/he? Where could s/he have gone? How can I find him/her? Cats owners will find themselves in a frantic panic when their indoor cat has gone out and not come back. That’s probably why you’ve landed on this page. Well, first of all, let me just say that my heart goes out to you. It really does. My cat went missing which was my motivation for writing this guide. Like my cat, I’m absolutely positive that your cat will be found.

This guide is written to help you find a lost indoor cat or a cat who doesn’t go out very often and certainly doesn’t stray very far. Follow the tips in this article to help you find your missing indoor cat, and have every faith that your beautiful kitty will return to you.

What to do when your Cat Goes Missing: Tips to Help you Find A Lost Indoor Cat


How to find a lost indoor cat
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1. Try not to Panic

I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. But panicking doesn’t actually solve anything. You need to keep a rational head and think logically. Think about all of your cat’s most private hiding places, consider noises or events that could have frightened your cat into hiding somewhere. Try to think like a cat, and do all the usual things you would do around the house, e.g. call your cat, open his/her food container and shake his/her toys. You never know, you could be on the verge of panic over nothing.

2. Check your House Properly

Check the obvious and less obvious places first. It may seem stupid that s/he is hiding in the house, but you’d be surprised where cats can hide!

Look underneath furniture, inside drawers and cupboards, behind your dishwasher, refrigerator or washing machine even. Any gap that’s small enough for a cat to fit needs checking twice.

Cats can hide if something suddenly spooks them, and they may not come out for hours. They have a mental map of their territory and the chances are they already have secret spots inside your home that you don’t even know about!

Thoroughly check your home for your lost cat as you never know where they could hide.

Black and grey cat curled up in a flowerpot - hiding from humans
Cats sleep anywhere… Photo credit: Pixabay

3. Check your Garden, Sheds, Greenhouses, Outbuildings and Garages

This is the next very important step to finding your cat. Cats just love to explore hidden areas, so a shed, greenhouse or garage is a great place for a cat to hide, explore or get trapped.

Check these buildings in the same methodical way you checked your house.

When it comes to the garden, look around in bushes, the undergrowth, beneath decking or garden furniture, check behind fences and walls.

Then, check again. Your cat may be frightened or too scared to come out, even for you. Use your eyes and your ears to listen for any miaowing or scratching sounds.

Have a look at trees, as cats are great at climbing trees, both sometimes not so great at getting down!

4. Check the Neighbor’s House and Garden, try to check yourself if you can

Check your neighbor’s houses and gardens in the immediate area. I know it can feel awkward, but try to check yourself if your neighbours will allow it. Ask them for permission to access the garden to look for your kitty and give them your number to call if they see anything.

This is why it’s a generally good idea to stay on good terms with your neighbors, as they’re usually happy to help out in situations like this, so remember to keep on your neighbors good side!

3 kittens of various colors peeking out the door of a garden shed
These cute kittens love hiding inside sheds *sigh* Photo credit: Pixabay

5. Look up Trees and up on Roofs

Try to get a good viewpoint, such as a window or balcony with a good view and survey the rooftops, pipes and treetops for any signs only your kitty. When my cat was missing, I had the clever idea of using my camera (which has an excellent zoom lens) and I used the camera viewfinder to get a closer look in trees, etc. I lived in an area with a lot of dense trees surrounding my street and garden, so getting a good viewpoint was vital for spotting any signs of my missing kitty (who was known for climbing trees too…)

An 8 month old ginger and white male kitten climbing a large tree
This Little Fella’ is a tree climber Photo credit: Pixabay

6. Repeat Steps 2-5

Again, so many people have found their lost cats in a place they’d already checked. It’s definitely not a waste of time to re-check places you’ve checked once.

Also, check your car, the trunk and inside the bonnet, also the space between the tyres.

7. Repeat Steps 2-5 in the Dark

If your cat has been freaked out and has run off to hide somewhere, the chances are that s/he will stay there until it gets dark. Cats are more comfortable exploring in the darkness. If they were spooked, then they may feel safe enough to venture out of hiding when night falls, so it’s worth going out at night and keeping a very close eye and ear out for your cat.

If it’s possible, check your garden again thoroughly, neighbour’s gardens and immediate area again in the dark for any signs of your missing cat.

8. Shake Treats, Toys and Call your Cat’s Name

Try to make sounds that will be familiar to your cat to help them find their way back. Cats have much better hearing than we do and sound travels a long way.

Call your cat’s name the way you usually do, stand in your garden and have a loud conversation for your cat to hear your voices. Also, take a packet of treats, a tin with a tin opener, or your cat’s favourite noise-making toy during your checks.

You know your cat better than anyone, so use familiar sounds that s/he will usually respond to. It’s not failsafe, as cats won’t always respond to their name, even though us humans like to think that they will.

