Cats are naturally curious creatures, which is why they will grab every opportunity to wander. Alas, many of them will wind up getting lost in the process. Some will fail to find their way back home, while others will get stuck somewhere. And to make matters worse, the odds of finding a lost cat are lower than the odds of finding a lost dog.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only 74% of lost cats get found. On the other hand, up to 93% of lost dogs get found. However, the percentage of lost cats compared to lost dogs are neck and neck — 15% of cats get lost while 14% of dogs get lost.
It’s true that cats are some of the most independent pets on the face of the planet. Also, many findings say that they don’t tend to suffer from separation anxiety in the same way their barking counterparts do.
Despite this, losing cats can still be one of the most painful and upsetting things that can happen to any cat owner.
If your purring pal has gone missing for some time now, keep on reading. Below are some important matters such as the odds of finding a lost cat and, more importantly, increasing the chances of finding your missing cat.
But First: Some Important Figures
People have been taking care of pets for a very long time now.
Some experts say that dogs were first domesticated at least 20,000 years ago, although some say that it’s likely closer to 40,000 years ago. However, the oldest known dog burial is from 14,200 years ago, which suggests that canines were considered pets by then.
Cats, on the other hand, became pets around 7,000 BC — that’s 9,000 years ago. These days, the global population of domestic cats (pets, stray and feral) is estimated to be anywhere from 200 million to 600 million.
Despite the fact that cats and dogs are being kept as pets for thousands of years already, it was only in 2012 when what is believed to be the first published national study on lost pets, which was by ASPCA, came into being. Dr. Emily Weiss, the non-profit organization’s president back then, said that there were several surprises in the study.
Here are some of the 2012 ASPCA study’s key figures:
- In the last five years, only 15% of pet owners reported a lost cat.
- Similarly, only 15% of pet cats got lost.
- 74% of reported lost cats were returned safely to their respective owners.
- Of all cat owners that found their lost pets, only 2% of them found their cats at shelters.
According to Dr. Weiss, it’s a wonderful idea for cat owners to choose to have their feline pals microchipped for easy identification should they get lost and are taken to shelters.
She added that cats should wear identification collars, too, that bear the landline and/or cell phone number of their owners.
If their owners are comfortable enough to also include their home addresses, they may do so to make it a lot easier for those who will find their cats to return them.
Getting your cat microchipped and collared are just some of the things that you may do to greatly increase the likelihood that your feline pet will be returned to you should it get lost.
Below, we will talk about other steps that you may take to make it more likely for your cat, in case it gets lost, to be reunited with you — so don’t stop reading now.
How Long Do Cats Go Missing For?
It’s quite common for cats to go missing for an entire day, especially those that are fond of spending time outdoors. Some cats can go missing for up to 10 days at a time. In some instances, cats can wander off when their owners go on a vacation, returning as soon as their owners arrive back home.
Different cats can go missing for different periods of time. In many cases, the reasons why they roamed or went missing in the first place greatly differ, too.
Just because your four-legged friend is missing doesn’t necessarily mean that the two of you will not see each other again. It’s a must to keep in mind that felines seem to have some kind of homing instinct.
Put simply, cats appear to have the ability to perceive the direction and find their home using something beyond their five ordinary senses.
As a matter of fact, some lost cats were guided by their homing instinct to travel hundreds of miles back to their respective homes.
To give you an idea of how fast lost cats can go back home, they can travel for a minimum of five miles a day. It’s also the reason why some missing cats were found long distances from their homes after just 24 hours.
Many say that the chances of finding a lost cat decrease dramatically after 24 hours (we will talk more about this matter in a few). However, don’t lose hope if it’s been more than a day since your kitty cat has been missing.
Let’s check out a couple of stories involving cats that got lost for more than a day…
Arthur: Found in a garage after two weeks
In 2018, a three-year-old Lynx Point named Arthur broke free for the first time.
Its owner, Ed Pullman, thought that he was never going to see his cat again, mainly because it’s not the kind that could tolerate the elements very well. But then, after two weeks, Arthur was spotted by a neighbor in his garage.
While the feline was missing, Ed put up nearly 100 posters and handed out flyers. He also contacted various animal welfare agencies, such as Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing (ROAM) and Find Lost and Escaped Cats (FLEC).
But after two weeks, a neighbor contacted him, saying that Arthur was spotted in his garage.
When Arthur was recovered, it was apparent that the cat was dehydrated but otherwise looked okay. It shed off some pounds, too — it went from 12 pounds to 10 pounds in just a couple of weeks.
Although Ed was happy to be reunited with Arthur, the other cat, Calvin, wasn’t at all too thrilled — it showed signs that it was no longer comfortable being near Arthur.
Ed believed that it’s because Arthur no longer smelled the same after its outdoor adventure. Since Arthur was found, the two cats have been occupying different floors of the house.
Francine: Returned after more than a year
On YouTube, a video of a cat that went missing for over a year (according to the poster, one year and 47 days, to be exact) returned home. Besides recognizing its former home, the feline also recognized its previous owner.
Francine, the name of the Maine Coon cat, left home and decided to live as a stray cat in the neighborhood. Since it chose to go homeless, the owner, Maggie, never saw her again. As a matter of fact, she posted on a separate YouTube video some screenshots of her year-old Facebook posts about searching for Francine.
One day, Maggie was driving around the neighborhood when she suddenly caught a glimpse of Francine.
Evidently, the cat still knew its name, which is why it approached Maggie as soon as it heard its name. More importantly, even after over a year of being a stray cat, Francine still remembered its owner.
According to Maggie herself, she saw a bunch of comments saying that the video’s fake.
To prove its authenticity, as mentioned earlier, the cat’s owner uploaded one more video, which consisted of her Facebook status updates looking for the missing cat posted more than a year before being reunited with the adventurous Francine.
