How to Find a Lost Cat: 10 Tips to Get Your Cat Back

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by Steven Thomas

how to find a lost cat

If your cat has gone missing, then my heart is with you.

It’s happened to me many a times in the past and thankfully, I’ve managed to find them all pretty quickly.

The first step is to not pannick. I know it’s hard, but if your cat isn’t used to roaming the streets, they probably aren’t that far away.

In this article, I’ve put together 10 tips on how to find a lost cat plus some preventative measures for when you get your fluffy companion back.

How to Get Your Cat Back Home: 10 Tips to Try Today

Try these 10 tips to get your cat back home safely.

1. Search Inside the House

Before you assume your cat is lost, search your house thoroughly. Cats can hide when spooked by loud clangs from plumbing work, for instance, or the smell of a new carpet cleaner. Cats also enjoy hiding for no reason whatsoever, and they like their hideouts warm, dark, and cosy.

Common places cats hide indoors include cardboard boxes, empty grocery bags, and behind or inside warm home appliances. Some kitties will even happily squeeze themselves into empty tissue boxes, so check everywhere, no matter how ridiculous.

2. Search Outside the House

Before you start looking outside, change into a t-shirt and bottoms that you won’t need later. This is important because you’re going to hang those up after your search: Your sweat can entice your cat back.

Don’t stop at obvious places like under cars, inside shrubs and bushes, and on rooftops. Make sure to also look up trees, honk your horn, and check inside your car engine and on your tires. Tap on as many hoods as you can and listen for meows, especially if it’s cold.

Try to call out for your cat quietly and calmly. If you’re loud and panicking, your cat might be too scared to show itself.

3. Rinse and Repeat

Over the next weeks or until you find your cat, you’ll need to repeat your search inside and outside the house over and over. Check the same places again. Aim for very late at night and early in the morning, when the streets are emptier and quieter.

4. Alert Your Neighbors

Ask your neighbors for permission to search their properties thoroughly and see if they’ll check their hoods as well. Remember to ask the neighborhood kids too. They’re more likely to actually notice your cat compared to grownups, who are usually too harried to even register a cute kitty.

Make sure to tell the local kids to alert you if they spot your cat rather than try and catch it themselves.

5. Your Old Neighborhood

If you’ve recently moved, check inside and outside your old place. Your cat may have simply turned its nose at your new digs and gone back to its old home. Make sure to alert your old neighbors and any vets and shelters in your former neighborhood.

6. Shelters and Vets

Contact your local shelters and email them a clear picture of your cat along with any identification it has, such as a microchip, collar, or ID tag. 

Get in touch with your vet and other vets in the area and send them your cat’s picture and identification as well.

7. Spread the Word Offline and Online

These effective traditional and online search methods will take your search beyond your neighborhood.

Post Flyers and/or Newspaper Ads

Make sure you place your flyers on at eye level. Include all the information possible about your missing feline but never put your address or phone number. Your email address is a much safer and faster alternative. If you can afford it, place an ad at a few local newspapers.

Post Online

Social media is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Post your cat’s picture and identification on all your accounts as well as any pages, groups, or apps that your neighborhood uses. Download a few specific apps for missing pets and post your cat’s info there too.

8. Go to the Shelters

Even after you give your local shelters your cat’s info, make sure you drop by and look around. Pictures and descriptions can be misleading, misread, or misunderstood, and your cat may be there waiting for you.

9. Consider a Humane Trap

Your local shelter may be able to lend you a humane trap such as the Tru-Catch, Tomahawk, and Havahart. This kind of trap won’t hurt your cat if it walks into it, but you might find another animal caught inside.

10. Get Your Cat’s Attention

After you’re done with the first round of searching, don’t toss those sweat-drenched clothes in the laundry.

Hang them out on the porch. As gross as it may sound, your scent is your best bet at enticing your cat if it’s hiding nearby.

Here are other things you can do to help coax your ball of fuzz out of hiding:

  • Bring out some smelly food item like warmed-up tuna, but don’t leave it behind or you’ll attract stray animals
  • Bring your cat’s favorite toy and squeak or jingle it as if it’s time to play
  • If your cat chases lasers, play with them outside several times a day
  • Leave out a bowl of water

Preventative Measures

Hopefully the tips above help you find your cat.

In the meantime, here are some things to think about and put in place to prevent your kitty from disappearing again.


Microchipping your cat is your best hope to find it if it gets lost. The chip is inserted under the skin and can be scanned by most shelters using a universal scanner. It won’t come off or threaten your cat’s safety by catching on something.

Cat Harnesses

Cats are naturally free-roaming and find any restraints stressful. If you’re going to use a harness so your cat doesn’t run off, start introducing it gradually when your kitten is very young.

Walking your cat with the harness can help it acclimate, but keep monitoring it for stress signs. You’ll probably need to remove it so your cat can use the toilet as well.

GPS Trackers

A GPS tracker can help you trace your lost cat, but it comes with a few downsides:

  • Bulky, which hinders your cat’s movement
  • Impermanent if battery dies or collar comes off
  • Range is usually smaller than most cats’ roaming range

Teach Your Cat to Come when Called

Find something other than your cat’s name and use it solely to call it to you. A phrase like “Here, Kitty” can be incredibly helpful to coax your feline friend out of hiding.


Should You Put Out Your Lost Cat’s Litter?

Opinions vary. It’s a common tip that many individual cat lovers swear by.

Vets, however, warn against it: If the pheromones from your cat’s litter attract a territorial cat, it can then consider your home its new territory and keep your furry companion from coming back.


The search for a lost cat can go on for a long time.

It’s easy to lose hope as days turn into weeks, but keep in mind that cats have been known to come back weeks and even months after wandering away.

Perseverance is key.

If you feel hopeless, focus on the fact that you gave your beloved cat a happy home.

Chances are someone else is probably lavishing love on it right now, until it finds its graceful way back to you.

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Steven Thomas
Steven has been studying cat behavior ever since adopting two stray kittens in 1996. After rescuing many homeless cats over the years, he developed the skill of finding new homes for cat lovers seeking to adopt. About Steven

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