The story goes something like this.
We recently had workmen come to the house for repairs and our kitty got scared and ran out the door. I’ve been calling for 3 days but he hasn’t come back yet. What else can I do to find him?
Like that kitty, most fixed cats do not leave home unless they become too afraid to stay. As this article from Maddie’s Fund explains, lost cats do not behave like they do in your home.
The clock is ticking when your cat is missing. Never assume that cats will come back on their own, as many cats will be too afraid to find their way home without help.
Happy Cats recently got a call from some people who had found a cat and wanted to have him scanned for a microchip. When we did, we found he had been one of our cats as a kitten. We contacted the owners, who had been looking for Taco for a month. He had gotten out and became terrified during a snowstorm and was found over two miles away from home.
While we hear stories of microchipped cats being found weeks or months later and then reunited, a microchip is no guarantee of that. Microchips are only useful if your cat finds its way to a responsible human and then only as good as the person trying to read them. If the handler is too rough or assumes the cat can’t be handled, that microchip may not be scanned or found. Our Humane Society doesn’t even mention microchips in their Lost and Found pages.
- Pet cats can act wild
Don’t assume your cat “wanted” to run away and will find his way home on his own. Don’t take it personally if he doesn’t come to your call! A frightened cat quickly moves into survival mode and may act like its wild ancestors did. A recent study by the ASPCA put both pet cats and feral (unsocialized) cats in an unfamiliar shelter-like setting. Both groups acted so frightened that researchers couldn’t tell the difference within the first 3 days. Since that is all the time most cats have at limited-admission shelters before being either rehomed or euthanized, you must act quickly to find your pet.
- Tell your neighbors
The most important thing you can do is to involve your neighborhood. Make flyers with a good close-up photo of your cat and hang them everywhere within at least a half-mile radius, including local veterinary offices. Go door to door and ask people to check any small spaces they may have in their yard. Over and over, we hear the story that the cat was two doors down in the garage or under the shed or in the alley and just too scared to move. Especially once they have a food source, they tuck in and wait…for you.
- File a Lost Pet Report
If you have a neighborhood association or watch, file a lost cat report there. Contact HSPPR and turn in a Lost Pet Report. That will stay on file for 10 days, so don’t forget to repeat it. They recommend going to the shelter and looking through their found reports, checking kennels and asking to see cats in out-of-view rooms to make sure you check everywhere.
- Use social media
Submit your pet to the Facebook page Colorado Springs Lost Pet Alert and Craigslist Lost and Found. Be specific about where your cat went missing. If you are members of NextDoor or another online neighborhood group, let your neighbors know about your missing cat there.
- Draw them in
Put out food and water to draw your kitty back to your yard. You may get other cats coming around, but you may also get your own. Monitor where you’re feeding for sightings. Most cats don’t go too far from where they were lost. If you have a sighting and know your cat is staying in a certain area, first spend time there so your cat can hear your voice.
Find the smelliest piece of workout gear of your cat’s favorite person and also put that out where the cat went missing. If you have more than one article of clothing, put several around the perimeter of your yard.
Walk the neighborhood and call your cat, mimicking your cat’s voice if you can and using the voice you would with your cat. Your cat will probably not come running, but may answer back.
If you have or can borrow a camcorder with a night setting, set it up in your yard. This may tell you if your cat is actually still in the vicinity.
- Humane traps
If you do not find your cat within 3 days, or if someone has spotted him or her and they aren’t coming back, please move quickly to get your cat inside. The word “trap” may sound harsh, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a frightened cat back. You can set up a humane trap with food and water in your yard which may lure him or her to the trap. He’s probably still out there, literally scared to death, and needs your help. He has reverted to his instinctual feral self, so you need to meet him on those terms, not the sweet lap cat he was before he got too scared to come home.
Waiting only increases the chance your cat will be killed by a predator, a loose dog, traffic, or be exposed to disease. Traps can be loaned out with a deposit by either HSPPR or Happy Cats, depending on availability. We can help you with instructions about how best to set the trap to catch your kitty. Please call us at 719-362-4600 or
email us if you haven’t found your kitty within a few days.
- Don’t give up
Our Board member and premier cat trapper Barb Jones says this is the most important thing to remember. Your cat could be out there, waiting for you to find him or her. We’ve heard amazing stories about kitty rescues months after they were lost, including these about Rado and his sister Rida here in Colorado.