How to Find a Lost Cat
It was mentioned earlier that cats have a homing instinct, which can help them find their way back home even if they are several miles away from it.
Despite this, don’t just leave the job to your missing cat — it’s also a must that you do anything and everything necessary to find your pawed chum.
Some of the best tips on finding lost cats come straight from the mouths of cat owners who lost and found their cats multiple times, which doesn’t really come as a surprise since the natural curiosity and independence of felines make them highly prone to getting lost for a day, a few weeks, several months to over a year.
Here are some of the things that you may do to find your lost kitty cat ASAP…
When it comes to searching for a lost cat, the sooner you start looking for it, the less time your pet has the opportunity to roam far away from home. Just ensure that, before you spring into action and seek the help of family and friends, your feline pet is actually missing. Check all your cat’s favorite hangout places indoors.
If you wait for hours or days before you start looking for your cat, it may end up in dangerous situations that can either drive it farther away or cost it its life.
In numerous instances, cats that have gotten lost were found within a five-house radius of where they reside. This is why you should thoroughly check your yard and the yard of your neighbors.
Cats are territorial creatures, and they feel safer and more confident if they are within or near their territory. Unless something really scared away your cat, there is a huge possibility that it’s just somewhere near its home. Identify potential hiding places or areas where it could get trapped and check for the presence of your pet there.
Because it’s very much likely that your cat is just nearby, ask your neighbors if they have seen your pet. This is when uploading a lot of your cat’s snapshots on social media will come in very handy — show some of your lost cat’s photos to the people in your neighborhood that you will approach.
On YouTube, there’s a video of a cat named Pamuk who decided to move to the neighboring house to be with its best friend, another feline, all the time.
Check out the eight-minute heartwarming video:
Search at night
Especially if your cat has been an indoor pet since the day it was born, it’s very much likely for it to be stressed and terrified of the many goings-on outdoors — from people rushing to their workplaces to cars speeding by.
This is why your lost cat may choose to hide, which can make it less likely for you to chance upon it.
It’s because of this why it’s a good idea to carefully look for it when it’s already dark and quiet. Armed with a flashlight, you may run into your cat as it’s coming out of its chosen hiding place to explore the world outside the home.
Put up posters
Some of the most effective missing cat posters are large and neon ones. A reward can encourage people to be on the lookout for your lost cat.
Refrain from stating the exact amount of cash you are willing to shell out. The founder of your cat may have been feeding it since it’s been lost, and it’s nice to at least reimburse his or her expenses.
Do not despair if you haven’t tried making any posters yet. Online, you can easily come across websites that allow you to create customizable and printable missing cat posters.
Besides putting up posters around the neighborhood, especially in high-traffic areas, you may also upload digital posters in cyberspace.
Online, there are many places where you could connect with someone who could have seen or been keeping your cat. Some of them include Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist and local blogs about animal welfare.
You may also consider creating a Facebook page for your missing cat. Upload as many photos as you possibly can. Don’t forget to provide pieces of information such as your pet’s personality, habits, etc.
Use your scent
Cats identify their owners, first and foremost, through their sense of smell.
It’s because of this exactly why you may use your own scent to guide your lost cat back home. While looking for your pet around the neighborhood, touch trees, lampposts, fences, and others to let your cat know that you have been there and that you’re near.
You may also take with you a used article of clothing of yours or your cat’s bedding and rub it on things to create a scent trail that your cat could follow — it will work better than the trail of breadcrumbs left by Hansel and Gretel.
Keep these tips in mind, and you can considerably increase your odds of finding your lost cat.
While all cats tend to be curious and independent, many of them are shy and, well, scaredy-cats. It’s because of this why it can be more challenging to look for a lost cat than a lost dog.
In some instances, cat owners may spend most of their waking hours searching for their lost felines but feel like they are getting nowhere.
And this brings us to this pressing and heartbreaking question…
When to stop looking for a lost cat?
Cat owners may stop looking actively for their lost cats after a few weeks of doing everything they can, from putting up posters, asking online and getting in touch with various animal shelters. However, it’s totally fine for cat owners to never stop hoping for their lost cats to one day come back.
Earlier, we talked about some figures from a 2012 ASPCA study on lost pets.
Back in 2018, a study on the search methods used to locate missing cats and locations where missing cats are found was published online.
The following are some key figures from the said study:
- About one-third of lost cats were found within seven days.
- A physical search (versus putting up posters, posting online, etc.) increased the chances of finding lost cats alive.
- 74% of lost cats were found within a 500-meter (0.31 miles) radius from the escape point.
- Cats allowed indoors and outdoors at the same time wandered further than cats never allowed outside.
- Extremely curious cats were likely found inside someone else’s house.
Based on the above figures, your chances of being reunited with your lost cat are higher within one week — the odds are better within a 24-hour period.
While it’s true that the odds of finding a lost cat are slimmer the longer the animal is missing, a cat owner must not lose hope.
Many lost cats were either returned to their owners or found their way back home on their own after a long time. For as long as there is no evidence that the lost cats have died, there is still a possibility for them to be recovered.
Just Before You Give Up Looking for Your Cat
There are many things that lost cats may count on when trying to return to their owners, such as their amazing homing instinct and phenomenal sense of smell.
Especially when both lost cats and their respective owners spring into action, it’s not unlikely for them to get reunited — up to 74% of lost cats get found.
Some lost cats may go back home after roaming for a day, while others may take several weeks or a few months to decide to return to their owners with so many adventures to tell.
No matter the case, nothing can be more traumatic and depressing for any cat lovers than wondering how their lost cats are doing in the big, dangerous world out there.
If it’s been a while since your cat got lost and you did everything you could to find it, you may stop actively looking for it but continue to hope that it’s safe and will one day go home.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.