Finding a Lost Pet

Searching for a lost pet can be stressful, but knowing how to go about your search could save you precious time and, in turn, save your cat's life.

Start by Looking Close to Home

First, search your home and property. Cats can end up in some pretty odd places, such as inside ventilation ducts, inside or behind a washer or dryer, dishwasher or bookcase, under furniture, in closets, in cabinets or crawl spaces, in trees, under your porch (or underneath your house), under your car or inside the wheel well, or she could be hiding in a barn or shed.

Next, take a friend or family member with you and walk around your neighborhood, talking with as many people as you can: the mail carrier, delivery services or neighbors. Someone may have noticed a strange vehicle or activity in the area.

On your local walk, bring a flashlight with you. If your cat is injured, she'll hide in a dark place and won't come to you. Check out dumpsters, doorways, storage sheds, garages, even trash cans. You might also want to bring her favorite squeaky toy with you, or make a noise or a call that would bring her running. Carry a box of her favorite treats and rattle them as you call her. And don't forget to look in trees for lost cats!

When you get home, put some of your used gym clothes outside in a box, or use her litterbox or bedding to give her a familiar scent to detect. Her sense of smell could guide her home quickly.

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When an Indoor Cat Escapes Outside

You glance away from your open front door for a second, or perhaps open it for an instant to grab the morning newspaper, and whoosh! There goes your cat, scooting past you in a blur.

First off, don't panic. Go after her but don't run and don't make loud noises. Cats can sense your stress level, so if it's high, she may stay hidden until you calm down. Try to keep her in sight, although this can be difficult. Indoor cats are usually overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and scents of the outdoors, so they tend to hide immediately. If your cat stops and looks at you, drop to a kneeling position and don't look her in the eye. Extend your hand and in your calmest, most soothing voice, call her. If there are no distractions, she may come to you right away.

If you lose sight of her or can't get her to come when you call, set food outside your front door. Chances are she hasn't gone far. She may even be right under your porch. Once she smells that food, she'll be whining at your door to return to the comfortable, secure world she knows so well.

Don't forget local newspapers or advertising circulars. Many newspapers will run lost dog ads for free.

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Flyers and posters are effective ways to find lost pets. In fact, they yield the highest amount of results. The more you can post, the better. But NEVER put your name and address on a flyer. Use 8 1/2 x 11 fluorescent paper so it gets noticed. List the date and location of your cat's disappearance. Include a detailed description, but don't give away all of her identifying markings. If someone calls claiming to have found her, you want to have a few key attributes to question the finder to make sure he or she really has your pet.

Don't forget local newspapers or advertising circulars. Many will run lost pet ads for free.

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Call Local Veterinarians & Shelters

Talk to veterinarians in your area to see if your cat was admitted for treatment. After 5:00 pm, check with the emergency animal clinics that are close by. If an office gives you even a remotely similar description to your cat, visit them in person. Your description and theirs will rarely be an exact match, so be sure to check out any possible leads with your own eyes.

Leave your phone number and a picture of your cat at all local shelters and animal control facilities. Be sure to find out how long they hold found pets before they euthanize them. Some government facilities only hold cats for three days before they adopt them out or put them down!

Check with all rescue groups, too. Many take cats from shelters to make sure the pets are not euthanized.

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Beware of Lost Cat Scams

There are people who use lost pets to lure victims to their homes. Never go to pick up your cat alone always take a friend (or two) with you, and always meet in a public place. Never invite the person who says he or she has found your cat to your home, either.

Other scammers make up stories to get rewards. A common one is that a tourist or long-distance truck driver picked up your pet, but is now out of town. They'll ship it to you if you send the reward or pay to ship it home.

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Protect Your Cat Now

If you're like most pet parents, you take a lot of photos of your cat. Snap away! Those pictures could have a lot more than sentimental value some day. Take lots of close-up shots, and be sure to capture any unique characteristics.

Make sure her tags are up to date and have your current phone number on them. Many owners opt for trackable microchips that can be safely and harmlessly implanted into your cat's skin by your veterinarian. The chip transmits reliable identification to all modern shelters, which scan all pets for these devices.

The last thing to remember is, DON'T give up! Many cats are lost for months before being safely reunited with their owners.

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