Public Relations For Animals 


The Animal Network of Orange County

How To Find

Your Missing Cat

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Promotion For Animals   In Need  


How To Get Your Lost or Missing Cat Back

Take Action! Time Is Of The Essence! Don't Wait To See If Your Cat Comes Home.

Written By DiAnna Pfaff-Martin From My Experience In Animal Rescuer in Orange County, CA


House cats can be particularly difficult to find outdoors, especially ones that scare easily and have a tendency to hide from strangers inside the home. Even indoor/outdoor cats that know the area around the home can get lost, too. People have not considered that when any animal is frightened they run past their  scent markings and loose their sense of direction. However, they will be searching for food. Contrary to popular belief house cats do not hunt and eat prey. Hunting is learned from the mother cat and house cats are not taught to hunt.

Here are some tips on how to find your missing cat. 

Most Important Tips Before You Lose Your Cat!

Photographing Your Pet

  • Take some good photographs of your pet every year. You may need to take many photos to get one good shot. 
  • Prepare the stage and the background simple. Use a sheet over the animals favorite chair. 
  • Take the photographs in a well lit area with a contrasting background color. For big dogs, drape a solid colored sheet over a door or a fence for the backdrop. For cats or small dogs, drape the sheet over a couch or a big sofa chair. Use a light colored sheet for a dark colored pet, and a dark sheet for a light colored pet.
  • Kneel down to take the photograph at the same level as the pet.
  • Keep people and furniture out of the photograph.

Protecting Your Pet With Identification

  • Keep a collar and tag with current contact details on your pet at all times.
  • Ask your veterinarian about microchip identification. The microchip is inserted under the pet's skin by a veterinarian. Animal control Officers scan for microchip identification during the impounding process. If a microchip is found the shelter calls you to pick up your lost pet!
  • Always pay to register the chip with the national recovery database. (many people chip their animals and never knew that they have to pay to register the chip in addition to having the chip implanted!)  Remember to keep all phone numbers updated with your vet and microchip company.   
  • Instruct housekeepers, guests, baby-sitters and construction people that they will not be welcomed back if they leave a door open and let the cat out!
  • "Before" housekeepers, guests, baby-sitters and construction people arrive at the home, coax the cat with canned food into a room and shut the door. Never chase a cat, always move cats to another room by saying "come here" and show the cat a small plate with a small teaspoon portion of canned food.  I might suggest duct taping the door closed, too with a note.. "keep Shut Cat Inside".

Before You Look Outside Check Inside Your House!

  • Look under the bed and up inside the box spring. (most common hiding place)
  • Look inside recliner chairs and "beware of built-in recliners inside new modern couches".
  • Look inside the "lip" of the chimney flue of the fireplace.
  • Look behind and inside the refrigerator.
  • Look inside the cabinets, oven, dishwasher,   
  • Look on any shelving in built-in closets (they can hide under the clothes)
  • Look inside of piles of the dirty or clean laundry

Steps To Take to Look Outside.

Step 1 - Bait!

  • Take Action! Time is of the essence! Don't wait to see if your cat comes home.
  • Chances are that your cat is nearby. Put tuna fish around your home to keep it smelling like food.  
  • Use a tablespoon of tuna in each dish and place by the front and back of the house.
  • To keep the ants away from the tuna, use pie tins filled with water as moat around each dishes.

Step 2 - Trap!

  • Rent a "Humane Animal Trap" from a local feed store, animal shelter, or animal organization
  • Buy a trap on-line..  We suggest purchasing the economy traps (32 x 10 x10)
  • Learn How to Trap... Read our instructions on "How To Trap A Cat".  

Step 3 - Prepare To Pack A Plastic Pet Carrier To Carry To Look For Your Cat

  • Pack the pet carrier with a towel.
  • Pack the pet carrier with canned food - be ready to pop-lid
  • Pack the pet carrier with a flash light
  • Pack dry cat food inside a large plastic cup large enough to make sounds like cat food pouring.

Step 4 - Prepare Yourself To "Market & Advertise"  

  • Create A "Missing Pet Flyer"  -  Samples & Instructions - Great Missing Pet Flyers
  • Make 500 Flyers Or More Flyers
  • Distribute Flyers As the Crow Flies And Put them Out Monthly
  • A Reward In A Dollar Amount Is Important!
  • "For A Safe Return" Prevents Prank Callers.
  • Children Are Often The Ones That Can Help find The Animals and Are Willing to Help.
  • Get the Neighbor Kids Involved To Help with the Flyer Delivery and Flyer Assembly .
  • Door knob delivery is best. Use a hole punch and a rubber band for each flyer to attach to the door knob.

Step 5 - Prepare Yourself To Look For Your Cat 

  • Go alone. Not with a group. It will scare the cat.
  • Apply your regular body lotion or scented perfume for a familiar scent.
  • Tip: Cats know people by their scent and sound (familiar vocal tone).
  • Wear long sleeve shirt in case you get scratched. (the cat may not know it's you)
  • Bring your cell phone to call for help. Take numbers that you need to call for help.
  • Remember to take along a notepad, pen and reading glasses to read other animals pet-tags.
  • Call phone numbers on pet tags of other cats to let people know there cat is out. It could be lost, too
  • Call for help from friends "only" if you absolutely need it.
  • Find the cat then decide the plan. (Trapping is the best way to get the cat safely) 
  • Tip: You can use the pet carrier to put the canned food in and shut the door behind it.
  • Warning: Some cats are so frightened that they will run as you approach. Even the nicest cats can run from their owners. Better to plan that the cat run again.  

Step 6 - Look!

  • Walk through your neighborhood between 10pm and midnight or between 5am and 6am. Your neighborhood is quieter at these times which encourages cats to come out of hiding. It is also easier to hear sounds that are normally obscured by traffic noise.
  • Take a flash light to scan beneath bushes, in trees, under steps and under cars.
  • Listen carefully to any sounds that you may hear.
  • Call your cat's name and roll dry food back and forth inside a cup as you walk. Cats May follow! 
  • Other lost cats may follow you. Take note of the details on their tags and report them to owners 
  • Remember to take along a notepad, pen and reading glasses. You can help to recover other lost cats in your community!

Step 6 - Report!

  • Call your local Animal Control to find out whether your pet has been picked up in your neighborhood, or if any animals have been picked up injured, or dead.
  • Make frequent visits to all your local Animal Shelters. You have only a small window of time to reclaim your pet. Make sure to ask about sick and injured animals in the back.
  • Meet your neighbors and personally ask them to call you if they see your pet.
  • Check your city's laws before making and distributing flyers. Blowing papers are seen as trash.
  • List your pet in THE NETWORK's Missing Pet Directory.
  • Advertise your lost pet in your local city paper. Most have "free" ads for found pets and charge for lost pet ads.
  • Don't give up, your actions will help your cat be found!
  • THE NETWORK's successful experiences indicate a cat missing for three months may be only 4-7 blocks away and after six months a distance of 10-12 blocks, usually being fed by a "Good Samaritan".
  • Microchip Your Next Pet! Talk With Your Vet About Insertion. All animal control officers scan all animals during the impound process for microchips. This is one way to insure your pet will be returned to you if it enters a shelter nation wide! 

Don't Forget To Read "Action Plan For Missing Pets"



Always spay, neuter, microchip, collar and tag your pets.