Help! My Cat is Lost – Lost Cat Search Tips

Steps to take BEFORE your pet is lost

  • Microchip your pet.
  • Have a recent close-up and full body picture of your pet.
  • Be aware of your neighborhood  surroundings, which pets belong to which neighbor, and any danger areas near your home.
  • Teach your pet to respond to a whistle for treats or canned food goodies.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with an I.D. tag or an embroidered collar with your current phone number. Cats should wear a quick-release collar.
  • Pet-proof your yard fence so your cat or dog will be safely confined.
  • Keep fence gates securely locked.
  • Never allow your pets to roam free in the neighborhood.
  • Always transport your cat in a carrier and your dog on leash or in a carrier.
  • Ensure the YOU can be located if your pet is found.
  • Spay/neuter your pets. Both males and females will be much less likely to wander if they are “fixed”.


  • Do not put your name or address on your flyers.
  • If possible use a color photo of your pet.
  • Use fluorescent paper for high visibility.
  • List the date and place your pet was last seen, including a major cross street. List your pet’s breed, sex, age, weight, color, markings and your telephone number.
  • If you offer a reward, don’t list an amount.
  • Withhold at least one identifying mark to verify your pet has been found by a caller.

Post flyers at waist level on telephone poles and at eye level in such places as vet offices, pet shops, barber & beauty shops, grocery stores, community bulletin boards, churches, pizza parlors, Laundromats, convenience stores and school bulletin boards.

What to do if your cat is lost:

  • First, search your property thoroughly.
  • Walk the neighborhood, talk to everybody and leave your phone number.
  • Make some noise while you walk around the neighborhood- use the whistle your cat is used to responding to for treats.
  • Bring a powerful flashlight, (even during daylight hours) for checking dark spaces.
  • Place strong smelling articles outside your home to attract your pet. Place a cat’s litterbox, bedding and favorite toys outside. Place some unwashed laundry of the family in a box outside. If it’s warm weather, crate other family pets and place them outside in a safe and secure area.
  • Put catnip outside your home.
  • Call PAWS 206-842-2451
  • Post an ad with Kitsap Lost Pets
  • Post Lost Pet Flyers
  • Check the Kitsap Lost Pets Lost Pet pages, and the found ads in the classifieds.

Lost Cat Behavior

Outdoor-Access Cats: Cats are territorial. When an outdoor-access cat suddenly vanishes, it means that SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED to that cat to interrupt its normal behavior of coming home. The disappearance could mean that the cat is injured, trapped, or deceased within its territory. Or perhaps the cat was transported out of the area – either intentionally (by an irate neighbor who trapped the cat) or unintentionally (by the cat climbing into an open vehicle). Possibly the cat was displaced into unfamiliar territory (something as simple as being chased by a dog several houses away) causing it to panic and hide in silence. The investigative question when an outdoor-access cat disappears is: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAT?

Indoor-Only Cats: The territory for an indoor-only cat is the inside of the home where it lives. When an indoor-only cat escapes outdoors, it is “displaced” into unfamiliar territory. Usually they will look for the first place that will offer concealment and protection. Their instinc­tive response is to HIDE IN SILENCE because that is their primary protection from predators. How long they remain in that hiding place and what they do from there is dependent upon their temperament. The investigative question when an indoor-only cat escapes outdoors is: WHERE IS THE CAT HIDING?

Owner Behaviors That Create Problems: Cat owners often behave in ways that actually inhibit their chances of finding their lost cat. They develop “tunnel vision” and fail to find their cat because they focus on wrong theories. They experience “grief avoidance” and quickly give up their search effort. They feel helpless and alone, often discouraged by others who rebuke them and tell them “it was just a cat” and “you’ll never find your cat.” But one of the biggest problems is that cat owners typically focus their search efforts by posting lost cat flyers and by searching the cages at the local shelter.

Although these techniques are important and should not be overlooked, the primary technique to recover a missing cat should be to obtain permission from all neighbors to enter their yards and conduct an aggressive, physical search for the missing cat (and to set baited humane traps there when necessary). Simply asking a neighbor to “look” for the lost cat is not sufficient! Neighbors are not going to crawl around on their bellies under their decks or houses to search for someone else’s lost cat!