If you’re reading this because your indoor cat has gone missing our best advice would be to try to not panic. Indoor cat owners have reason to be worried if their cat escapes as they are inexperienced with the outside world and can be injured easily. However, your best bet to getting them home is to assess the situation as clearly as possible. This info-graphic summarizes the steps we talk through in the article.
Caring for your pet after they have returned is just as important as searching for them while they are missing. This post goes over what you should do if you think your indoor cat has become lost indoors or outdoors in detail.
What to do if you think your indoor cat is missing
Begin sweeping through your house looking under, above, and inside of furniture with a bright torch. Cats can be pretty good at moving their bodies to be as small as possible. Look for the tell-tale sign of the reflection of the glint in their eyes when shining your light in darker areas. Even larger cats can squeeze their bodies into smaller spaces when they feel like they want to. You will want to check if they have managed to crawl up underneath beds and chests to find safe hiding spaces inside of pull-out storage spaces and drawers. We also wouldn’t put it past more curious indoor cats to find their way and then trap themselves inside of cupboards in the kitchen or bathroom. While you are searching through the house, you should close doors behind you to seal off areas where you know your cat isn’t. You can try to call your cat to you by opening a bag of their favorite treats or playing with their favorite toy. If they are particularly food motivated, the sound of food hitting their food bowl may be enough to get them to come out.
If you have just adopted your cat or big changes have come into the house such as new guests or loud music, it is likely that your cat is feeling less sure of their environment and has sought out a safe space to hide until they feel better. They may be unresponsive to even the best treats depending on how stressed they are so you will need to be very thorough when checking your living spaces. Use a bright torch to check underneath and on top of furniture such as sofas, beds, and cabinets. Also look inside of large appliances such as washers, driers, and fridges. Cats can squeeze through very tight cracks so you may need to carefully move some furniture.
If your indoor cat has become lost it an apartment. It can be worth your time asking your neighbors on your floor or the concierge of the building. Its common for apartment cats to follow owners as they are leaving through the door and then getting stuck in a corridor. A neighbor may have come to rescue your cat while you have been gone.
If you have identified that your indoor cat has become lost inside of the house, your initial panic may be over. However, there could still be cause for concern. Cats who get into areas they shouldn’t be are annoying at best. At worst, there are real health risks as indoor cats can end up getting stuck in tight spaces, eating dangerous objects, and injuring themselves from awkward falls. If your indoor cat is lost indoors, they should eventually come out to eat or drink. It’s still best to know for certain where they are and what they have been up to.
Indoor cat has gone missing outside of the home
If you have exhausted your search of inside your home and think that there is a chance that your indoor cat could be outside its time to increase the search area. Cats rely on their noses and superior senses of smell to find their way about their world. It may seem strange, but you should take your cat’s dirty litter tray and place it outside of your home. A balcony will do if you have an apartment, but a porch would be best. You can also take out other objects that your cat has covered in their scent like their food bowls and blankets. Leave these out for as long as you can to give your indoor cat a smell-based homing beacon to call them home.
Next, you should begin searching the local area for your cat. Go out with a torch, their favorite treats, and a crate to put them in if you find them. If they are used to being an indoor cat, the outdoors may have stressed them out enough to go into hiding. Look for areas that your cat may see as safe spaces. This could include underneath parked cars, inside bushes, and up trees. If you see them during this period stay where you are and gently try to reassure them to come back to you. Its up to you how long you should spend outside doing this. You may have better chances of finding them when it is dark at sunset and sunrise as this is when cats are most active.
You may want to ask neighbors in person and through social media to see if anybody has seen or taken in your cat. You can call local vet clinics to see if anybody has brought a missing cat in. If your cat is micro-chipped, the vets may contact you. If you have cat insurance, your plan may allow you to offer a certain amount of reward money for your cat on a missing pet poster. If you do decide to make a poster, or a post on social media, use a good quality image of your cat and describe their distinctive features such as markings on their fur.
Indoor cat missing for 24 hours
If your cat has been missing for a full day do your best to remain calm. Although they may be inexperienced with the outdoors, your indoor cat’s natural instincts should make them smart enough to stay out of immediate dangers. Unfortunately, this may make them more difficult to find. Dr John Bradshaw, has stated that most cats will roam within a radius of 40 to 200 meters (130 to 660 feet) from their home. If your indoor cat has been missing for 24 hours, we would recommend you check the local area on foot while using and posters and social media to ask for help from the public for looking in a larger radius around your home. Your cat is likely to be most active during sunrise and sunset and may be more receptive to offers for food and water now that it has been away from food for so long. Keep their litter-box outside if you still can so they can find their way home by smell.
Indoor cat missing for a week
If your cat has been missing for several days now you should have placed missing posters in person and on social media. If you have spare time throughout the day you can browse through missing pet directories such as petfinder.com. In this time, missing cats can travel quite far. Lost indoor cats can travel several miles per day and there are cases of cats that have been found hundreds of miles from their original home after months of being away and 20 miles after being away for under a week. Keep your cat’s litter-box outside with a safe space such as a crate with a blanket in it where they could rest if they return home while you are not around. Continue searching your local area for your cat, especially during sunset and sunrise. This may also be the point to ask friends and volunteers to help you while you search. If your indoor cat has been missing for this long they may be hungry and scared. If you think you see your cat you should approach slowly so you have the best chance of convincing them to come back to you.
How long do indoor cats go missing for?
Its up to you on when to give up searching for looking for your missing pet. Looking for a cat can be time consuming and unfortunately work and personal life is unable to be paused for too long while you spend your time and energy searching for your lost pet. Your local area may have a pet detective for hire. These are professional agencies that specialize in tracking missing pets and for some people, they are their final step towards looking for their cat. Its not uncommon for indoor cats to go missing for multiple months, although the odds of them returning may become slimmer. You may feel more hopeless the longer you have to wait but we think its always worth holding onto hope. A research study has determined that 33% of missing cats return within their first week, and 60% return within the first two months.
Can indoor cats find their way back home?
Indoor cats who do manage to escape may quickly realize that the outside is not as interesting as they first though when they have less safety and access to clean food and water. Even though indoor cats may be unfamiliar with the outside, their natural instincts equip with some of the tools necessary to find their way back home. This will mainly include their sense of smell. As cats travel, they leave behind scent marks which they can use to find their way home. You can make this a lot easier for your cat by leaving out their used litter box and blankets or cat beds. Cats can probably also find their way back by using landmarks but noisy and dangerous areas such as busy roads may scare them from crossing a particular path.
What do I do after finding my lost cat?
If your cat has been missing, there is a chance that they have eaten or drank something they shouldn’t have. The longer your cat has been missing the more likely it is that they have had to rely on drinking dirty water or hunting wild animals. This can increase their risk of getting various parasites and diseases. It is also possible that they have gotten into a fight or close contact with another cat that has is carrying a disease or pest like fleas. Give your cat a visual inspection over their body to check for cuts and bites. If they show any odd behavior such as a lack of interest in food or play you should book and appointment with your vet as soon as possible to get a professional to inspect your cat thoroughly. Also, it is good practice to update posters and social media that you have found your cat so people know to stop looking. If your cat was hiding in a difficult to reach spot indoor, you should block this area so your cat can’t get to it again. If they see this as a safe space they may rush to it during an emergency such as a fire and put themselves into more danger.