Don’t Give Up on a Lost Cat
There may be more to try than you think
People give up more quickly on a lost cat than a lost dog. It may be attitudes that cats can make it in the wild, it may be that they’re smaller and we think harder to find than dogs, it may be that many don’t naturally come to us when we call them, like dogs do, and we get fed up trying. Whatever the reason, if you lose a cat, there are so many avenues to try before ever giving up.
One of the truest pains I’ve ever known was losing my little four-year old kitty. She is (“is” is the operative word: I still have her at age seven!) shy and sweet and was in a place she didn’t know when she bolted. But, yes, after I searched every day for 3 weeks, I found her. They were the hardest 3 weeks of my life.
The process of looking for her taught me so much and I’m grateful for the help of others and I’m grateful she’s back, all upsides to the horrible situation. I would never want to go through it again, nor would I wish it on anyone, ever, so I’m passing along all I know in hopes that it makes the process easier for someone somewhere.
As a matter of course, please do these things while your cat is in your care:
- Get your cat microchipped, keep that number and manufacturer name in your files or phone.
- Create “lost cat” signs and store on your computer, not printed, but just ready to go. You will be so grateful to have them ready to print, instead of doing them when you have frayed nerves (or with time that should be spent searching). Keep this updated as your cat ages.
- Consider a GPS cat collar as soon as the technology catches up (and it is any day now). The current options are subpar right now — many large and designed for dogs — but soon this could prove incredibly useful, keep your eyes peeled.
The minute your cat goes missing:
- Enlist all your pet-loving friends’ help: you’d be amazed, but that is almost everyone you know!
- Print your signs in color, buy lots of ink for your printer (I went through more than I do in 6 months) or upload immediately to a print online web site.
- Call your cat’s microchip company to be sure you have a current log with them (some charge a fee to re-initiate old accounts).
- Visit your local Humane Society and/or shelters, you’d be amazed how supportive they are and:
> They’ll take you around their facility to see recently found cats
> They have logs of found pets in the area
> They’ll log your cat as lost (bring a flyer of course)
> They can provide safe traps that you can put out during the day
- Go to every home in your neighborhood with a friend (I went everywhere within a 3/4 mile radius) and ask if they’ll let you look under their houses in crawlspaces, in their garages and in sheds.
- Put together a map of where you’ve gone and to whom you have spoken — you’ll be amazed how useful this is because your memory gets foggy.
- Post on local forums: we have “patch.com” and “nextdoor.com” –there’s a lot of support there, plus you will have plenty more people who will keep an eye out or you may just get lucky with someone who just found a wandering cat.
- Call your cat constantly, it goes without saying, but hearing your voice is crucial to a frightened cat.
- Get an app to record your voice so that you can play when you can’t call (others can play the recording who are looking in the event you cannot). I left my phone on at my window every night because I couldn’t bear not calling her name for one minute. (I may be crazy, but hey, she’s back!)
- Leave favorite food and treats out and shake their treats bag constantly everywhere you search.
- Visit local veterinarians and shelters to see if anyone has brought in an injured cat (you really don’t know if that microchip is going to malfunction for one, for another, they may have a board to post your missing cat info).
- Ask any restaurants and businesses in the area if they’ll put up a flyer.
After you’ve done all the above and you think you can’t do any more
- Go back to your flyers after a while and replace with new flyers with a large “Still Missing” note or any other update so that you can draw new attention to your cat.
- Do not be bashful in your searching: anyone you pass, hand a flyer to.
- If you’re bold enough (and I was), place flyers in mailboxes everywhere in addition to everywhere you posted. You are not supposed to do this! I didn’t care what trouble I’d get in.
Keep your content fresh and short: 1) add thank you’s to those who’ve helped and 2) the basics need to be understood at a glance.
What to do with cranky neighbors
Please don’t let mean people deter you! I had a horrific encounter where a man told me I to go home, that I was obsessed, and that my cat was dead. It was so painful, but I handled him very politely and carried on. My “dead” cat was found a week and a half later very alive and is still with me(!) despite his rants. He was one of only two meanies, the rest were angels that way outweighed his horrible demeanor. Another woman got very snippy about putting a flyer in her mailbox, which prompted me to put together a mailingto send rather than stuff in mailboxes:
- Create a “postcard” that is a half page (the most economical and easiest to align front/back)
- Take note of all addresses in your search area (I used the map I had created and expanded it to areas I hadn’t yet gone)
- Verify all of those on usps.com and keep in a spreadsheet
- Ask what Avery labels your local printer carries, set up addresses and have them print for you (I find this easier than battling alignment issues on my desktop printer)
- Create labels using a template from avery.com (if you’re non-technical, enlist a techie friend’s help on how to set up a mail merge from your spreadsheet)
- Have a stamping/labeling get-together… my little niece was a champ!! Her energy on stamping helped keep me going!
The Humane Society (and stories on the web) told me of cats that have been found even years later, God forbid, but still a happy ending no matter when that call comes. You’ll also hear much of the above in very assuring terms in person from them, with care. These are people who care, like I do, and they will support your effort and keep you focused. There are reports of cats lasting 22 days without any food or water, including mine, who I believe did something similar for 21 who is very shy and would not be bold enough to let anyone see her or help her. She may have caught a thing or two, if she had a bold survival moment, and she may have sipped from a garden hose. However, she is timid in the extreme and could hide motionless from anything for hours on end, even in her own home if she got jittery enough from any event.
You’d be amazed at how many people help along the way! My love of my cat grew deeper and deeper, but my appreciation for my mom’s neighbors (the place my kitty ran off) became very profound and made me realize how others will help with heart in a time of need. Remember: there are many of us out there who love our pets so much and will understand this plight.
When your kitty is back in your arms, be sure to take a break to thank neighbors (if not all in person, by a nice new mailing) and remove your posts…or replace with ones that say, “Thank you! She is found!”
I feel like I hyperventilated writing all of this, in part because it brings back some very traumatic memories, but in part because I so want to help others as so many helped me. I came up with idea after idea when she was missing, but it was everyone around me who helped pull it all off. Many helped in my search and many held me up when I was about to crumble. You can do it, don’t give up.