9. Leave Smelly Cat Food out Overnight

Find your cats favourite wet food, something that smells really strong such as sardines. The fishier, the better!

Leave this food near your cat’s usual entrance/exit point and wait. If you’re patient enough you can sit by the window for the night, or, if you’re that way inclined, set up a camera.

Be aware that other cats or creatures may be interested in the food… If this lures your lost cat back home then hopefully s/he will hang around the door until you appear.

10. Scatter Dirty Litter Around the Garden

If your cat uses a litter tray, scoop some of the used litter and sprinkle it around the edges of your garden, the scent of the litter may help your kitty find its way home.

The scent can travel for up to a mile, especially with wind, so this is worth doing even if it seems a little bit strange! If s/he is lost then s/he will be searching for something familiar. Cats have a very strong sense of smell, and is very sensitive to the smell of where s/he does his/her business!

11. Hang his/Her Blanket on Your Clothesline

If your cat has a blanket or bedding that s/he loves, don’t wash it! Hang it on the line or leave it outside to help your cat find a familiar scent and find his/her way home.

Again, the scent will travel a long way to help your kitty find its way back home.

12. Make Posters to Post Through doors and Mailboxes

Make a poster to post through the doors on your street and the street behind yours. Canvas the entire block with posters into the mailboxes of every house.

Make sure your poster has a large, readable font, a recent picture of your cat as well as a description, your contact details and where your cat was last seen. The wording on the poster should ask also ask people to check their sheds and garages as many people won’t think to do that, unless they’re ‘cat people’ themselves.

Tips for Photos

When you’re choosing a picture of your cat for a ‘Missing’ poster, make sure it’s printed in color and with as much detail as possible. If your cat is wearing a collar or has any distinctive markings, then make sure the photo shows them.

Try to distribute the posters at a time when most people are in their homes, for example, in the early evening. Talk to people if you can, and ask them to keep an eye out in person. People may be more inclined to help you if you’re polite and friendly when you’re asking for their help.

An example of a poster to help find a lost indoor cat, with multiple photos and a good description and contact details
This poster shows the cat up close and from a distance. Using multiple photos and a good description are very useful to help find your lost indoor cat

13. Stick posters in Visible Places

As well as mailboxes, stick your poster on lampposts, phone boxes and other places where people will see it.

In some areas, this is technically not allowed or seen as illegal flyposting. But, in reality anyone who has a pet will understand and the chances of you getting in trouble are very small.

Of course, when you do find your kitty (and you definitely will), go and remove all the posters.

You may want to laminate them or put them in plastic wallets in case it rains, and use really good tape so they won’t easily fall off.

14. Offer a Reward for his/her Safe Return

It’s up to you whether you’re in a position to offer a reward, but if you are, then out this on your posters.

You don’t have to state how much the reward is, but by offering a cash reward acts as an extra incentive for people to search for your cat. It also shows that you’re serious about getting him/her back.

I personally had $100 in mind as a reward for when my cat went missing. But, in the end, I didn’t need it as she came back on her own, so I donated it to a local cat shelter instead.

15. Talk to Local People Outside

  • When you’re out searching, canvassing or putting up posters, speak to as many passers-by as possible about your missing cat.
  • Dog walkers
  •  Joggers
  • Children – children will often search in places where adults won’t! They usually know all the secret spots in the neighbourhood so it’s worth speaking to parents who are out with their children.
  • Teenagers – same goes for teenagers who are out and about, ask them for help to find your cat.
  • Parents with buggies
  • Retired people
  • Local busybodies
  • Delivery drivers
  • The mailman – postal workers see so much, you’d be surprised!

16. Call local vets and animal shelters

The next step is to call around local vets and cat shelters to inform them that your cat is missing. So, if someone finds him/her and s/he ends up being brought in, then they’ll know this cat has an owner. You should give an accurate description and send them a photo if you can. It helps if you cat is microchipped as all vets and shelters will be able to scan animals who are brought in.

17. Call the County or Local Authority

In some areas, the county takes responsibility and have a service for lost animals. Again, give an accurate description and leave your contact details, just in case.

It’s horrible to think about, but I have to mention it. Check whether your local authority will scan deceased animals for a microchip before disposal. That’s if your cat is microchipped (and s/he should be!) Unfortunately, some counties will not scan a deceased animal, they will just clean it up. So by calling and giving an accurate description, they can check to give you peace of mind.


18. Call your Microchip Provider

If your cat is microchipped, then call the database to report your cat as missing. So, if s/he turns up somewhere and is scanned, you can be reunited much faster.

