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The fear that accompanies an escaped or missing indoor cat is immense, and for most owners of indoor cats it's their worst nightmare come true. However, if your indoor cat has gone missing, there are several things you can do to ensure the safe return of your beloved pet. In this guide, we'll highlight the steps you can take to find a lost indoor cat. Time is of the essence here, so keep calm and act fast.
How to Find a Missing Indoor Cat
Click the links below to jump directly to the information you need.
- What to do if your indoor cat is missing
- Other Resources To Help You Find Your Missing Indoor Cat
- Printable Resources To Help You Find Your Missing Indoor Cat
- Other Ways to Outreach Details About Your Missing Indoor Cat
- Using Social media To Raise Awareness Of Your Missing Cat
- The Mindset Of A Missing Indoor Cat
What To Do When Your Indoor Cat Escapes Outside
Indoor Cats that have never had access to the outside will almost always be terrified if they do manage to escape. This means that more often than not, they won't venture far from their house intentionally, and some escaped indoor cats will freeze on the spot through fear when they realise they're somewhere unfamiliar.
If your indoor cat has escaped but you can see they have frozen on the spot, the best thing to do is to quietly open a door or nearby window and allow them to come back in on their own. If you act too quickly or make too much noise in a panic, you run the risk of your indoor cat becoming more distressed and running and hiding. You can also try calling your cat back using a gentle voice, but don't be too loud, as again, you run the risk of startling them and causing them to become more afraid. If you know that your cat responds to the shake of a treat box, you can try this too but it’s not recommended if your cat isn’t familiar with the noise.
What To Do If Your Indoor Cat Is Missing
The first thing to remember is that if you don’t see or hear your cat, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Cats are extremely good at hiding, and they especially like warm, dark and safe-feeling places.
If you didn’t see your indoor cat escape through a door or window, you must check everywhere in your home first. Cats are brilliant at keeping still and quiet, and many ‘missing’ cats have been found in unusual indoor hiding places. You don’t want to later find out that your cat was stuck in a cupboard that you rarely open, hungry and a bit ticked off with you. So before you run out the door on a frantic search, grab a torch and first check the below places (and any more that you can think of in your home) quickly and quietly:
- Tumble dryers
- Washing machines
- Under every bed in the house
- Inside piles of clothes
- Under chairs and tables
- Under duvets
- Inside all cat caves, houses and beds
- Cupboards (Open and search all, it isn’t unheard of for our rascal kitties to jump in them!)
- Wardrobes and drawers
- Behind any furniture including kitchen appliances
- Garages (if your garage door links to your home, they may have dashed through the door. Grab some help and conduct a thorough search of the garage)
Think back to the moment you realised your cat was missing. Were you doing anything unusual? Any loud unfamiliar noises can scare your indoor cat and these can give you an idea of the direction they may have gone in. Cats don’t run away unless they're scared of something, so think back over the day to any unfamiliar sounds they may have spooked them.
The list above covers the main places cats like to venture, but it is only a starting point. Your house will have many other perfect places for your cat to hide in so make sure you cover all grounds before moving on to the next step. Move quickly and quietly. It may be a good idea to leave a few treats on the ground as you go, or lightly shake the treat box if your cat is used to responding to the noise. This action could coax them out of hiding. If after searching the house you are certain they are nowhere to be found, move on to Step Two.
Image Credit: Flickr User
OK, so you're sure your cat isn’t hiding in your house. The next step is to check the front and back garden. If you don’t have a front or back garden, you need to check the spaces directly in front of your house or flat. This may be a street, or you may need to ask for access to your neighbours garden.
- Gather a team of people to help you work through the area in a systematic approach, mentally noting areas checked as you go.
- Make sure you are quick but quiet as any sudden noises can send your cat darting further away.
- An indoor cat that has escaped will be scared and opting to hide silently in fear of danger. Check inside garden sheds, bushes, under cars and any other dark hiding places you can find.
- Thoroughly search as far as 4 or 5 houses in radius checking every possible hiding spot you can find.
- Whilst searching this area, speak with neighbours and ask them to check inside their cars and garages.
- On your way back home, call out to your cat quietly or talk with your friends. This will ensure that if your cat is nearby they will hear you. This extra action could be the difference between your cat following you home or staying put in hiding. It is important to call out on the way home rather than the on the way out on your search as you could end up leading your cat further afield if it does decide to follow.
