Med Ed: What To Do If You Lose Your Cat

Warm weather brings the season for losing pets, especially cats. They’re looking for ways to get outside because of the weather and variety of scents, and even the most conscientious pet owner can still have their cat slip out of the house.

One of the scariest things that you can go through as a pet owner is to lose your cat. You think “that won’t happen to me” or “my cat is microchipped so that’s all I need to do”. But the reality is that when your cat is lost, it can quickly become overwhelming because of the number of search options available and because of all of the emotions tied with losing a beloved pet.

It’s been 4 months since I lost my own cat, and I felt like I was someone who was truly prepared. As prepared as I thought I was, it was still a difficult experience. Because of this, I feel it’s vital that I share with you some of the things that I have learned throughout this process.

While these tips came about because I lost my cat, much of this also applies if you lose your dog.

What can you do to prepare?

PHOTOS: Have 6-7 good shots of your cat from different angles. Close up face shots, full body, profile. Include pictures with you and/or your family to show the human-animal bond.

MICROCHIP: Make sure your cat is microchipped and most importantly that the chip is registered – remember, your veterinarian or the animal shelter cannot do this for you! Verify that the information is accurate and current. If your cat was microchipped at Frontier, you would register them through PetLink at

COLLAR: They need to be wearing a collar at ALL times with a tag.

  • The front of the tag should include the cat’s name, your last name, your home phone number, and your vet’s phone number.
  • On the back of the tag, it should indicate that your cat is microchipped and if they are indoor/outdoor or indoor only. If your cat is outdoor only, still indicate indoor/outdoor.
  • Be aware that someone who sees a collar on a cat will assume that they are owned and have a home, and therefore will not be as likely to adopt them into their own home and instead aid in searching for the owner.

PET GPS/TRACKING DEVICE: There are many options out there for a GPS or tracking device for your cat that you can purchase – this is something to research on your own to see if it makes sense for you or not.

You just lost your cat, and you don’t know what to do next. Here is a step by step guide to follow:

  • If your cat spends time indoors, try first searching your entire home. Think like a cat—looking in quiet, dark places (places that might be high up, attics, behind or under couches/beds, etc.)
  • Crack a can of wet cat food or tuna in each room of the house as some cats will immediately come running just from hearing the sound alone.
  • If you haven’t found your cat inside, the next step is to move outside. Almost all cats (75%) pursued by professional search & rescue services are found on the owner’s property. Under decks, in crawlspaces, and in landscaping are all favorite hiding places for frightened cats.
  • Take a photo of your cat and have one person visit the homes around your property to:
  1. Ask if they’ve seen your cat
  2. Ask permission to look around their property
  3. Make them aware your cat is lost and how to contact you if they see your cat
  • Remember that cats generally travel up-wind since they are so smell-focused. Find out which direction the wind is blowing the time of day they went missing, and head up-wind from there.
  1. POST TO ONLINE LOST & FOUND SITES: At the same time, a second person (if available) should go online to post about your lost cat on the following outlets:
  • Contact your microchip company (via online or phone) that your pet is lost. This will trigger them to put an immediate searchable post up on their database.
  • Post on Craigslist with the variety of photos you have of your cat.
  • Other good places to post: NextDoor, Paw Boost, Facebook
  • Facebook has their own Lost and Found groups of your area that you can join and post that will be shared by the members to get the word out.
  • Register online with Dove Lewis, Washington & Multnomah County Animal Services in their stray/lost and found database. Remember to include photos on these sites as well.

Flyers:  Through Paw Boost and/or your microchip company, you are able to generate flyers with your cat’s photo(s) on them.

  • Physically take these flyers to the surrounding veterinary facilities, grocery stores, etc. in your area.
  • Take these same flyers (laminate them) to post around your neighborhood: at intersections with stop signs/lights, parks, or other high traffic areas.

At home: Cats are scent-oriented, so leaving familiar scents outside your home may help your cat find his or her way home.

  • When you get home from posting flyers and going door to door, take the clothes that you were wearing and leave them outside with your “scent” on them.
  • Take your cat’s litter box and put it outside as well so that they can catch the scent.
  • Keep your garage door cracked in case your cat returns when you are asleep or away.

Animal shelters: Physically visit your county area shelters every 3 days. They release animals after 3 days so it’s very important that you continue on this schedule. You can’t completely count on a microchip or a flyer without visiting these places yourself to be sure your cat isn’t there.

Hire a professional: Should you want to go this route, there is a local search and rescue professional who you can contact to look for your cat. If he isn’t able to find your cat, he can at least find where the trail stops and give you that information. His website is not only a good source of contact information for him but also an extremely comprehensive resource to reference if you have lost your pet.

No matter what you do, don’t give up! Cats have been known to come back after days, weeks, months, or even years. If you’ve moved, make sure that you still go back to your previous residence to see if they’ve returned.

What's Next

  • 1

    Call us or schedule an appointment online.

  • 2

    Meet with a doctor for an initial exam.

  • 3

    Put a plan together for your pet.