Even though Milita came home on her own, I learned a lot about how to find a lost cat that day. If your indoor-only cat escapes, there are several things you can do to ensure her safe return.
Follow the Edge of the House/Building and Look for Hiding Places: According to Petfinder, an indoor-only cat who escapes will most likely be panicked once outside, and he is likely to stay close to the edge of your house or building. Follow the edge of your residence, and look for hiding places. When you find a potential hiding place, search it thoroughly for your cat. Remember that cats can fit into some incredibly small, tight spaces so don't rule out any hiding spots that look too small for your kitty.
Call Local Shelters and Veterinarians: Call your local animal shelters, animal control, and veterinarians, and provide them with a detailed description of your cat. If possible, leave a lost cat flyer with them so they can post it in their office as well. Visit your local shelters and veterinarians once a day, if possible, to see if they've found any unidentified kitties. It's important to visit the shelter because your description of your lost companion and their description may be vastly different. You'll need to look at all the unidentified kitties to see if yours is there. Be persistent.
The Humane Society of the United States suggests leaving one identifying characteristic off the flyer and asking the person who thinks he has found your kitty to describe it.
Petfinder recommends including one closeup photo of your cat's face and one photo of your whole kitty's body. Be sure to include your number on the flyer as well. If you don't want to put your personal phone number on the flyer, you can sign up for a free Google Voice account and use that number instead. Google Voice can forward calls to your cell phone so that you don't miss any calls regarding your lost companion. Offering a reward for your cat's safe return may motivate more people to look for your furry friend as well.
Microchip: According to research, cats are 20 times more likely to be reunited with their people when they have microchips. You can have your regular veterinarian implant the chip into your cat at any time. It's very important to register your companion's microchip with the manufacturer. Keeping your phone number and address updated are also essential for microchips to be effective in reuniting cats with their owners. You might also want to consider registering your cat with Fetch ID.
While microchips are incredibly effective at reuniting pets with their people, they do fail at times. For instance, not every microchip scanner can pick up every manufacturer's microchip. That's why identification tags and calling your local shelters and veterinarians regularly to check for lost cats is also important.
Pet Identification Tags: Pet identification tags are the fastest and easiest way to identify a lost cat. Place your kitty's identification tag onto her collar; it's best to use break-away collars on cats. The tag should include her name and phone number. I've also included, "Indoor cat," on Carmine and Milita's tags so that if they ever get lost, people will know that they are not supposed to be outdoors. As with microchips, each time you change your phone number, you should update your cat's tag. You can find tag engraving machines at some pet stores. Your veterinarian should also know where you can get an engraved tag for your companion.
Humane Traps: Set up a humane trap near the escape route your cat took. Place the smelliest cat food in the trap to encourage your kitty to enter it. Scared cats may hide during the day, but they may come out of hiding at night to find something to eat. Many rescue or TNR (Trap Neuter Return) organizations are willing to rent humane traps. Follow their instructions on how to use them properly.
A Few Cautions
Unfortunately, there are some unkind people in the world, so it's important to be cautious when dealing with people who claim to have found your companion.
- Ask the person who claims to have found your cat to describe all of the cat's unique characteristics. If the person cannot describe them, they do not have your kitty. That is why it is important to leave off one or two distinguishing characteristics from your flyer.
- Never invite someone who claims to have found your companion over to your house. Likewise, do not go to their home, either. Instead, arrange to meet in a public place.
- Offering a reward for your cat's safe return may help motivate people to find you cat. However, don't send or give money to anyone who claims to have found your cat until they return your kitty to you.
- If you search for your cat at night, be sure to take a friend or two with you.
Losing an indoor-only cat is terrifying, but using these tips will help you find your furry friend. Do you have any other suggestions to add?
Petfinder: Must-Do Tips for Finding a Lost Cat
Petfinder: Top 10 Tips for Finding Lost Cats
Humane Research Council: Finding Lost Companion Animals: The Effectiveness of Tags and Microchips
The Humane Society of the United States: What to Do If You Lose Your Pet
ASPCA: Finding a Lost Pet