Start doorknocking (not letterboxing) neighbours

Once you have all the information you need, it’s time to put your paws on the pavement and start doorknocking (not letterboxing – we’ll explain why!). You’ll be asking your neighbours if you can put a wildlife camera on their property or search it, after dark.

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Why is doorknocking needed?

You need to speak to people and get their permission to search and/or put wildlife cameras on their properties. You can’t do this from letterboxing. Well, you could, by asking them to call you, but very few people will bother, unless they too have experienced the heartbreak of losing a beloved cat. Most people are busy with other things.

Doorknocking enables you to:

  • meet people
  • find out useful information (like if there’s a local hangout for stray cats, or if someone has just gone away, possibly leaving your cat locked in their garage, or if someone feeds stray cats in the area)
  • build relationships.

They’ll also understand that you’re really serious about finding your cat.

When doorknocking for a lost timid cat in a rural area, one person said she’d never known anyone to go to such lengths to find a missing cat. As a result, she felt much more inclined to help us, connected us with other neighours and gave us useful ‘local intel’.

Doorknock during daylight, search at night

People are more comfortable answering their door during daylight hours. So, before it gets dark, doorknock in a three to five house radius (as the crow flies) of your property. Start with the properties immediately adjacent to yours, then work your way out.

We have found weekdays after people get home from work, and late afternoons on weekends, to be the best times.

I’m shy. No way can I doorknock neighbours!!!

Animals have a knack of making us go out of our comfort zone. And your lost kitty really needs you to be brave at the moment and search for them.The only way you can effectively search for them is by searching neighbours’ properties. The only way you can search neighbours’ properties is with their permission.

Doorknocking tips if you’re shy

  • Take a friend Take a more outgoing friend or fellow cat lover with you.
  • Smile A big smile helps a lot, even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing.
  • It gets easier The first house you knock on will be the most daunting.
  • Your cat needs you to do this Remember that your courage could mean the difference between a great life, or a crappy one, or even death, for your cat.
  • Use our spiel Try printing out our spiel and practising. Maybe even have it in your hand and practise as you approach the house.
  • Take a bloke If you’re worried more about your physical safety, and less about approaching strangers, try to find a big burly male to come with you. Bribe them with offers of beer if you have to. According to Roy Morgan Research, at least one million Australian men live with and love cats!

Take a friend

In our experience, we get a better reception from neighbours if there are two, or three, of us. So grab a friend or find a fellow cat lover.

Show them the flier and explain

Have the flier (and letter) in your hand and hold the flier facing them when they open the door. Many people these days won’t open their security door. That’s OK – they can still see the flier.

Explain that your frightened cat has got out and that frightened cats usually hide close to where they got out. They may be hiding on their property.

Download our spiel if you’re unsure what to say.

If you have wildlife cameras, ask if you can put the camera on their property, with a feeding station. Highlight that it only films at feet level and won’t film them.

If you’re not using wildlife cameras, ask for their permission to search their front and back yards after dark. It’s polite to ask for the latest time you can search, to avoid disrupting their schedule. Some people will leave a side gate open for you.

If they seem hesitant, offer them the letter.

If they say ‘I’ll keep an eye out’

Some neighbours may kindly offer to keep an eye out for your lost cat. This is definitely better than getting a door closed in your face, but there’s a problem with it. Your cat has far better hearing, eyesight, and even sense of smel, than any person. Because they’re frightened, your cat’s already-amazing senses are on very high alert.

So, what are the odds of the person seeing your cat before they run and hide, or sees them if they’re cowered and completely still, hiding in the bushes when they walk past? Sadly, pretty slim.

Keeping an eye out hasn’t helped us much

Of all the lost timid cat searches we’ve done, or guided others on, we can only recall two instances where a neighbour saw the cat – one was the owner of a very large timber yard who was opening the gates, in the dark; the other was a neighbour who saw a distinctive tortoiseshell cat jump over a neighbour’s fence.

How to respond to ‘I’ll keep an eye out’

Firstly thank the person. Then, explain that your cat will most likely see and hear them first.

Gently persist in seeking permission to place a wildlife camera on their property and/or search their front and back yards. If you give them the letter, they might change their mind. You could even refer them to this website.

Also explain that searching is quite labour intensive and you don’t want to impose upon their time.

If you have absolutely no luck getting permission to search, keeping an eye out is better than nothing.

Ask them to keep the flier on their fridge.

Not home?

If they’re not home, leave the flier and letter under the front door, rather than in the letterbox – it’s more noticeable and shows that you’ve gone to the trouble of doorknocking. It’s less likely to get lost amongst junk mail, too.

Keep record

On your search record, record details of every property you’ve doorknocked, spoken to or left a flier at. Otherwise, houses can start to all blur together and you might forget which ones you’ve been to, especially if there’s a time gap between your doorknocking sessions.

We like to record details of who we spoke to and ask if we can note down their phone number.  That way, if we go back to that property and a different person answers the door, we can say ‘On Monday, we spoke to a gentleman in his forties, with a bushy beard, and he said he was happy for us to search for our lost cat.’

Having their phone number means you can update them of your search, and let them know when you’ve found your cat.

Talk to everyone you meet while doorknocking

While you’re doorknocking, ask everyone you meet if they’ve seen your cat – postie, children, people walking their dog, workers, school crossing guards. If your cat is a scaredy, it’s unlikely anyone would see them during the day, but you never know. Confident cats are more likely to be seen.

Is there an organisation that can help me?

To our knowlege, Australia doesn’t yet have a Missing Animal Response Network type of organisation with volunteers who’ll help people find their missing cats. Maybe one day.

If you live in Melbourne, Australia, contact us to see if we can help you.

Next: Time to search!

After you’ve got permission to search a few properties, it’s time for the dirty work – doing your CSI searches.