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Some information about where, when and how cats became lost and found

The information comes from a study in which 1,210 cats were assessed. As I understand it, the study looked at lost cats in America and Australia. The summary opens up with the words: “At least 15% of cat owners lose their pet in a five-year period and some are never found”. Only 61% were found within one year, with 34% recovered alive by their owner within seven days. They state that “few cats were found alive after 90 days”. The study was published online on January 2, 2018. Most cats were found near where they had escaped or disappeared with half of them being found within 50 meters, and three quarters of them (75%) being found within 500 meters of their home. Another study found that 66% of lost cats were recovered when they returned home on their own or they were found in the neighbouring vicinity.

Boy, Edward, distraught over lost cat who was like a brother
Boy, Edward, distraught over lost cat who was like a brother. Photo: From BBC video.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

When the cats were found only 10% of them hissed or acted like a feral cat. Most of the found cats appeared to be scared (50%), quiet but alert (30%) and/or friendly/relaxed (25%). 9% of the cats were sick or injured when found.

Below are some more statistics on where they were when they went missing and where they were when found. This is a summary. If you’d like more detail, please see the study by clicking on this link.

The cat was at an unfamiliar location when lost (n = 57)
 At boarding kennel or cattery0% (0)
 At a friend’s or pet sitter’s home34% (19)
 At a veterinary clinic0% (0)
 At the groomer0% (0)
 At a holiday location11% (6)
 Moved to a new home51% (29)
 Other 44% (2)
 Not recorded1


The cat escaped while being transported (n = 25)
 Jumped out of vehicle through open door or window16% (4)
 Escaped when involved in a vehicular accident4% (1)
 Escaped from cat carrier52% (13)
 Escaped while on a leash8% (2)
 Escaped from owner’s arms12% (3)
 Other 38% (2)


The cat was outdoors when they went missing (n = 272)
 Escaped from enclosure outside in a yard or porch or “catio”9% (15)
 Escaped while on leash4% (7)
 Escaped while supervised outdoors17% (28)
 Escaped while outdoors without supervision64% (109)
 Accidental or unintentional transport off premises6% (10)
 Not recorded103


The cat was indoors when they went missing (n = 403)
 Jumped from balcony5% (19)
 Jumped from a window11% (42)
 Escaped through an open door or garage74% (272)
 Escaped while outdoors without supervision0% (1)
 Accidental or unintentional transport off premises1% (2)
 Cat disappeared but never left indoor premises1% (4)
 Escaped through damaged window/door screen6% (21)
 Escaped through damaged cat enclosure1% (6)
 Other 21% (3)
 Not recorded33


From where did your cat go missing? 
 It was indoors37% 
 It was outdoors25%
 It was an indoor-outdoor cat and disappeared31%
 Escaped while being transported2%
 It was at an unfamiliar location5%
 Not recorded115

Below is information about where the lost cats were found.

My cat was found outside83%
My cat was found inside my house4%
My cat was found inside a public building2%
My cat was found inside someone else’s house11%
Not recorded19

Circumstances when found.

Under house5%
Storm drain or sewer4%
In a garage4%
In cat trap4%
In a shed or barn3%
Outside a building (e.g., apartment complex, commercial buildings)3%
Under vehicle3%
In a yard20%
In farm or woods or forest2%
Under a shed2%
Waiting outside home/house19%
Found hiding under vegetation/shrubbery16%
Under patio/deck/porch10%
Under a garage1%
On road-side1%
In or between fencing1%
Up a tree1%
With a feral colony1%
In a vehicle0%
In a wood-pile0%
Not recorded17
If your cat was found outside, can you tell us more about where it was found?

The study is Search Methods Used to Locate Missing Cats and Locations Where Missing Cats Are Found by Liyan Huang and colleagues.

Below are some more articles on lost cats.

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