Six Things Not To Do When Your Cat Goes Missing

Here are six things not to do when your cat goes missing. In a prior article I listed several things that I recommend people doing when their cat goes missing.

Missing cat
Missing cat. Photo by roland on Flickr (modified by Michael)
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Implementing each of the suggestions on that “to do” list will increase your chances, substantially, of being reunited with your lost cat. However, there are also things that you shouldn’t do when searching for your lost cat. Here are my top 6 things not to do when your cat goes missing.

1. Do not enter private property without permission – You should always seek permission from the owner or resident of the property you wish to search when looking for your lost cat. Searching the yards, fields, pastures and outer buildings (garages, sheds, barns, etc.) is always a good idea, especially when the resident or neighbor believes they have seen your cat. However, not everyone is comfortable with strangers trespassing on their property even if you are innocently searching for your lost cat.

2. Do not believe everything you hear – Don’t assume that someone has stolen your cat or your cat has transitioned just because someone tells you that they believe this is true. Unless you actually see your cat in someone’s home or have located your cat’s body, you can’t really be sure. Many cats look alike, especially from a distance.

3. Do not assume all tips you receive are legitimate – It’s hard to believe but, not everyone loves cats. Unfortunately, people may contact you with a prank call once they have seen your posters and fliers. It is important to follow up on tips you receive if they seem credible. Ask plenty of questions before turning your focus in the direction they have provided. This is especially true if that’s nowhere near where you last saw your cat.

4. Do not give the reward dollars to someone prematurely – Never mention or negotiate a dollar amount associated with a reward with someone unless they provide you with proof that they have located your cat. There have been cases that I have worked on where someone has stolen or has kept a cat until the reward dollars are more substantial. I’ve also had clients hand over the reward dollars before acquiring their cat. The desperation to have your cat returned sometimes can lead to poor judgment.

5. Do not call out loud for your cat verbally while you’re still moving from place to place during your search – Unless you see your cat while searching an area by foot or car, do not verbally call them. By the time they hear your voice, you may be long gone from the location and you will miss them. This may cause them to not pursue your vocal calls the next time, feeling that you will not be at the location when they arrive.

6. Do not ever lose hope – There are many reasons that you may not immediately be reunited with your cat. Always maintain your hope and focus on being reunited with them. Cats have been located, or have returned home, days, weeks, months and years later. I had one case where a cat I helped locate was lost for 14 months. Always stay positive and visualize their return to you.


12 thoughts on “Six Things Not To Do When Your Cat Goes Missing”

  1. Apparently, #5 is quite the conundrum. This is the one that I certainly did not give enough thought to. My dilemma is that I believe that a neighbor halfway down the block kept Michael after he turned back up in our old stomping grounds. This was a huge property on Orchard Street where we all had lived and played together in the secluded back 1/2 acre. I’m thinking that I did not leave him inside long enough at the new house across town. It had not much of a yard, but as the Orchard St. house went into foreclosure, we were forced to take what we could find, and it wasn’t ideal.

    Michael was very attached to me as the human, along with two of my cats. We had a very close bond and it would be so unlike him to not stay close by my side. I’m conjecturing that he was confused, and being so gregarious and so attached to the secluded huge property, that he journeyed back over there across town, and then was taken in by a neighbor up the street. (All the neighbors loved him, but those close to me knew how endeared I was to him.)

    There are many more nuances and such that fuel my intuition, but I won’t take up the space and time here. Thank you for the two articles, and I will visit your website. No doubt we can pick up more tips from your articles and comments there. <3

  2. Very good advice its hard when an animal goes away or is lost. I remember when cassy used to go away for a short period as we knew where she was. In a house we lived at there was a big backyard and behind that was an old hospital where we would call her adventure playground as she always loved going back there, and even though we called her and could see her she refused to come home. I think at the time she was going wild which was so hard to see. I think she must of been in trauma at the time. Eventually she decided to come back home even when i thought id lost my cassy. Was a very traumatic time for me as had just lost a baby. Im sure she must of sensed something was wrong. As she just changed. In the end we ended up moving and the day we went she came back and we took her to the house we are in now and she was soo loving and cuddly and smoochy while before she wouldnt come near us and her wild abilities went. , she was like a different cat she stayed close to home never leaving or going far. We tend to think that she was happy we moved to a quiet area where there was lots of bush and forest area, lots of garden there is a road but its not a busy one.

  3. Great tips, Tim.
    Like Marc, I think #5 makes so much sense.
    I’ve done this myself a time or two and know some others who have too.
    I’ll be sharing these also.

  4. Number 5 is a very good bit of practical advice which I hadn’t thought of before. Good point. You have to call from a place where you will remain til the cat shows up.

    I never thought of this and I think it’s brilliant. Thank you.

    We lost Pepi about 3 years ago almost and he hasn’t returned sadly. I have hope that he is still alive, I really do. I have no idea where or how. I would guess he’s not too far away. Far enough to not come back home.

    My real question is does he want to come home or not. He seemed very happy, especially around the time he vanished. It was a particularly good time. I know it’s simplistic but that makes me think he didn’t want to leave.

  5. Thanks Tim. Do we have any statistics on success rates of finding missing cats? I have pessimistic outlook on this. If a cat goes missing I feel that most often the cat stays missing.

      • Thanks Tim. I have a feeling that in America, where there are predators that prey on cats, that a lot never come back because they are killed for food. Sounds ghastly but it is true I believe.

    • Doing CP Lost and Found we noticed that most cats reported to us as lost turned up within days of going missing, more went awol at this time of year, our CP branch call it the cats ‘silly season’ with Spring coming, un-neutered tom cats especially go walkabout.
      Most were found or returned home eventually, we had a few successes matching found cats with missing ones.
      I think the longer they are away the less chance of them returning but having said that we did have a few return who had been missing for quite a while.

      • We have a tomcat who patrols the entire area where I live. He calls out for a mate. He is behaving exactly like a cat should behave and it is spring time. He is not neutered – that must be the case. One of the residents described him as a nasty cat who fights or who tends to fight with other cats but he’s not that he is simply a cat behaving like a cat should and we should respect that. He might wander.


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