How To Fin...

How To Find A Lost Cat

By Andrea Quarracino | November 9, 2021

Whether your cat has a knack for escape artistry, or they've mastered the game of indoor hide-and-seek, a lost cat can instill panic in even the calmest cat parent. To help get your cat back home (or out of their hiding spot) to their customary purrs and pounces, we've rounded up some tried-and-true techniques that have helped others reunite with their best friends.

Get tips on finding a lost cat below or search our national database to find your missing cat. We’ll provide answers to some of the most common questions you may have if you need to find your lost cat:

How To Find a Lost Cat Indoors

  1. Retrace your steps, and check places where your cat may have followed you or someone else in your household. Check your closets, cupboards, spare rooms, the pantry, the basement, the garage, the bathroom, or any environment in which your cat could be trapped behind a closed door.

  2. Remember to look up. Your cat may have realized that the top shelf of your linen closet makes a fine place for a rest, or they may have gotten scared and followed their instinct to climb.

  3. Look for small, cozy spaces like laundry baskets or empty boxes — these prime napping arenas may make your cat challenging to spot at first glance.

  4. Look behind, around, inside, and under potential hiding spaces like washing machines, furniture, beds, crawl spaces, or storage areas.

Who Do I Call When My Cat Is Lost?

  1. Begin your search on Petco Love Lost. Simply search our robust lost and found database by uploading a picture of your cat or searching by location. Powered by facial recognition technology, we help match found animals to reported lost pets nationwide.

  2. Next, try your local animal shelter or animal control agency — and visit in person if you can. Let them know when you noticed your cat was missing, and provide a picture of your lost pet. Give them your contact information, with a backup contact to ensure that you can promptly respond to any cat sightings.

  3. If your cat is microchipped, make sure that your information is up to date so that you are reachable if your cat happens to be recovered and scanned.

  4. Circulate brightly colored flyers or posters (the bigger, the better) with simple, easy-to-read phrasing↗ to get the word out. For an easy flyer template you can print at home, upload your pet to Petco Love Lost and visit your dashboard to print your pet listing. You can also use our optimized shareables↗ to get the word out on Facebook, Nextdoor, and Craigslist.

How To Find a Lost Cat Outside

  1. Begin by conducting a quick physical search outside your home, in your yard, and around neighboring homes.

  2. Check under bushes, shrubs, decks, in window wells, in outdoor storage areas or sheds, in bins or under tarps, or other places where a small pet could easily hide.

  3. Ask your neighbors for help and tell them how to contact you if they spot your missing cat.

  4. Check your vehicles and ask your neighbors to check theirs to see if a window or door was left open, allowing your cat to explore inside.

  5. Be sure to respond to any pet sightings promptly and get help from an expert if you're unsure how to capture or recover your cat.

  6. Remember that a scared or injured cat may be most comfortable venturing out of hiding when it's dark and quiet, so setting a humane trap at night or searching in the evening can be beneficial, too.

How Far Do Lost Cats Go?

A study by Lost Pet Research & Recovery↗ indicates that 78% of missing cats are found outdoors.  

"When cats are displaced into an unfamiliar area, the cat is most likely hiding in silence, often not far from the escape point," says pet detective Kat Albrecht of Missing Animal Response Network. "Conduct an aggressive, physical search of the immediate area — understanding that the cat might be close by but hiding in silence."  

Although you may want to call your cat's name as you search, it's essential to know that you may not get a meow in response. According to Albrecht, meowing could reveal a cat's location to a predator — so if your cat is scared or hurt, their instinct will be to remain silent, even if their pet parent(s) are nearby.

How Long Can a Lost Cat Survive?

Cats have excellent survival instincts, and some have been found alive up to 8 weeks after they went missing, even when trapped without food or water. Many are found months after their family has reported them lost. In most cases, indoor-only lost cats take as many as 10 to 17 days before they get hungry and thirsty enough to break cover and return home. They may also enter a humane trap or return to the window/door where they escaped.

Though lost cats have been known to travel tremendous distances — sometimes through an accidental car ride — many are found relatively close to home. Data from the Missing Animal Response Network↗ shows that the median space outdoor-access cats are found was roughly 344 yards, or about a 17-house radius from their home. 

Should I Put a Litter Box Outside for My Lost Cat?

No. Although some pet rescue resources suggest that putting a litter box outside for a lost cat may be helpful, it can do more harm than good. According to Albrecht, the scent could attract other (potentially aggressive) cats into the yard where a missing cat may be hiding. "Cats are territorial, and when an indoor-only cat escapes outdoors, the cat is often hiding within the territory of another (outside) neighborhood cat."

It's also not advisable to sprinkle used litter around the yard. "The entire litter box meme is one of the biggest myths out there," says pet detective Kimberley Freeman of Lost Cat Finder.com↗.   

"Cats bury their poop for a reason. Putting it out on display invites in the neighborhood cats to investigate the new intruder, potentially chasing your cat farther from home." She adds, "The smell can also draw raccoons and coyotes." Rather than risk it, try a careful physical search of the area instead.

How To Find a Lost Cat with a Microchip

Microchipping is a crucial preventive measure in ensuring that your cat won’t be lost for long should they ever go missing. According to a study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association↗, cats are 21.4 times more likely to be returned home from a shelter if they have a registered microchip.  

"So many families tell me the main reason they didn't [microchip their pet] is that it was too stressful to get a cat in a carrier and to the vet just for that," says Freeman. But getting your cat microchipped is worth the trip. If your cat is ever lost, a quick scan of their microchip can help get them back home.

Freeman says it's important to remember that a microchip is not a tracking device. Instead, they're embedded ID chips that can connect a pet to their parent's information. Once your cat is chipped, make sure your cat's microchip is registered and update your registration information every time you move or change your phone number. Those simple steps can help create a critical link between you and your missing cat.

Although it's nerve-wracking to lose a beloved cat, try to stay calm, remain hopeful—and look to Petco Love Lost to help spread the word and bring your best friend back home.


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