Photo by JudeanPeoplesFront (Flickr)
I'll be honest, I have never been involved in finding a lost cat, except once when my cat was run over one fateful day about 17 years ago. The whole day is still crystal clear in my memory. It was my fault, bottom line. My first thought was that she might have been hurt on the road. So my first search was over the road in and around a field. I eventually found her. Injured cats find quiet places.
One of the main things that can happen to cats that are lost is that they can get involved in an accident as described. Another way to lose a cat is when they get locked in sheds or outbuildings.
I always feel that perhaps the most common way to lose a cat other than road accidents is when the cat moves home! Cats do the talking with their feet. They mooch into someones garden and like it. It becomes part of their territory. Then they creep into the person's home because they like the smell of the food. And before you know where you are they have a new home. These are probably the three ways to lose a cat.
If that is true, finding a lost cat should be built around that premise.
The advice in finding a lost cat is to:
Publicize it a widely as possible speaking to people in the street.
Animal Search UK recommend speaking to the postman as he or she goes to a lot of homes nearby. In that vein, they suggest going a stage further by visiting your local post sorting office and asking. Between them "the postal staff will cover every street in your district".
Other tricks of the trade are to use the cat's superior senses to advantage. Cats have a great sense of smell. Animal Search UK recommend putting something outside the house that smells of the cat's caretaker/owner such as an unwashed jumper. They even suggest adding some perfume and aftershave if you use them. The smell is stronger and is recognizable to a cat as being part of you.
In addition there is the cat's sense of hearing and familiarity with the cat caretaker's voice. If other people agree to help they can be given a recording of the owner's voice, which can be played back close to sheds and outbuildings etc. where the cat might be trapped. Cats respond to the voice of their human companion, if the relationship is a good one.
Apparently when it comes to enquiring about finding a lost cat, neighbours and people in general are inclined to be helpful so we should not be too retiring in asking.
I haven't mentioned posters. The classic method that I see is placing posters on trees on the street. Yes, a decent idea as part of a whole but I favor knocking on doors, harder though it is, as it is more active and direct. Posters on trees is a little passive.
Update: I made a page on Lost Cat Posters! These are template posters with a bit of zing and professionalism - I hope.
And there is no doubt that two human qualities might be required in finding a lost cat: patience and persistence. These qualities combined with the above tricks and tips should prove successful. This is Animal Search UK's video expanding on these points:
Of course, rather than finding a lost cat, Americans will possibly say, "take preventative steps and keep the cat permanently indoors". I have to agree in principle purely on the basis of safety because the above problems only befall indoor/outdoor cats. Depending on the circumstances there can be considerable risks in letting a cat go out regularly, unsupervised. Personally, my preference is a decent sized enclosure as a nice compromise.
My thanks to Animal Search UK, who you might like to ask for help.
If anyone has better ideas I would love to hear them.