What To Do If You Lost Your Cat

How to track him down❗

how to find a lost cat

Just the thought of losing your cat is enough to tie your stomach up in knots. It’s sad and scary, but luckily there are plenty of ways to find him if he does wander off.

Between microchipping your pets, contacting vets and shelters, asking for help from the people around you, and more, there so many steps you can take to keep him safe — and reuniting with your cat doesn’t have to feel like a lost cause.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, and Dr. Megan Conrad, a veterinary consultant with Hello Ralphie, to learn just how to find a lost cat.

Where to start

Trying to find your lost cat feels like the most stressful thing in the world, but the best place to start is near your home.

“When a cat is lost, I recommend searching the neighborhood for your pet,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “Cats who are lost outdoors typically find a hiding place close to home. The farthest an indoor cat will travel is, on average, three houses away.”

“Often a lost cat won't be far from home, so bring treats and walk through your neighborhood, checking yards, trees, bushes and other potential hiding spots,” Dr. Conrad told The Dodo.

“If you were unable to find your cat searching the neighborhood, then report your lost cat to every shelter and veterinary office within a 15-mile radius,” Dr. Burch said.

How to find a lost cat with a microchip

If your cat’s been microchipped, it can really help you find him if he gets lost, since the implantable device is linked to your contact information through the microchip manufacturer’s database.

“​​Where a collar and tag can get lost, a microchip is a permanent ID,” Dr. Conrad said.

Shelters, rescues and vet’s offices usually have a scanner that can read a pet’s microchip. So if someone finds your lost cat and brings him to one of these places, the staff will be able to retrieve the info on your cat’s microchip.

“A microchip can help reunite you with your cat because animal shelters and veterinarians will almost always have a scanner on hand,” Dr. Conrad said.

Those scanners are crucial because your cat’s microchip is pretty much useless without them.

“A microchip will not locate a lost cat as it does not have power or GPS location services,” Dr. Burch said.

So while you shouldn’t rely solely on your cat’s microchip, it definitely gives you an advantage when it comes to finding your lost cat — as long as you keep your information updated.

“Hopefully you've registered the microchip with your personal contact information so you can be contacted directly,” Dr. Conrad said. “This is the most effective way to ensure you get your cat returned to you.”

You may not think your indoor cat will really need a microchip, since he doesn’t go outside. However, he might still end up outside and wander off somehow.

“As far as microchipping indoor-only cats, in my experience it's still a great idea,” Dr. Conrad said. “Cats have been known to slip out through open doors or windows, as well as leaving their home during a natural disaster or escaping from a vehicle after an accident. Being microchipped increases their chances of being returned to you if any of these unfortunate events happen.”

How to find a lost cat without a microchip

If your lost cat doesn’t have a microchip, there are still plenty of things you can do to find him, including asking friends, family and neighbors to keep an eye out.

“To encourage more eyes to look for your pet, engage the community and neighborhood,” Dr. Burch said. “Post on local Facebook groups or community pages pictures of your lost cat. I recommend speaking with local business owners and providing a photo of your pet and specific identification markings.”

“If you have social media accounts, public posts there have been known to help pets return home,” Dr. Conrad said.

Even just turning to the people who live nearby is such an important part of your search.

“Be sure you let neighbors know you're looking for a missing cat,” Dr. Conrad said. “Also make your neighborhood aware by posting flyers with your cat's photo and your contact information, as well as posting on any neighborhood apps, websites or online groups you may belong to.”

Reaching out to your nearest shelter is a crucial step, too, even if your cat isn’t microchipped.

“If your kitty is lost, notify your local animal shelters in case they have or will be turned in there by someone,” Dr. Conrad said. “Check in with your shelter regularly to see if your cat has been found and brought there.”

Odds of finding a lost cat

According to a 2012 study by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the odds of finding your lost cat aren’t perfect, but they’re still pretty high.

The study found that 74 percent of lost cats were reunited with their people.

So if your cat gets lost, there are so many things you can do to find him — whether he has a microchip or not. Contacting vets and shelters, reaching out to your community and searching your neighborhood are all great ways to try to track down your BFF.

We independently pick all the products we recommend because we love them and think you will too. If you buy a product from a link on our site, we may earn a commission.