The chances of recovering your lost cat can be improved with quick action and if they are microchipped or have a collar with current ID tags and a current photo. Read the information below on Lost Cats and local FB pages.
Trappers/ rescuers: It is recommend that community cats in managed colonies be identified through microchips, photos, and left ear-tips in case they are trapped and taken to a shelter. Always check rescued cats for microchips and review the lost cats posts in your community. Direct lost pet owners to the links on this page and assist them to recover their cats if possible. Every cat returned to an owner who’s looking for them, is one less cat who needs a home and is off the streets!
There are Lost/Found Pet Facebook pages in nearly every county, here are Philly local:
FOUND CATS: If you have found a cat, you can use the Lost-Cat Flyer and check out the SPREAD THE WORD section below for places to post your Found Cat Info. Always check for a tag and/or microchip. Alley Cat Allies-How to Find Homes for Stray Cats has great tips on trying to find the cat’s home. If someone contacts you saying the cat you have is their lost pet, always require some form of identification such as photo of their pet; ask to meet them at their veterinarian office to ensure that this is the cat’s true owner.
LOST CATS: Missing Pet Partnership has excellent recovery tips and information on lost cat behavior. While there are the very rare news stories of lost cats making miraculous journeys over hundreds of miles to return home, the sad truth is 99.9% of the cats do not make it home. Even if a cat makes it into a shelter, the return-to-owner rate on lost cats is only 2% because of lack of identification and microchipping.
However, with an understanding of basic lost cat behavior, perseverance, hard work and IMMEDIATE action, you can greatly increase your chances of recovering your lost cat.
SAFETY FIRST. An ounce of prevention . . . “But my cat is an indoor-only cat”
It takes a second for cats to slip past you or rip out a window screen. Teach family members, especially children to mind the cat. During holidays and other times when guests or workmen are in-out of the home or if you’re in the process of moving, keep your cat safe in a secure room. If you’ve just moved, keep your cat in a safe room for at least several weeks for acclimation. Keep identification on your cat at all times. Microchipping is the best chance of saving your cat’s life and being returned to you if they are taken to a shelter or vet office.
The single most important thing you can do to keep your cat safe is to spay or neuter your cat! In addition to many health and behavioral benefits, this will decrease the urge to get outside and seek a mate.
Train your cat to stay away from the door through use of spray bottle or noise maker (an empty soda can with pennies kept near the door works wonders!) A good idea is to bang the aluminum screen door or use some noise maker before entering the home – the noise usually frightens lurking cats away from the door and they will learn by repetition to stay away from the door. Keep window screens in good repair – check screens for tears or small holes which cats will pull and tear at. Belling a cat will alert you to their presence if they tend to lurk near the doors or try to dart out.
LOST CAT BEHAVIOR DO NOT WASTE ONE MINUTE IF YOUR CAT GETS OUTDOORS!!! A lost indoor-only cat WILL NOT come when called, will not answer an owner’s call, and will not meow for a good week or so. They are SCARED. They will not show themselves, will not emerge during daylight hours, and will not allow themselves to be seen or found during this time. In the few instances where owners or neighbors have gotten a glimpse of their lost cats, the majority of cats immediately fled. This behavior in some cases will continue up to 2 months, possibly longer.
Research indicates that most lost indoor-only cats are hiding much more closely than most people realize, generally within a 2-3 house radius from their home. They hide in sewers, under storage buildings, between fences and under decks – in the smallest and most unlikely places you can imagine. These cats are frightened and revert to feral cat like behaviors – hide, stay quiet, and don’t move.
An outdoor cat who is unspayed or unneutered may be roaming the neighborhood looking for mates, however, an outdoor cat who is normally seen on a daily basis and is now missing for more than a day or more is cause for concern.
FINDING YOUR CAT: The single most effective way of finding your cat is an IMMEDIATE search of the area. Search thoroughly day and night in your own yard, garage, shed and porch and ask neighbors for permission to do the same in on their property. Call out to your cat so they hear your voice and know you are there. Be sure to bring along a flashlight to look under decks and in dark, cramped spaces. Look in, over, around, and behind everything. It is important that you immediately place articles of bedding, clothing, litter boxes, fur from brushes in your yard that will draw your cat back to his scent and yours.
Begin the trapping process as soon as possible after losing your cat. Put food out every day/night regardless of whether or not you see your cat. He/she may come out very late to eat. Use warmed up stinky cat food that will attract him to the location. Once you spot your cat, place a trap near the food and tie the trap open, place food just outside the trap and gradually start moving the food into the trap until the cat is eating regularly in the trap and then set it. This may take several weeks so be patient!!
SPREAD THE WORD: Talk with each and every one of your neighbors as soon as possible and ask them to be on the lookout for your cat. Distribute flyers offering a reward with a photo to each and every house within an initial 3-4 block radius, increasing the radius every day. Post larger flyers on each block. Talk to everyone and give them a flyer – the postman, the paperboy, and all the kids in the neighborhood. Deliver flyers to local rescue groups, pet stores, veterinary offices, shelter and animal control facilities, and businesses in your town. Check known cat colonies and neighbors who feed cats outside whether their own cat or neighborhood strays. If you adopted your cat through a rescue, notify them immediately as they may have resources to assist you with your search. Also post your cat’s information at pets911.com, petfinder.org, and any local lost pet clearinghouses. Place a lost cat ad in your local classified paper and online, most papers do not charge for this. Check to see if your townships has their own local cable station you can post info on.
Go immediately to the shelter and physically look for your cat. Shelters are overwhelmed with animals and calling isn’t enough. Shelters in Pennsylvania are only required to hold stray cats for 48 hours before euthanizing, although individual shelters may have longer hold periods up to 7 days. However, when trapped, many cats can act as ferals and may also be immediately euthanized. Most shelters are extremely busy and lack space, so make it a priority to physically go to your shelter every couple days to search for your pet.
From personal experience, it took 3-4 weeks to recover one of my shy boys when a neighbor 2 blocks away identified him from a flyer distributed door-to-door. He came late at night to eat from their cat’s outdoor dish. It took another 2 weeks to trap him. Another neighbor’s cat who got out of the house found him 6 weeks later about 8 blocks away, again being fed by a neighbor who then saw the lost cat flyer at the local dry cleaners. Another adopter whose cat got out over the holidays when her son left the door open, found her cat 2 weeks later in a neighbor’s locked garage. They initially searched the garage but the cat being scared was hunkered down in a very small dark area. The neighbor then went away for 2 weeks over the holiday. After searching the neighborhood for nearly all that time, her husband just happened to walk by the garage and heard the cat faintly meow. Needless to say, the garage was broken into and kitty rescued. Luckily, the cat was young and healthy enough to withstand no food or water for nearly 2 weeks.
These stories simply reinforce the fact that indoor-only cats are normally hiding within a relatively short radius of their home and will seek a food source. So above all, be patient and DO NOT GIVE UP!
LOST / FOUND CAT FLYER. Please feel free to use the Lost/Found Cat Flyer. Personalize your flyer as much as possible about your cat including the exact location your cat was lost/found, especially since the cats tend to remain close to home. Exact address is not needed, but street or cross streets, area are great because people mostly ignore Lost Pet flyers without it or if too general a location such as “Philadelphia”. Use the BEST PHOTO possible of your cat – especially one that shows any unique markings.
Other great info on these sites: