How to find a missing cat

An overhead image of a crime scene depicting a silhouette of a missing cat

This Is My Guide To Finding A Missing Cat

Lets start at the beginning. There is a lot of misleading information on the internet on how to find a missing cat. Most of it is re-posted material shared by well-meaning people who are just trying to help their fellow cat lovers. Everyone has an opinion about how to find a missing cat which is something you will encounter during your search.

Unfortunately, the advice offered is often based upon someone’s hunch about why their missing cat returned home and is rarely underpinned with an in-depth understanding of cat behaviour.

Recovering Missing Cats For 20 Years

I have been recovering missing and lost cats for nearly 20 years and over the last seven years have been using a specially trained search dog a Cat Detection Dog to help locate and recover missing cats. Molly The Pet Detective Dog and I have worked together on over 250 investigations, achieving a success rate of four out of every five cats.

Working With The BBC on Ground Breaking Cat Research

My knowledge and experience, amassed over many years on recovering missing cats. Has given me an unrivalled insight into their migratory behaviour, enabling me to write with confidence when answering the question.

How To Find A Missing cat?

In 2013 I worked with the BBC Horizon team on one of the largest ever cat tracking projects in the UK. During the trial which was named The Secret Life of the Cat‘. We monitored and recorded the daily routines of over 50 domestic cats. We discovered exactly how far they ranged from their homes, how long they were gone and where they went.

The project which lasted eight weeks was supported by The Royal Veterinarian College. We also had one of the world’s leading cat experts, Dr John Bradshaw to provide invaluable advice on domestic cat behaviour.

In 2022 I will be publishing a comprehensive E-book on how to find a missing cat. Until then here are a few of my top tips on finding a cat.

Try to Identify The Cause of Your Cat’s Absence

Before you even start searching. You must first consider the circumstances behind your cat’s disappearance. You know your cat better than anyone so think about any recent changes in your cat’s behaviour? This will save you a lot of time, effort and heartache.

Is a Neighbour Feeding Your Cat?

Has your cat started to stay away from the home for prolonged periods? Are they off their food? This could mean your cat is using another location as a temporary home or a neighbour is feeding your cat. If a cat is not getting enough animal protein it will seek out another food supply.

Does Your Cat Have Any Health Issues?

Has your cat been unwell or highly stressed? Have there been any sudden changes at home? If so then this often causes cat cystitis. Cats do not understand (cannot conceptualize) that illness is internal and often wrongly assume it is linked to their home. This can cause them to migrate away from the home believing it is the cause of the illness. When this happens they usually take refuge in a neighbour’s shed or garage until they recover.

Accidental Transportation is a Common Reason Why Cats Go Missing

Did you or a neighbour have a home delivery on the day your cat went missing? If so, get in touch with the delivery company and find out where they went next. Cats usually jump out of a vehicle at the very next stop.

Has a More Dominant Cat Been Visiting Your Garden?

Have you seen another cat visiting your garden recently? Cats use bullying to establish hierarchy and will often stare into another cat’s home to intimidate it. The moment your cat goes outside the other more aggressive cat will enter the area and scent mark, especially around your cat flap. This will give your cat the impression the more dominant cat is lurking in the bushes or inside the house waiting to attack.

Spraying the area with a mix of three parts water one-part white wine vinegar will neutralize the other cat’s scent.

Once You Have Established The Likely Cause of Your Cat’s Migration Then Apply The Appropriate Strategy

You do not need anything fancy or complex just a focused plan or a list of what you are going to do first and who can help, (which should match the likely causes you identified above).


Do Not Change Your Cat’s Environment

Cats are extremely sensitive to change which is often why they migrate in the first place. Therefore do NOT put anything outside your home this includes the cat litter and contents of your hoover. How often do you see your cat hanging around its cat litter at home? Cats are instinctively clean animals and avoid excrement often refusing to use a cat litter unless it is cleaned regularly.

A Cat Litter in Your Garden Will Draw Other Cats Into Your Cat’s Territory

In addition cats often leave excrement in open areas as a means of marking territory. Therefore, if you place a cat litter outside you run the risk that another more dominant cat will enter your cat’s territory to explore the source of the scent. They are likely to use the cat litter and will scent mark the area which will only add to your missing cat’s anxiety.

Remember cats are sensitive to change, how do you think they will respond when they return to their garden only to discover their bed, toys, food, and litter tray are sitting outside the back door.

What do You Need to Take With You?

Think about what items you will find useful on your search. Cat treats, a favourite toy, bottle of water, torch, weatherproof jacket?

Prepare a Picture on Your Mobile Phone

You will need a picture to show neighbours and your phone number to encourage people to call with sightings. Find a good image of your cat on your mobile phone, (usually standing side on to the camera) add your phone number to the image. Share the image with everyone you speak to. The more pairs of eyes you have helping to look for your cat the better the chances are that they will be seen.

Who Can You Ask For Help?

What exactly needs to be done and what can you get a friend to do for you? Just having someone making telephone calls and social media posts on your behalf will take a lot of weight off your mind. Do not try and do everything yourself. You will quickly become tired and demoralized, you need a friend’s help.

Get a Social Media Buddy

You need to focus your time and effort on the search and knocking on neighbour’s doors. Ask a friend or family member to take on the role of sharing images of your missing cat across local websites and network groups. It is extremely important that you engage with as many people as possible.

Do Not Walk Around Your Neighbourhood Shouting Your Cat’s Name

An anxious cat will not respond to your calls. Your raised voice, and the emotion in your voice will only add to your cat’s anxiety. Instead, just chat away to your friend or talk in a normal voice as if you know where your cat is hiding. A calm voice will reduce you own and your cat’s anxiety. Cats’ have excellent hearing, and they will hear your voice from their hiding place. To add extra distance to your voice and your scent always try to search with the wind at your back.

Change Your Voicemail Message on Your Mobile Phone

You will have people calling you about sightings of your cat some of which you will miss. It is important that people know they have called the right number. Change your voicemail message to say you are the owner of the missing cat, thank them for calling and ask them to leave their name and phone number plus where and when they saw your cat.

Do Not Work Against Yourself

If you get uncomfortable, tired, wet or cold go home. Take a break, warm up, change clothes and set off again. You stand a much better chance of finding your cat with a clear head.

Do not allow your feeling of guilt to override common sense. If you plough on long after you are tired then you will make mistakes and may miss an opportunity to locate your cat.

Don’t Treat Your Missing Cat Search as a Mission Instead Adopt an Attitude That it is an Important Project

If you do the same thing over and over again then you will get the same result. Instead be creative and use your time effectively. Make sure as many local people as possible know your cat is missing and they know how to contact you. It is only with the help of others that you will receive the all important sighting that leads to the recovery of your cat.

As mentioned above I will be publishing a comprehensive E-Book on How to Find a Missing Cat in late 2022. Until then you may also find my current book useful to read. Let me know how you get on.

Colin Butcher

The Pet Detective UKPD


© 2020 Colin Butcher Author. All Rights Reserved.  Developed & hosted by JBS Print, Design & Websites

© 2020 Colin Butcher Author. All Rights Reserved.
Developed & hosted by JBS Print, Design & Websites