If your cat has been missing for several hours, overnight or longer, here are some tips to help you find your furry family member. 

Finding your indoor-only cat

Indoor-only escape artists usually stick close to home and we often hear that these cats are found nearby, which is a great outcome.

Expect your cat to remain in hiding for most of the day and night. Being in a strange environment often changes the behaviour of cats. This means a normally vocal cat may keep quiet. Timid cats especially may spend some days or weeks in hiding before becoming visible. Even then, they are not likely to be seen during daylight. It is also unlikely that your cat will respond to being called during daylight. As a result, many people mistakenly believe their cat is no longer close by.

But indoor-only cats don’t usually go too far. Start on your own property with a torch (even use a torch during the day) and look everywhere you can. Check:

  • all of your cupboards inside first (you’d be surprised at the number of cats found ‘hiding’ in cereal bowls!)
  • under your house (if it is on stumps/piles)
  • in the garage
  • under the car and inside it
  • under any decking
  • under anything that is upturned like wheelbarrows or plant pots
  • in piles of things like roofing tiles or wood piles
  • underneath any outbuildings
  • in the dog kennel
  • under or behind garden sheds
  • in or under wheelie bins or skip bins
  • in all garden shrubbery
  • along driveways and footpaths
  • up in trees
  • on all roofs
  • over your fences.

Let your neighbours know your cat is missing

It is a good idea to ask your neighbours if you can check their yards, sheds, garages and roofs. Your cat may be hiding or stuck in those places.

It’s best if you don’t ask your neighbours to look but that you look around yourself – they may not look as closely as you will, and your cat may not come to them when called either. However, if your neighbour won’t let you look on their property, ask them if they can look instead – someone looking is better than no-one looking.

Spread the word!

You can let people know your cat is missing via social media – for example, on your local community Facebook group’s page, lost and found pet pages and Good Karma groups for your suburb or area.

Create a lost post with one good photo of your cat that shows their face and markings with the following details:

  • your cat’s name
  • when your cat went missing – the date and estimated time
  • where your cat was last seen including the street and suburb (without including your actual home address)
  • how long your cat has been in your care (for example, did you just adopt them, have they been with you for 5 years)
  • your cat’s temperament (for example, are they friendly, cautious, will they run away from strangers)
  • your contact phone numbers – we suggest you include more than one so you don’t miss any calls or text messages.

Post this once on your timeline then add the same post in all the social media groups you’ve joined.

You can also create and print an A4 portrait poster with a good picture of your lost cat, the key details listed above and your contact phone number or numbers. You can then do a letterbox drop of your poster in your area as you’re walking around, put some up on poles around your neighbourhood, and ask your local vet clinics and shops if they can put up your poster as well.

Leave your clothing and your cat’s litter tray outside

Another suggestion is to leave a jumper or shirt you have worn and your cat’s litter tray outside the home as the familiar scent may attract them back.

While this may work, it’s also important to be aware that the litter tray may attract other cats, especially stray cats who may see this as a threat to their territory. So if you suspect strays are around, be careful you’re not making it harder for your cat to get home safely. 

If you want to try leaving the litter tray outside, don’t leave the tray out for too long and keep a close eye on it. This also applies if you try leaving out other things with a scent to draw your cat back home, like food, bedding or clothing. 

Go for an early morning walk

Displaced or scared cats will often remain in hiding and completely silent for most of the day and night. Even if they are close by and can hear you, it is unlikely your cat will respond. Because of this, a good time to head outside and call for them is between 3–4 am. 

The best time depends on when your area is most quiet, so the period of time to go outside to look for them can even be 2–6 am. Your cat is most likely to respond and leave its hiding spot during this window of quiet time. 

It only takes a couple of fence jumps for your cat to land streets away, so do your best to cover as many streets as you can. Hopefully your cat is only a house or 2 away from yours. 

As well as calling your cat’s name, you can try tapping a can or shaking a dry food bag/box while calling their name. You can also say what you usually say to call them to breakfast or dinner. 

Take a few supplies with you too – for example, a torch will make it easier to see your cat’s eyes shining out in the dark. Also take a cat carrier so you can get your cat back home securely once you find them. 

It may take a few nights of trying this method to find your cat though, so don’t lose hope after you do this for the first time.

Check and update your cat’s microchip details

Check that the contact details on your cat’s microchip are current, and if not, update them. 

You can do this via your vet or online/over the phone directly with the registry. If you’re unsure which registry your cat is on, use the Pet Address search engine (www.petaddress.com.au). This site allows you to search for your cat’s microchip number in various animal databases.

This will mean that if someone finds your cat and takes it to a vet, local council or animal shelter, they’ll scan the chip and be able to contact you quickly.

Don’t get discouraged

We wish you the best of luck in finding your cat and encourage you to not give up – your cat needs you to keep looking for them!