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What do I do if my cat goes missing?

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  • RSPCA Australia
  • Sunday, 30 January 2022

It can be every cat owner’s worst nightmare – your furry friend has gone missing! This can be very distressing if it ever happens, but if it does, here are some tips to give you a better chance of finding them. 

The best way to make sure your cat is safe is to keep them safely indoors. The RSPCA recommends keeping your cat safely contained at home, whether indoors with a secure outdoor area or totally indoors, as long as you can provide for all of their basic needs like food, water, toileting areas, resting and hiding places, and places to scratch. 


Don’t wait for your cat to be lost first! 

As with many aspects of pet care, it’s important to be prepared. 

While your cat is still safely at home, make sure they have proper identification. This includes a microchip but also, ideally, external ID such as a safe quick-release collar with a tag that displays your name and contact number. It’s especially important to make sure your details on the microchip database and ID tag are up to date at all times. 

Make sure you have a current photograph of your cat (including their full body and face) to help find and identify them if needed. If you’re anything like us, your camera roll will be full of pictures of your pets, so we don’t think this will be an issue! 


Develop a missing cat plan 

Prepare a plan for if your cat goes missing before something happens – chances are you’ll be a lot calmer and thinking more clearly! Having the plan ready will also save valuable time if something does happen. 

Your plan should include a thorough physical search – including your house and backyard (many missing indoor cats are actually hiding inside the home!). Notify your neighbours and seek their permission to conduct a thorough search of their properties for your cat as well. 

Make sure you alert and visit any local animal agencies (such as vets, pounds or the RSPCA), as well as distributing fliers around your neighbourhood with photos of your lost cat. Going online can also be a great way to search for your missing cat, for example in local Facebook groups or ‘lost pets’ pages. 


Help your cat return home 

Most indoor cats will become afraid if they get out and will hide, but they will want to return to their known territory. Many of them are likely to be hiding somewhere close but in places you can’t see them – they are often scared and won’t come out, even if you are looking for them. 

This is good news though because it means that many of these cats can be found very close to home and there are a few simple things you can do to help them return home. 

You can put your cat’s favourite food inside but very close to your door, leaving the door open and watching from afar. You may have to be patient, but many cats will return inside for the food (you can then gently close the door behind them, of course!). 


For outdoor cats 

If your cat ‘free-roams’ and they don’t return, it can mean that something has happened including injury, illness or mistakenly being removed by a passer-by. These cats are still usually found close to home, but it may be within two to three blocks of your house. 

You should still follow the same steps as for finding an indoor cats, but extend your search area wider and immediately concentrate on all the other aspects of your plan to find your cat (such as contacting vets and pounds, advertising, and posting in online groups). 


We have more information on our Knowledgebase. If this unfortunate event does happen and your cat goes missing, we hope by following some of these simple tips you and your companion can be reunited once more. 


This article was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers

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