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Lost and Found Cats

A lost or found cat situation is very stressful. Here are tips to prevent the problem and to help solve it should it happen.


Even the most cared-for cat may get lost. These are steps you can take beforehand to make him easier to find.

  • Get him a bright, reflective collar with his phone number written on it. Or include a tag. A cat without a collar and phone number is very hard to identify, which significantly decreases your chances of finding him. Keep a collar on him, even if he’s an indoor-only cat, until he has been trained outside and knows his surroundings (see Section 19, Outside/Inside Training).
  • Get your cat tattooed. Fifty percent of all tattooed cats that are reported lost are recovered. (Tattooed dogs have a 99 percent return rate. See the Tattooing section and visit for more information.)
  • Get your cat a microchip implant (call your veterinarian or local shelter.)
  • Let your neighbors know that you own a cat. Your cat could be taken to the pound if people don’t know that he belongs to you.
  • Take your cat on supervised outdoor walks so he can get to know the area a little better. Train him as described in Outside/Inside Training. Should he accidentally be let outside, he’ll have a better chance of knowing what to do until someone lets him back in.
  • When outside, do not trust a harness to restrain him. Use a cat carrier if the cat really must be restrained outside. A cat can slip out of a harness almost as easily as he can slip from your sight.
  • Don’t complain to your neighbor if his dog chases your cat and no injury or misfortune results. It’s a valuable lesson for your cat to be on guard while outdoors. Provide a safe place where your cat can jump or climb to safety.

True Story

One cat owner, who thought she got her lost cat back, found out how easy it is to mistake one cat for another. She took the cat to the veterinarian because he was more talkative than he’d been before. That was when the owner found out that the cat she brought in didn’t have the same dental work that her own cat had. She was lucky. She not only found the real owners of the cat she’d thought was hers; she also got her own cat back a couple of weeks later.

  • Keep your cat inside on any holiday that involves firecrackers. Shelters report a rise in lost animals during the holidays. A cat can become disoriented by the unusual noise and commotion.
  • Keep a picture and description of your cat on hand. Many cats look alike.
  • Make sure your cat is spayed or neutered, and feed him right. Well-fed, altered cats stay closer to home.

How to Find a Lost Cat

Fear, worry and illness can overwhelm you if you lose your cat. Try to eat something, remain calm, and visualize a positive outcome. Your cat wouldn’t want you worried sick. To increase the chances of finding her, there are steps you can take as soon as you discover your cat is gone:

  • Act fast. Begin searching as soon as you know your cat is missing. The sooner you canvass the area, the more likely it is that people will remember seeing her.
  • Ask parents if their children can help find your cat. Children often are better at spotting stray animals. Describe your cat and leave your phone number so they can call if they see her.
  • Fill out a missing-cat report at your local shelters. Visit each shelter regularly and look at impounded strays. Don’t depend on someone at the desk to check—you need to go to see for yourself. Also, visit the shelters in surrounding areas. Just because you lost the cat in your own city doesn’t mean that she will not be found elsewhere.
  • Advertise in the Lost and Found section of your local newspapers. Describe the cat and include the area and the date she was lost.
  • Check the newspaper ads for found cats. Answer all ads that have similar descriptions, even if the sex is wrong.

Do not include your name or address on any “Lost Cat” advertisement, poster or flyer. People may try to scam or hurt you. Do not respond to ads alone, take along a friend and let others know where you are both going.

  • Print and post signs in the area where you lost her. Make fliers with your cat’s picture, your phone number, the date you lost her, the vicinity, and any applicable reward. If the cat was lost from your house, post signs throughout the neighborhood as soon as possible so that residents know you are worried. Sometimes someone may find a cat and not turn it in to the shelter just to see if anyone cares enough to post a “lost cat” sign. Ask local grocery stores and gas stations to let you display your signs there.
  • Sometimes local radio stations will make an announcement about your lost cat if you call them.
  • Don’t give up. Some cats find their way home after a few days. Some cats even show up months later.

When You Find a Lost or Stray Cat

When you find a cat, it is very difficult to distinguish whether he’s a feral (wild) cat, one that’s just cruising the neighborhood, or truly lost. Unless the cat has identification, or you’ve been trained with cats, or you’ve witnessed his entire daily routine, you won’t really know. If you really think he’s lost:

  • Don’t touch a strange cat or take a lost cat home with you unless it is in obvious and exceptional need. A cat can seriously hurt you. Unless you are trained to handle cats, stay away. Contact your local shelter and report the stray.
  • If you do end up with a found cat, call the local shelters to find out if they have descriptions of lost cats. Let them know you have a found cat.
  • Post fliers and advertise in local newspapers that you found a cat. Include where he was found, what he looks like, and how to contact you.
  • Read the Lost and Found ads for cats matching his description.
  • If no one claims the cat, either find another home for him or turn him in to the local shelter.
Shopping List

  • breakaway collar with identification
  • tattoo
  • microchip implant
  • poster board
  • markers
  • staple gun, nails, or tape
  • fliers
  • Tattoo-a-pet

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