Remember: Don’t despair if you haven’t found your cat after following these steps. Cats are very good at hiding themselves. Just repeat the steps over and over - the likelihood is, your cat is very scared and wants to stay in hiding. Many indoor cats are found weeks and sometimes months after they've gone missing, so stay positive and keep going.
Image Credit: Flickr User
All cats are territorial and will use their scent, amongst other means, to mark which territories belong to them. Cats with access to the outdoors will mark both their indoor home and the space around their home, meaning that when they explore outside, they can use their sense of smell to find their way back.
However, most indoor cats aren't familiar with the environment outside of their home, which means they're unlikely to have marked any other areas around the house as their territory. This can make it difficult for them to identify where their home is once they have left the house, making it easy for them to become lost. Not being familiar with the space outside of the home can cause problems for an indoor cat that has escaped as they may struggle to find home again.
Related Reading: Indoor cats and communication
If you haven’t been able to get your indoor cat home by using steps one and two, you can use scent marking to help them find their way home. Below are some ideas of how you can do this:
- Scatter your unwashed clothing around the nearby area. Place items in your gardens and around the street, leading back to your home. (socks are a good idea!). This will provide your cat with a familiar scent if it decides to venture out from it’s hiding place.
- Leave food down for your cat (be aware that other animals may be eating this though). Try to use a food your cat is familiar with, including treats you regularly feed them.
- Empty the contents of your vacuum cleaner over your garden and street. This works on the same principal as the clothing, it provides your cat with a familiar scent and can coax them back in the right direction when they are ready
- Place some used litter in your garden and surrounding areas. This will also carry a familiar scent.
- Move small pieces of furniture like footstools or chairs in your garden or surrounding areas.
Image Credit: Flickr User
After you have conducted your initial search (Steps one & two) and you have used some of the scent techniques (Step Three) it is a good idea to start contacting people that can help spread the word about your missing cat, and speaking with those that can help you.
Using Social media To Raise Awareness Of Your Missing Cat
Luckily, we now live in a world where spreading the word about lost animals is easier than ever. Social media provides an excellent way to spread the news to your local community as well as communities further afield. This mean you can contact people you don't know personally, but who may be able to assist with the search for your cat anyway. There are many ways you can do this.
- Use local buy swap sell groups to spread the word to your local community - (but be careful to read the terms of group use - some admins might not permit content about lost animals) These groups are easy to find using the Facebook search box. Just search 'buy swap sell' and your local area, and you should find them pretty easily.
- Use lost animal groups in your local area. Most big cities and counties have these, and they're a great way to raise awareness to other pet loving people in your area who are more likely to share details about your missing pet.
- Ask your friends and family to share details about your missing house cat on their personal Facebook pages. This will heighten the local coverage and raise more awareness to even more people you might not know personally.
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Other Ways to Outreach Details About Your Missing Indoor Cat
- Contact your vet. If your cat is micro-chipped your vet will be contacted so you must let them know that your cat is missing. They will also have contacts that can help you in your search so it is always worth contacting them as soon as you can.
- Contact your local pet adoption centre, RSPCA, and other cat charities. Let them know your cat is missing and hand out flyers.
- Ask the children you know in your street to look out for your cat, ask them to TELL you if they see your cat but not to try and bring it to you. Children know all of the best hiding places and are great resources when it comes to searching for lost pets.
- Place posters with your cats picture, details of its personality traits and your contact details around the neighbourhood. This will inform any passers-by to keep an eye out for your cat as well.
Image Credit: Flickr User
Printable Resources To Help You Find Your Missing Indoor Cat
Click Each Link To Print:
- Missing Indoor Cat Poster (Printable Template)
- Missing - Card Handouts (Printable Template)
- What To Do When Your Cat Is Missing - Printable Checklist (Printable Checklist)
Other Resources To Help You Find Your Missing Indoor Cat
There are lots of other resources you can use to help you locate a lost indoor cat. We've listed some links below.
Image credit: Flickr User
The Mindset Of a Missing Indoor Cat
Now you have taken the steps to find your missing cat, the below information is intended to help you understand more about the mindset of your missing pet, and how this can help you find them, as well as prevent them from going missing again.
