If You Have Lost Your Cat
If your cat is microchipped, then first of all you need to call the microchip company and tell them that your cat is missing.
You should check all of your cat's usual favourite haunts. Make sure that you check inside & outside of your house:
- Every room and the loft and basement
- Look under the bed/s (including under the duvet)
- Look anywhere that there might be a gap that the cat could have crawled into and hidden or got stuck. Examples would be: behind wardrobes, behind appliances in the kitchen (also check inside appliances such as washing machines - cats have been known to crawl inside when the door is left open), chimney, dustbin, compost bin etc.
- Check your garden and garage thoroughly; look in your shed/greenhouse, check trees and hedgerows
The first 24/48 hours are the most critical - this is when cats who have got lost or injured tend to "go to ground", meaning that they tend keep a low profile nearby. During this time period, your chances of locating them are the greatest so make sure that you act quickly.
Ask your neighbours to check their gardens, sheds, greenhouses etc.
The best time to go outside your house to call for your cat is between the hours of 11pm & 6am - when there is very little traffic around. Your voice will carry much further at such times so there is a better chance of your cat hearing you and vice versa - if your cat is unable to get back to you, you are more likely to be able to hear him/her meowing or crying. Make sure that you do not go out alone and especially if you are under 18, ensure that you are accompanied by an adult.
It is possible that your cat might have travelled quite some distance; they can often get inside cars & vans unnoticed. This often happens when deliveries are made and van doors are left open. We have known cats to have travelled 7-8 miles by this method!
This next piece of advice is going to sound bizarre but it has worked for many people as well as for us! If your cat uses a litter tray, then take some soiled litter and sprinkle it outside your front and back gardens. If your cat is nearby, he/she will recognise the smell and this will help them to find home.
If you have a companion cat, then you could put them into a secured cat carrier and take them outside with you. Dangle a tasty treat, such as hot chicken or fish, just out of reach to get them to meow or howl for you. Again, the idea is that your missing cat may hear and recognise his/her companion's voice and so help them to find their way home.
If you have a catflap, make sure that it is left open until your cat returns. If your cat only goes in and out through an open door or window, then you must leave this open for them. If this means that you have to shut your other cat into a separate room overnight, stay up all night yourself or take the day off work, then so be it. The worst thing would be if your cat were to find his/her way home, injured or otherwise traumatised, and then find that they cannot get inside. Goodness knows what they would do in this situation.
What you should do next is to gather together some details that can be registered with various organisations to assist your search:
- If possible, dig out a photograph of the cat. Preferably this will show the whole body and the face - showing any distinctive features that the cat has. People will always remember photographs better than a description, no matter how detailed.
- When and where (including street name as well as area) the cat was last seen.
- Cat's name, gender, age
- Colouring and whether long or short haired etc
- Any distinctive features
- Whether or not the cat has been neutered/spayed
- Was the cat wearing a collar (what colour, any bell or disc etc?)
- Whether or not the cat is microchipped
- Your contact details (name, phone numbers etc)
Inform Local Organisations
Give these details to:
- All local vets in and around your area
- Any animal rescue organisations in your area
- Local catteries
- Local police stations
- Neighbours, postman, window cleaner, milkman
Post Advertisements and go Door-to-Door
You can also make up a poster/leaflet to advertise. Get plenty of copies made and distribute:
- Do a door-to-door on your street and surrounding streets for at least a block radius around your house. If possible, ring or knock and speak to the person and explain what you are doing. People respond far better face to face than to a(nother) leaflet through the door. We cannot emphasise enough how important this is.
- Ask to get a poster put up in any local: vets, post offices, newsagents, supermarkets, pet shops, pubs, youthclubs, social clubs and any other shop or establishment that you can.
- Attach posters to lamp posts, phone boxes, telegraph poles etc.
- Also display one on your front door and / or front window.
- Place an ad in your local newspaper or on your local radio station; you can offer a reward if you want to - you don't have to state an amount, just put "reward available" on the posters/leaflets.
Don't forget to look for "Cat found" notices in papers, shop windows etc on your travels.
Be positive - the earlier you act, the better the chances are of finding your cat. Cats can and do go missing for days and even weeks sometimes and come back safe and sound. There are even cases where cats have been missing for months and have still been reunited with their families. Remember that cats are incredibly resourceful creatures and (mostly!) very intelligent. They will seek out shelter and food and water. If and when you get that all-important call saying "I've found your cat", try not to get your hopes up too high. Importantly, make sure that you don't go alone when responding to a stranger's call - it may not be genuine.
Our own Dear Duck went missing several years ago and we spent several days looking for her & calling for her. We strimmed the undergrowth in the farmers' fields surrounding SHUA and over the road too, looking for her. We used the soiled litter trick and also took her brothers and sister outside in carry cages to get them to help call for her. And it worked - she came back. She had somehow dislocated her tail and was very, very freaked out BUT she was ok.
Another cat from SHUA, Merlin, accidentally got out and got lost only a few days after we rehomed him. He was a very nervous cat and we feared the worst. However, nearly 6 months later we had a report from someone only a few streets away from where he went missing about a cat which sounded like Merlin. We went out, trying not to get our hopes up in case they were dashed - and were overjoyed to discover that it was indeed Merlin. A bit on the scrawny side and his beautiful long fur was quite matted - but otherwise ok.
The point of all of this is: don't give up! They can come home or be found so stay positive and keep looking.
IF YOU ARE UNDER 18: Please do NOT go out on your own, whether to post leaflets, to go house-to-house, to respond to an "I think I've found your cat" call, or any other reason. ALWAYS take an adult with you..and in fact, it is a good idea to take someone with you whatever age you are.
However, you must always be prepared for the worst, and to this end, you should contact your local council Environmental Health Department. If you give them a description they will be able to check whether a cat matching that description has been reported killed on the roads.
When Your Cat Returns
Make a very big fuss of him/her and give them lots of treats. Make sure that you inform all of the local organisations that you registered your cat lost with, so that they can remove the details from their register. Also, retrieve your posters from shop windows, lamp posts etc. Finally, please ensure that (if not already done) you get your cat neutered and microchipped to help prevent this from happening again in the future (cats that are neutered are far less likely to roam away from their immediate surroundings. An unneutered male will go up to 7 miles in search of a female.).
If You Find A Cat
If you find a cat (or if a cat finds you):
- The very first thing that you need to decide is whether the cat needs veterinary attention. If the cat is physically injured then please do not give it any food or water - no matter how hungry or thirsty it may seem - as this can delay treatment. Get him/her to a local vets as soon as possible. If the cat has no physical injuries but is emaciated or in an appalling condition then give it only water and take it to a vet as soon as possible. If the cat has not eaten for a while then it is likely that anything you feed it will cause diarrhoea; meaning that the cat will lose even fluids faster than can be replenished.
- If the cat seems okay, don't panic. Its owner may have gone away & simply the cat is protesting. Or it may be the new cat on the block e.g. expanding its territory. Keep an eye on it for a few days unless it needs veterinary attention or is emaciated or is in a dangerous situation. Contact SHUA if you need further advice or are not confident about the situation.
- If the cat seems in decent condition and has been hanging around for a few days then feed it (any meat or fish but preferably actual cat food) and give it a bowl of water (not milk - many cats are actually lactose intolerant, meaning that they have an allergy to dairy products).
- Give it shelter: if you cannot allow it into your home then please ensure that it has somewhere dry and windproof outside for the time being. Remember that the cat will need access to a litter tray or to the outdoors in order to go to the toilet! See below - contact local animal shelters to see about getting the cat taken in.
- Jot down some details about the cat (appearance, any distinguishing features, where found and when etc) and register these with local vets, police station, animal shelters, ad in local paper etc. Also check with these various places to see if anyone has lost a cat matching the description of the one you have found.
- If possible, take the cat to your nearest or local vets and ask them to check whether or not it is microchipped. This will be done for free.
- HOWEVER if you put up posters or distribute leaflets, we strongly recommend that you do NOT give a full description of the cat; this will allow you to confirm that someone claiming to be the cat's owner is indeed its real owner. It will also prevent anyone from being able to falsely claim that the cat is theirs simply to get a 'free' cat. When you register the details with local organisations, if possible, you can ask them to withhold certain distinctive features information to assist with this (but still allow them to match your cat up with any new 'lost' notices logged).
- If the owner cannot be traced, or if you cannot keep the cat at your house, then when you contact your local animal rescue organisations you can ask if they are able to take the cat in. They will then be able to care for the cat and assist with finding its owners - or, ultimately, find it a new home. When you contact your local organisation you can ask them if they will take the animal in or put it on their waiting list. Please be patient - in kitten season the waiting list may be in excess of 6-8 weeks.
- Finally - and we are sorry to have to mention this - but please do NOT try to rehome the cat yourself unless you actually know and trust the person you intend to rehome the cat with. Sadly, dog-baiting, vivisection and the fur trade are all very active in South Wales. People could come to your house, pretend to be lovely, caring people and then take the cat away and sell it to be tortured in one of these despicable trades. Bona fide rescue organisations and rehoming centres do various checks before rehoming to try to ensure that any people coming forward to adopt cats are genuine.
For lists of rescue centres, vets etc. in South Wales please look at our Useful Info page.