How to Find a Missing Outdoor Cat

Pets are often considered members of the family, and outside cats are no different. If your outside cat has disappeared, it usually means something has prevented it from returning home since cats are territorial and do not typically run away. Techniques for successfully finding your outdoor cat vary from those used to find an indoor cat that has escaped outside.

Things You'll Need

  • Fluorescent poster board
  • Black markers
  • Strong adhesive tape
  • Flashlight
  • Humane animal trap


    • 1

      Look for your cat immediately in a five-house radius from your home. This is an outdoor cat's normal territorial range. Some people make the mistake of looking farther away first, but it is more likely your cat is close to home and is scared, trapped, sick or injured.

    • 2

      Perform an aggressive search after asking permission from property owners. Cats are notorious for hiding in the most unusual places, and if your cat is scared, sick or injured, it will not respond to your calls. Hiding in silence is an instinctual way for cats to escape notice from predators. Do not rely on other people to look for your cat. You must be prepared to look in sheds, under houses, in shrubbery and inside barns. Bring a flashlight along on your search.

    • 3

      Extend the radius of your search. If you are not successful in finding your cat in a five-house radius, look farther out into the neighborhood. Sometimes a cat becomes displaced when it is chased from the area by people, other cats or dogs. The cat will run away from whatever is frightening it but end up in an unfamiliar territory. Some cats have a homing instinct that enables them to return to their territory but others do not.

    • 4

      Consider your cat's personality when conducting the search. If a displaced cat ends up in unfamiliar territory, its personality will sometimes guide how it will react. A curious, outgoing cat tends to travel farther. Aloof cats tend to hide more and avoid human contact but may return home on their own. Fearful, timid cats will hide in silence and often stay in the same spot for a long time, frozen by fear.

    • 5

      Place "lost cat" signs in your neighborhood. This is often not a successful method to finding outdoor cats that are hiding, however, it may help mobilize your neighbors to assist in the search. The signs should be large, fluorescent posters with big lettering that people driving by can read. Place them at intersections. Include brief information about the cat's color, size, whether it was wearing a collar and a phone number where you can be contacted. Do not list your name, address or the reward amount, if you are offering one. You may also want to make smaller flyers to hand out with the same information and a photo of your cat.

    • 6

      Use a humane trap to recover your cat. If you have a good idea where your cat is hiding or perhaps have had sightings reported to you, a humane trap may be the best way to recover your pet. This is especially true if the cat is too fearful to approach anyone. Humane traps are wire cages that are available at local veterinarian offices, animal shelters and pet supply stores. Place your cat's favorite food inside the trap. When it enters the trap, a mechanism is triggered that closes the door behind it. It may take several attempts to recover your cat using a humane trap.

    • 7

      Check the local animal shelters and cat rescue groups. Routinely visit shelters and call rescue group organizers to see if they have your cat. Do no give up after a few weeks because your cat may be turned in or captured weeks and even months after it disappeared.

    • 8

      Get the word out about your lost cat via newspapers, radio and community bulletin boards. Many newspapers allow you to place a lost pet ad in the classifieds section for free. Radio stations may air the information as well. Put notices up at veterinary offices, shelters, pet stores, grocery stores and other places.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have recently moved, your cat may have tried to return to its old territory. Talk to your former neighbors and post signs in that area too.
  • Some people may try to scam you for the reward money by claiming to have found your cat. If someone contacts you saying he has found your cat, ask him to describe your pet in detail. If possible, leave out one identifying characteristic on the lost cat posters and flyers, and see if the person can give you information about it. If the person asks for money up front before reuniting you with your cat, it is probably a scam.
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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

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