Lost Indoor Cats And Hiding
Most indoor cats are unlikely to be used to the outside space around their home, and will normally instinctively hide in fear. As we've mentioned, this can be good news because most of the time, a missing house cat isn’t too far from home and are normally hiding somewhere they feel safe. Although some house cats may be capable of returning home on their own using their senses, they may be too consumed with fear to even try.
Once hidden, your cat may not leave it's chosen ‘safe spot’ until the evening to search for food. Some cats may not leave the safe spot at all unless they feel it is no longer a safe place (running from other animals etc). Indoor cats that have left their home tend not to make any noise when they are hiding. This means that even if they hear your voice, they won’t give up their safe space by meowing to you, no matter how much of a bond you both have.
How Will My Indoor Cat Behave When It's Missing Outside?
Your cat's behaviour will depend on its personality to a certain extent. However, most missing indoor cats will opt instinctively to hide as soon as they realise they've ventured into unfamiliar territory. Even if your cat can see your house, they may choose to remain hidden and quiet in their safe place, rather than attempt the journey back home. Your indoor cat will pick a hidden area away from other animals and people and will most likely remain quiet. They won’t respond to your calls in fear of being found by something/someone dangerous. This safe spot will usually be very close to home, and could be under a bush, under a car, within boxes, a garage, or anywhere that feels safe.
If you have quite a timid kitty that is jumpy and nervous in unfamiliar situations the chances of them being very close to home are higher than if you have a more confident cat. However, in most cases, even the most confident of house cats will only venture a few houses away before realising the unfamiliarity of the situation and hiding in a safe place.
The Difference Between Missing Indoor Cats & Missing Outdoor Cats
Unlike indoor cats, the outdoor cat is far more street smart and stands a higher chance of returning on their own accord, and venturing too far is very unlikely due to their territorial markings. Unlike dogs, outdoor cats are unlikely to simply run away, so when outdoor cats do go missing for long periods of time, the chances are something has happened to the cat. (eg theft or injury). Unfortunately, the danger of your indoor cat being hit by a car, stolen, or falling victim to an injury is more likely than with outdoor cats, as they're not as confident with the outside environment.
How Did My Indoor Cat Escape?
An open door or window can be very appealing to an indoor cat. They allow them to experience senses that they may not get in the house, and their natural curiosity propels them to discover what the outside world has to offer. Other opportunities for escape may be provided while at the vets, while being transported by car or your cat may break free from a lead while walking.
Door darting can be a common occurrence if a cat's indoor environment isn’t stimulating enough. Some indoor cats make their attempts at escape completely obvious by running straight past you as you open the door, whilst others will sneakily manoeuvre past you or a visitor without raising suspicion. You must make sure that your indoor cat's environment is as stimulating and as exciting as it can be to try to prevent them from wanting to escape.
Related Reading: 8 Reasons your indoor cat needs interactive cat toys
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How To Prevent Your Cat From Escaping In The Future
Indoor cats that have been outside on a leash or are allowed outside with your supervision, may become more interested in the outdoors. Some will make various attempts at an unauthorised exit, and once successful the first time, your cat will most likely try again and again, so it's important that you're consistent in preventing them from escaping unauthorised.
Cats are brilliant at sneaking around unnoticed and love the thrill of a door dash while you bring the shopping in or put the rubbish out. The most important thing to do in order to prevent your indoor cat from escaping and becoming lost is to be consistent and provide them with an enriching indoor home.
Below is a list of things you should be doing in the home to ensure your cat remains safely indoors:
- Shut all doors leading to the outdoors behind you
- Always double check your cat hasn't followed you when you leave the home
- Keep windows closed and install cat safe window grills for the summer
- Use simple cat training to deter your cat from spending time near places they can easily escape
- Train your cat to come to you when you make a particular noise or call. This will enable you to identify their whereabouts quickly.
- Advice house guests that your cat is an indoor cat and encourage them to adapt the above rules
- MICROCHIP your house cat! Even though you have no intention of letting your cat out, a microchip can be a great help in reuniting you with your pet if they are found outside. Speak to your vet about microchipping, today.
Most indoor cats that have never had a taste of outdoor life aren't likely to be overly interested in escaping, and most wouldn't know what to do or where to go if they left the house. However, it's important you maintain a good and consistent routine with these cats too, as the outdoor world will be even more scary for them.
Did you know?
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