When indoor-only cats escapes, they generally hide in silence. They will not meow, even if they know your voice, and they won’t call for help if they’re injured.
When outdoor cats disappear, it generally means that something has happened to disrupt their usual journey home. They may have been chased from their territory by another cat or a roaming dog. They may have been picked up by someone who thinks your cat is lost. Or, they may have got themselves trapped or injured.
Start looking for your cat as soon as you realise he/she is missing. The longer you wait, the harder it can be to find them. Don’t wait for your cat to come back on its own or find its own way back using their ‘homing instinct’. Not all cats have that ability, they can easily become disorientated, can get scared or injured.
When you realize your cat is missing, knock on doors of houses around your block. Ask your neighbours to let you take a look in their gardens and sheds as your cat would come out more likely if you call him/her rather than a stranger.
Check outside bins, skips, any wood stacks etc
Check any houses which are to let / for sale. Your cat could sneak in while the estate agent is showing the house to the potential tenants / buyers.
Check any house with builders in your area.
Call your vet, other local vets, the nearest animal hospital, RSPCA, Cats Protection, The Mayhew Animal Home, Battersea Cats and Dogs, Wood Green Animal Shelter and your local council, animal pounds in your area, even dog wardens. Contact your microchip company, Petlog, Missing Pet Register etc.
Make sure your cat’s microchip is up to date.
Continue your search late at night and early in the morning, which is when cats are most active. Go out and listen to any meow/sound. It will be easier to hear anything at night when it’s silent. Shake dried food, treats or bang a tin with a spoon and call your cat’s name. If s/he’s neutered the chances are s/he hasn’t gone far and may be very close by, possibly in back gardens, loft, a shed or garage.
Take a torch with you. If your cat is hiding in or under something, a torch will catch their reflective eyes.
Make sure to check on the roofs and into branches of nearby trees. Cats could look for a shelter or follow a bird and simply stuck on a tree. Please remember that cats have no problem with climbing up but could have some difficulties while coming down, especially if they are in-door cats only or are very young.
Putting out your cat’s bedding or the contents of the hoover bag is a good idea (not when it is raining) as it allows them to pick up the scent of where they come from.
Put up as many posters as you can: in vet practices, pet shops, animal charity shops, local shops, outside schools, post offices, libraries, community centres, churches, on supermarket noticeboards, outside cinemas, anywhere that people are likely to gather. Also put posters up at bus stops, tube and train stations, phone booths.
Ask your local postman if he’s seen a cat fitting your cat’s description.
Put leaflets through all the houses around your block or estate, and keep extending further out.
Check with your neighbours if there is a new cat / dog which could possibly intimidate your cat and block his/her way back home.
If you have a dog who knows your cat, get them involved in the search by taking them for a walk around the house and areas close-by. Dogs can sniff-out things we can’t.
Nextdoor and Lostbox which people use to post about local issues are good sites for publicising information about lost cats. Also list your missing cat on animalsearchuk.co.uk, cataware.co.uk, petslocated.com. Use social networks. Post about your missing cat on local Facebook pages, and on Twitter. Approach your local lost/found pets groups in your area.
Put food and water out for your cat at the same time morning and evening close to where he went missing from or where there have been any recent sightings, and keep doing so even if you think other cats or foxes might be eating the food.
If you don’t have a cat flap, leave your back door or window open as long as possible.
IF IN SPITE OF ALL YOUR EFFORTS YOUR CAT IS STILL MISSING:
Expand the search area. Cats can travel a long way when they’re spooked. They could be several blocks away, or could even have been picked up by a well-meaning person and taken to a pound or vet in neighbouring suburbs, so broaden the field with your calling and poster distribution.
Get a cat trap. Cats in hiding will often come out at dusk, when they feel safer or are flushed out by other cats. Ring your local council and ask if they have any cat traps available, ideally the same day your cat goes missing. Set and load the trap in your backyard and leave it for a few days to see if your cat comes looking for food.
Place an ad in your local newspaper, if your budget allows, and make sure to include details of where the cat was lost from and your contact details.
Do not give up hope. When cats first go missing, they often hide for a couple of weeks before they start appearing. Keep putting posters up and extend the area you leaflet. Also include on your poster a request for people to look in sheds, outhouses, gardens, under bushes, basement areas and adjacent empty buildings, as well as in shops. Cats sometimes pal up with other cats to find food & maybe even feline companionship, so it’s always an idea to have a good look where cats congregate together. We know of cats found 5 weeks later, 2 years and even 6 years later! Some of them were found at the end of their own road and some travelled 2 miles.