One unnerving night, my beloved indoor cat escaped through the front door of our apartment and vanished. As my four-year-old bawled that she would “never, ever, ever be okay again if Ziggy doesn’t come home,” I sprung into action to get my cat home as soon as possible. Within twelve hours, my cat was safe in my arms again, mewing a string of apologies and affectionately purr-nuzzling my daughter. If your cat goes missing, here are some actions you should take immediately to get him home.
1. Call your microchip provider. Your pet should have a microchip for incidents like this. It’s likely that a microchip was included in your adoption if you got your cat from a quality shelter. As soon as Ziggy went missing, I called HomeAgain, his microchip provider. I ensured that they had accurate contact information for me, and they immediately sent out a notification to all veterinarians and animal shelters in a 25-mile radius to say that he was missing. Had Ziggy ended up at a vet’s office or shelter, especially after an injury, they would have scanned his chip and immediately contacted me.
2. Search. Head out and look everywhere on and around your property for signs of your cat. Stay quiet and listen for the jingling of ID tags or collar-bells. Shake a bag of treats and call your cat repeatedly in a soothing, coaxing voice. Be sure to look in ditches, bushes trees, and other hideouts. Expand your search everywhere within a half-mile radius, including helpers if possible. If there’s still no sign of your cat, check with neighbors for any clues as to his whereabouts. Request that they keep potentially violent dogs contained while you search.
3. Place items to attract your cat home in front of your door. Your cat may not know exactly how to get home. This is especially true in my area, where some two thousand identical apartments line the pavement. To attract my kitty back home, I placed his favorite kneeding blanket in front of the house, along with his uncleaned litterbox and a few bowls of food and water. A strong-smelling wet food can also be useful.The familiar sights and smells attracted him back home. Weather and circumstances permitting, leave your door open so the cat can see the interior of your home and come back inside.
4. Hang flyers everywhere nearby. Nail a flyer with a photo of your cat and your phone number on every utility pole within a five-mile radius. If possible, leave at least one person at home to watch for your cat while you distribute these flyers. In addition to utility poles, ask if you can hang them on store windows and bulletins, apartment offices, and other commonly seen public spaces. If possible, offer a reward on the flyer, but don’t specify the amount.
5. Call animal shelters and veterinarian’s offices in the area. If your pet has a microchip and you have notified the provider, they will already be looking for him. If your cat doesn’t have one, start calling local shelters and vet’s offices. Give a detailed description of your cat and ask if any unclaimed pets matching his description have arrived at their offices. Leave your contact information in the event that he arrives there.
6. Get it online. Post about your missing pet on neighborhood association websites and social networking pages. If you live in an apartment complex, ask if you can post on the apartment’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Be sure to include a current photo so that people nearby will be able to recognize your cat. Consider also posting your pet’s information on Craigslist and local newspaper websites, remembering to offer a reward. If anyone finds your cat, there should be multiple sources online for finding your contact information.
7. Wait. If it’s light outside, your cat may be asleep or hiding. Once night falls, he may be ready to return home, or at least come out in the open. Be especially on the look-out for your pet during the evening hours, when he’s likely to be either prowling or trying to find his way home. If your cat doesn’t return the night he goes missing, keep hoping and continue your search the next day. Most cats who go missing do eventually make it home in one piece, so the odds of finding your cat safe and healthy are good– even if he’s been missing for more than a day. Your action and attention as a dedicated pet owner can ensure your pet’s health, safety, and survival in the event that he goes missing.