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How to find a lost cat

How do I safeguard my cat?
My cat is missing - what do I do?
My cat has been found

How do I safeguard my cat?

It is always important to think how you can make your cat safe. This will ensure that the likelihood of something going wrong is that much smaller. Of course you can never make her completely safe, especially when you are going to let her out to the garden. Below, we cover some of the most important aspects of cat safety but as a rule always think - is your cat safe? So for example, if you are taking your cat somewhere in the car, make sure she is in a cat carrier and the cat carrier is properly secured. If your cat is an indoor cat, always know where your cat is when you open the front door. Cats are naturally curious and they will try to sneak outside if you give them the opportunity. Even if you do not have a double door, you can create a double door system by isolating the area leading directly into the front door. For example, let's say your front door leads to the living room and from there into other areas of the house. Before you open the front door make sure that the cat is not in the living room and the door to the living room is closed.

You have just got your cat

If you just got your new cat, make sure that you keep her indoors for at least 2-3 weeks. Cats are very territorial and if you have just brought your cat to her new environment it is just natural that she will try to find her old home. 2-3 weeks are normally sufficient to make the cat at home in the new surroundings. Don't let a kitten out before she is at least one year old. Kittens can wander out and get lost more readily that adult cats. When you let your cat out for the first time do it in the morning, ideally before breakfast. Your cat will be hungry and therefore likely to come home soon. Also, if the worst comes to the worst, it is easier to search for a cat in daylight. Do not panic if the cat is missing for a hour or two. She will want to explore her territory carefully.

Microchip and collar

It is a very good idea to microchip your cat, even if your cat is an indoor cat. In addition, you can put a collar on your cat with your telephone number. Not all cats will tolerate collars and they are very good with taking them off. Also note that some experts do not like the idea of cats having collars as they can get trapped if the collar hooks on something, as can easily happen given a cat's love of squeezing through tight gaps. Also, cats have been known to get their legs trapped under the collar while they attempt to remove it, and if this happens away from home, your cat will be in trouble. A collar is not a substitute for a microchip. Always microchip your cat and, if you must, use the collar as an additional safety.

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a small (pin sized) chip which carries a unique number. Once injected under the cat's skin it can be read by a microchip reader. Not all microchips can be read by all microchip readers. It is therefore important that your cat is fitted with a chip which meets ISO Standard 11784 or Annex A to ISO Standard 11785 to avoid any possible problems.

Where can I get my cat microchipped?

Your vet should be able to do this for you. If he cannot, he will advise you on the best place to have it done. Once the cat has been injected with the microchip, a pet id registration form containing the cat's name, date of birth, microchip number and owner's details has to be sent to the appropriate authorities so that the microchip number can be included in the pet database. Once the chip is registered, it can be read by any veterinary clinic and your cat can be easily identified. Cat rescue shelters also keep microchip readers. The microchip should be for the lifespan of the animal, although sometimes the microchip can move and become difficult to find. In that case the cat will have to be re-chipped. It is therefore important that the microchip is read during every visit to the vet to make sure that it can be easily found.

Photograph distinctive markings

Take a number of clear photographs of your cat. Also take photographs of any distinct marks on cats body (for example, a cat which is black may have a distinctive patch of white hair).

Ensure the environment is safe

If your cat is let out to the garden you can ensure that the garden fence is high and solid to keep the cat enclosed. Bear in mind that cats are very ingenious at getting over high objects. They will use your bin, a tree, garden shed etc. But even if you can not prevent your cat from getting out of the garden it is not a major problem. Once the cat establishes it's territory it rarely moves outside it. But her territory may well spread into neighboring gardens. If you live next to a busy road, it is better to keep the cat indoors. Cats really are quite stupid when it comes to traffic.

Neuter your cats

Neutered cats are generally much calmer, happier and less likely to go astray in search of romance.

Know your cat's behaviour

I am not sure if I can stress strongly enough how important it is to know your cat's normal behavior, where her normal hiding places are, and what is her normal "missing period" between meals. Does she venture to the neighborhood gardens or does she always stay confined to your garden? This basic knowledge will be extremely useful when something goes wrong.

My cat is missing - what do I do?

If you think your cat is missing act quickly. The sooner you start looking the better the chance you have of finding her. That said, never lose hope. There are recorded cases of cats being missing for weeks and eventually turning up on the owner's doorstep.

Check home and garden

First and most important - check your home and garden. Cats can hide in an amazing number of places so be thorough. If you are sure she is not at home or in the garden take a stroll around the neighborhood and call her name. I am never sure if the cats really recognise their names, but they certainly will recognise your voice. Go to your immediate neighbors and see if you can search their gardens.

Prepare flyers

When preparing a flyer make sure to include a good description of your cat, the gender, age, colour, colour of the cat's eye, breed and any distinguishing features she may have. If you have clear photographs include them too. Include your telephone number but for your safety do not give your address. Print as many of the flyers as you can and distribute them in a three mile radius. You can stick your flyers to the lamposts, put them in your local shops/coffe shops/pubs (if they have message boards). It is also a good idea to distribute your flyer to the houses on your street.

Let cat rescue shelters and veterinary clinics know that your cat is missing

It is a good idea to contact the local rescue shelters and veterinary clinics and tell them that your cat is missing. If possible take your flyers with you. If the cat was in a accident it is likely that it will be brought to a nearby veterinary clinic. This is also when the microchip will come in very handy since the vet will routinely scan any strange cat for a microchip.

Put an ad in the 'missing pet' column of the local paper

Most local papers have lost and found columns. Put an advert in the paper describing your cat. Also regularly check the local media because someone may well have found your cat and put an ad in the paper.

Check for killed pets

Check with the authorities if any cats have been involved in an accident.

My cat has been found

Once your are reunited with your cat make sure to collect up all your flyers. Also inform everyone you have previously alerted that your missing cat has been found. Check your cat carefully for any injuries and if in doubt take her to the vet for a check up. Then shackle the cat to the bedpost for a fortnight. (Well, you can't, but you will want to!)


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