Black and white cat covering his face with his paws
Peek a boo… Photo credit: Pixabay

19. Call your Insurance

If you have pet insurance, then they may be able to help with the search for your kitty, depending on what level of cover or type of policy you have. They could help cover the cost of printing posters, boosting posts on social media or even provide an animal search service.

[insert pet insurance ad]

20. Widen your Search Area

Cats sometimes wander quite far, even indoor cats, if they’ve gotten the taste for exploring. They may have been spooked and found themselves in an unfamiliar area, so they hide.

Keep walking around your neighbourhood, especially at night, calling your cat as s/he could be hiding out somewhere, waiting for it to get dark before venturing out of hiding.

Cat sleeping on car
She likes to sleep on cars

21. Post on Social Media

Social media, the massive communication tool of the age, so why is it not higher on this list? Honestly, social media is a fantastic way to raise awareness of your missing kitty but everything else that’s on this list so far is more helpful.

Not everyone is even on social media. Depending on the circumstances in which your cat went missing then social media may be more or less effective than you think.

Facebook

Set your post to ‘public’ so it can be shared outside of your friend group. Share that post to local lost and found pet pages, local community pages and anywhere else that’s appropriate. I find it best to stick to one post that you share, rather than posts of multiple posts that will be hard to keep track of. Include all of the relevant information about your cat, where s/he was last seen, a detailed description of him/her and his/her collar. You should also include at least 3 photos that show your cat from different angles, contact details, ask people to share locally and remind people to check sheds and outbuildings for your cat.

How to set your Facebook post to ‘public’

When you create a new post, you can change each post’s privacy settings individually. Here is how to do this on Facebook:

Facebook screenshot of new post screen, with button circled in red to press in order to change privacy settings
Tap this button to change your post’s privacy settings

 

Facebook Screenshot to show which option to select to set the post to 'public'
Choose ‘Public’ to ensure maximum visibility

Remember to change this back for future statuses and updates that you want to keep private, that aren’t about your poor lost cat 🙁

Twitter

The same for Twitter, ensure your profile is public so people can see your tweet. Write an accurate description, with a good photo. Tag local community accounts or businesses in the photo or tweet, to encourage them to re-tweet it. Use the name of your street, neighborhood, town or city as a hashtag.

Nextdoor

This is a great app if your area has it. It’s a local social network, register an account with Next Door and share information about your lost cat.

Instagram

It’s also worth putting a post on Instagram, with relevant hashtags about your local area, to ensure the right people see the post. Also, do Instagram stories to gain some traction about your search for your missing indoor cat. This is an engaging way of getting others involved in the search.

22. Follow Every Lead

Every call or message you get about your cat, every possible sighting is worth checking out. Even if it’s the longest of long shots. It’s very difficult and challenging to go through this, so make sure you have a lot of friends and kind people around you who are willing to help out.

23. Don’t give up hope

Carry on with these steps on a weekly basis, if you can. The most important thing is to never give up hope. Cats are known to go missing for days, weeks, months, or sometimes even years at time before being reunited with their owners. I know it’s hard to think positively when you’re at a loss as to where your poor little kitty is. Please, try not to give up hope, keep looking, and I’m certain s/he’ll return home very soon.

Further Reading:

How to Prevent your Cat Going Missing

Best Cat Trackers 2018

How to support a friend whose cat is lost


This post contains affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, we may receive a small commission if you buy a product using one of the links on this page. Read our full disclosure here.

4 Comments

  1. Its been 2 weeks since I went to a neighbors party, just moved here, was getting to know the neighbors, and when I was at this get together, my cat somehow got out of the bedroom and the door was shut when I left. My cat got out and she came to the party, when I left she was nowhere to be found. Its been 2 weeks or so went to places that have cats,Peggy Adems etc., and no Ali, put it on line with the help of my roomate. Still no Ali sick over this. Remember.the guy saying my wife would love that cat. So I think that his wife who lives out west, not with him may have given her my cat, he was very mean towards me when my cat was missing and I asked him if he had her, said no, I dont believe him, since he was so excited about my tuxedo 10 yr. Old black & white cat. I dont think I will ever see her again.

  2. I just wish I could find the wifes name and address so I can have my cat back. My Alicat is shy, I pray she is ok. Just sick about not knowing where and how she is.

  3. The person who had a party 3 doors down from me had a party with friends, and he welcomed me to come by I am new to this area. I left my cat “Ali” in my bedroom so she did not get out for the nite. It was late and my cat showed up, so I was getting ready to go home and she was nowhere to be found,back to my house and back to other house no Alicat. Roommate let Ali out, of bedroom where I left her before I went to party. Have been looking for 2 weeks ,shelters and no Ali. She is black & White tuxedo and a black little dot on her nose, all white underneath. She has never been outside, inside cat only. Please call if you see her, SUSAN # 561-388-0062, THANKYOU.

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