What to Do if Your Cat Gets Lost
If your cat gets lost, it’s important to act quickly and carefully. Don’t just wait for the cat to come home. There are many things you can do to improve the chances of finding your furry family member. Here’s what to do if you lose a cat:
1. Put out food and water. As soon as you notice your cat is missing, place food and water in a sheltered area near where you believe the cat escaped. This will help keep the cat from straying too far in search of food. Remember that food should be available at all times, in case the cat shows up when you’re not there to see it. A scared cat might wait until no one is around and dash out to eat before going back under cover. Don’t worry if the food bowl attracts other cats or animals—it will be worth it if you get your cat back.
2. Search. Most cats that have always lived indoors will not go far from home. They are likely hiding somewhere very close by and are too scared to respond even to their owner’s voice. Look under nearby porches, in bushes, in covered window wells and anywhere else that looks like a good hiding place. Look in sheds or garages in case the cat got locked inside. Since often cats will hunker down and hide during the day, try looking for them early in the morning or in the evening. Try shining a flashlight around to see if you can spot their “eye shine”.
3. Talk to neighbors. Be sure to let your neighbors know that you are looking for your cat. The more people on the lookout, the better. If your cat is shy, ask people to call you right away if they see it instead of trying to approach the cat, which may scare it off. While most cats will be hiding close to home, sometimes they will get scared away and not know how to get back home. If someone spots your cat somewhere else in the neighborhood, that will help you focus your efforts. You should also check regularly with local animal control, shelters, and nearby vets.
4. Distribute posters. Post signs in the neighborhood and veterinary clinics as soon as possible. Use lettering that’s large enough to read from a distance and prominently mention a reward. This will encourage people to help you look. Include a good photo and description and ask people to call anytime if they see your cat. Make extra copies of the posters to distribute door-to-door and in-person to your neighbors. See below for helpful hints on how to make a flyer.
5. Borrow a live trap. Often a very scared or shy cat will need to be live trapped. Even a usually friendly cat may be too scared to come to you. Many animal rescue groups, including Feline Rescue, will loan out live traps and advise you on how to use one to catch your cat. For more information, please contact our outreach volunteers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many cats are easy to trap and will go in for food on the first try. If your cat is wary of traps, it may take more work. Start by setting food out at the same time every day, rather than leaving it out all the time, so that the cat gets used to your schedule. Early in the morning or in the evening around dusk are good times to try. Wire the live trap open and put the food inside, so the cat has to go in to eat. If your cat is reluctant to walk into a trap, place the food outside the trap and gradually move it further inside the trap each day. Once you know that the cat has been going into the trap to eat, remove the wire and set the trap before the usual feeding time. Be sure to never leave a set trap unattended; a trapped cat is vulnerable and may injure itself thrashing around in the trap.
6. Don’t Give Up! Keep calling and looking. Pets are successfully reunited with their owners weeks and even months after being lost.
See our No-Kill Rescue Resources handout for rescue groups to contact. This is a listing of Twin Cities no-kill rescues, organizations offering assistance with spay/neuter, and resources for low income pet owners.
Animal Emergency Clinic
St. Paul – 301 University Ave., 651-293-1800
Oakdale – 7166 10th St. N., 651-501-3766
University of Minnesota Emergency Clinic
Veterinary Medical Center, 1365 Gortner Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108
Affiliated Emergency Veterinary Service
Golden Valley, 4708 Highway 55, 763-529-6560
Coon Rapids, 1615 Coon Rapids Blvd., 763-754-9434
Minneapolis Animal Care and Control
212 17th Ave. N., 612-348-4250
St. Paul Animal Control
1285 W. Jessamine, 651-266-1100
Brighton Vet Hospital
651-636-1063 (animal control for Roseville, New Brighton, Fridley and Moundsview)
Contact your local police department to determine which facility your pet would be taken to by animal control officers. Minnesota law requires animals be held only 5 days so it is important to act quickly and check often. Most facilities require that you visit in person to look for your missing pet.
Web sites where you may enter information about your lost pet:
Lost Cats MN
Craig’s List Lost and Found
Lost Pet SOS
Have You Seen This Pet
Missing Pet Partnership
Animal Humane Society Lost & Found Online Bulletin Board
How to protect your cat before it gets lost
- Always transport a cat in a carrier. Never take your cat to the vet or anywhere else unless it is secured. Just because your cat can be carried around the house does not mean it will like being carried into the vet.
- Get some good photos of your pet now, before it’s too late. Take close-up shots so that details show up well. You want your photos to be unique and your pet to be unmistakable.
- Talk to your vet about a microchip implant. A chip can provide reliable identification for your pet if a vet or shelter scans for it.