Losing your cat can be utterly heartbreaking. As cat lovers, we get used to our felines’ independence, but it still doesn’t really prepare us for a time when our pets just don’t come home for dinner. We’ve put together some advice and tips from our volunteers when it comes to tracking down your lost cat.
1. Don’t give up hope
The fact is, many cats are found safely. It might not feel that comforting now, but you need to remember that cats love to wander and explore, and can sometimes get a little sidetracked before turning up a few streets away or being spotted by a neighbour.
Cats can fend for themselves and survive on their wits.
The horror stories are just that – stories. People are not stealing cats or using them for fur coats or dog fights – your cat has just been spooked, got too curious or wandered looking for a mate and has got itself lost.
People do take on stray cats and feed and adopt them and cats will take advantage of this – they are not very loyal. Don’t give up hope – cats have been reunited with their owners after months and even years apart.
2. Create a ‘lost cat’ poster
The more people who know your cat is missing the more chance you have of finding it. Lost cat posters may seem a bit old school, but they’re still probably the most effective way to tell your neighbours about a pet that’s gone AWOL.
If you’re handy with a computer, putting together a poster can be pretty simple. If you’re not handy, as a friend or relative if they can help you out. Here’s a few tips to make sure your poster stands out:
- Include the words ‘Lost Cat’ as big as you can, this will draw people towards your poster
- Find the clearest picture you have of your cat, including the face and full body if possible
- In a brief description, point out any distinctive features such as markings, as well as the basics – colour, age, size, breed
- Include the date and location of the last known sighting
- Include two ways of contacting you, just in case one stops working
- Offer a reward. It doesn’t need to be big but could be the difference between someone calling in a spot or forgetting
It is possible to print out your poster on a home printer, but bear in mind that faded ink on basic printer paper is not that hardy when faced with the elements. Your local print shop should be able to create something a little more weather-resistant, and can cost as little as 4p per copy.
Send the poster to all your local vets, put it on lamp posts and in shops. At a sensible hour, knock on your neighbours doors and let them know your cat is missing. Ask them if you can leave a copy of the poster with them, it might help jog their memory or be noticed by a visitor.
You can also use your poster to place adverts in all the local papers, or try one of their text-only spots.
3. Keep sending out the search party
Walk around the neighbourhood calling – most cats don’t go far – try different times of the day, particularly dawn and dusk. Stand and listen, give your cat time to respond.
Check all sheds, garages etc and ask neighbours to check theirs. Think about the most cat-friendly areas in your area, including places with overflowing bins and plenty of prey.
Have you just moved house? Ask your previous neighbours to keep watch – cats are notorious for going back to previous homes.
Does your cat get into cars? Could it have been inadvertently driven somewhere?
4. Get on the phone
Ring your local Dogs’ and Cats’ Home and keep ringing, every day if necessary – they won’t have time to ring you.
If you’re in the Bristol area, you can try:
- Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue (us!): 0844 257 3525
- Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary: 01275 474 719
- RSPCA Bristol Dogs and Cats Home: 0117 9776 043
- Cats Protection: 0117 9665 428
- HEART Rescue: 0117 9535 663
Ring your Council to see if they have picked up any bodies – this is the worst call of all but it has to be done. Councils do generally have scanners now so if your cat is microchipped they should contact you, but it’s best to report your cat missing anyway so they have all the details. The Transport and Streets department is usually responsible for this, here are the numbers for those closest to Bristol.
- Bristol Council: 0117 922 2100
- BANES (main switchboard): 01225 477 000
- South Gloucestershire: 01454 868 000
- North Somerset (main switchboard): 01934 888 888
5. Make use of the internet
Get your cat’s details on all the lost and found websites you can – just Google ‘lost and found cats’ and get typing. Ask rescues to put your cat on their websites: Bristol and Wales Cat Rescue, Cats Protection, Animal Rescuers to name a few. Put your cat on websites advertising cats for sale – Gumtree, Kittenads, Trade-it etc.
Try using social media, especially Facebook. The most popular group near Bristol is Lost and Found Pets in Bristol and South Glos.
One website we can thoroughly recommend is Animal Search: http://www.animalsearchuk.co.uk/. With their paid service (usually covered by pet insurance) they will print up posters of your cat and email them to rescues, and they will actively help to find your missing pet.
Otherwise, their website is free to use to register a lost or found cat. Open 9am – 9pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm Saturday and Sunday, they can be contacted on 01432 266900 or 07884 316943.
We’ve had an excellent website recommended to us by a young man called Tyler all the way from Maine, USA! His family recently lost their much-loved cat but got her home safe and sound.. it’s nice to know we have friends across the Atlantic – thanks Tyler!!
It may take a while for people to realise that the cat they keep seeing in their garden is actually lost, so don’t feel disheartened if your cat isn’t found straight away.
Remember, always refer back to point 1 on this list!