Lost cats and how we found them

We have spent a lot of time searching for, and finding, lost cats. Most often, they got out after a window, door, cat flap or balcony was left open. This is why we really emphasise the importance of making your home secure when you’re caring for a timid cat, have just adopted a cat or have an inside-only cat.

Below, we share some real-life lost cat recovery stories. We hope they help you stay motivated to keep searching for your cat.  Don’t give up. It is extremely likely that they are out there somewhere, alive, and close by. They really need you to stay the course and keep looking for them.

If you would like help finding your missing cat, please contact us.

On this page


CCTV camera locates Banjo the Bengal after four weeks

Escape point: Verandah
Time missing: Four weeks and two days
Recovery methods used:  Doorknocking, searching, letterboxing
Keys to recovery:  Doorknocking, neighbour’s CCTV
Distance from home when found: 210 m

Home security cameras are an increasingly valuable tool for finding lost cats. When doorknocking for your lost cat, make sure to ask neighbours if they have CCTV and, if so, if you can put food out at night in its range then have them check footage.

A neighbour’s CCTV, and their kindness, were the key to Banjo the Bengal being recovered. Banjo’s person, Sarah, had searched the court where he was found at least once during daylight, plus another two to three times after dark, for two and a half weeks solid, but didn’t see or hear anything. Thankfully, the camera eventually saw what Sarah – and neighbours – didn’t, once Banjo was starved enough to break cover.

Sarah tells their story.

‘Timid Banjo became lost from our verandah, when a verandah blind that we thought was secured blew up. Luckily, we saw where he ran to. Unluckily, he ran straight into yards with dogs – four in a row. All we could hear was multiple dogs across many yards barking in chase. We couldn’t get to him, as neighbours weren’t home. It was awful’.

Doorknocking, searching and letterboxing yields nothing

Sarah came across ScaredyCats and learnt that timid cats like Banjo would often hide in silence, until starving, so started doorknocking and searching.

She spent five hours a day walking nearby streets, both during the day and at 3am, and letterboxing 800 fliers. (We recommend doorknocking over letterboxing. Although it’s more time consuming, and can only be done during daylight hours, we have found it to be more effective).

‘One household was very keen to help and aimed their CCTV camera towards a bowl of water in their front yard’, said Sarah, but no Banjo was filmed.

Emotional burnout ends the search

With no sightings coming in, Sarah slowly gave up the search after two and a half weeks, due to mental and emotional fatigue.

‘I assumed he was dead or had left the area,’ she said.

A camera sees what humans don’t

But then, four weeks and one day after Banjo became lost, there was a breakthrough.

‘This lovely couple who’d set up ‘Banjo-cam’, in the court I’d searched endlessly, sent footage of a spotted cat drinking water. It was Banjo! Skinnier, but definitely Banjo.

If not for them, we’d never had known he was so close – or still alive. It pains me to say I’d never gone back to search the court after that initial two and a half week period.’

Banjo appears under car

The next day, Sarah doorknocked the court, called out for him and shook his favourite toy mouse.

‘At the fourth house, I caught movement in the corner of my eye, under a car. It was Banjo. He stayed silent, even though I was right next to him. He only meowed when I got under the car and let him see my face and hear my voice more.

I reached out my arm, holding his mouse. He sniffed the mouse, then his meows got more intense, more frequent. He ended up just howling and howling, the most painful, saddest cry I’ve ever heard.

I’ve never experienced such emotion in my life before. I didn’t want to grab him and risk him running off, so I rang the lovely lady with the CCTV and she rushed over with a carrier.

Once he was in the carrier, I collapsed to my knees, not believing I had finally found him. I will never forget that moment of elation, relief and overwhelming love for him’.

Where was he during his month lost?

We suspect he’d been bunkered down living in a very dense hedge of large conifers, about four metres deep and 20 metres long, until starving’.

Banjo had never been outside, much less lived as a street cat with mousing skills, and had lost weight during his four week ordeal. The vertebrae on his spine were visible. Sarah took care to introduce food gradually, to avoid refeeding syndrome.

Don’t leave me!

Once home, Banjo was very clingy, following Sarah from room to room. This is quite common. It leads us to believe that being lost may be quite traumatic for cats. It’s why we encourage people with inside-only cats to keep your home very secure – cat-proof windows; cat-proof doors; cat-proof balconies; cat-proof chimneys etc.

Sarah’s advice to others

Sarah recommends persisting in your search, pacing yourself, knowing that you may have walked past them many times and not giving up too quickly.

Sarah feels blessed to have Banjo back home – thin and bony, but thankfully alive.

‘I even contemplated telling Nine News about our experience. It’d be great to promote ScaredyCats, as your website honestly helped me so much’.

No sighting doesn’t mean no cat

Escape point: Back door
Time missing:  10 days
Recovery methods used:  Box trap, wildlife cameras, fish sauce and food trails
Keys to recovery:  Implementing lost cat stress-management techniques, wildlife cameras, box trap, fish sauce and food trails
Distance from home when found: 5m

Very often, lost cats aren’t physically seen by anyone. When out of their territory, they become very wary of everyone, including their own family, and often only come out of hiding when everyone is in bed. Wildlife cameras aka trail cameras can be crucial in locating them and bringing them home.

UK cat Sylva demonstrates this very well. It was only after his family bought two wildlife cameras that they could see that he was coming into their garden every night, but was avoiding the trap they had borrowed from a shelter.

After moving the trap closer to his garden entry point and using fish sauce trails to draw him to it, he was safely recovered.

Alaina tells their story.

A lost cat is terribly stressful

‘My fully indoor cat, Sylva, escaped on Friday 19 May and is finally back home after 10 days, thanks to your website.

I searched for help coping emotionally with him being missing, as last Tuesday I was really not doing well. I knew I needed to figure out how to stay strong and hopeful so we could get him back home.

Your page Coping emotionally when your cat is missing helped me and my partner a lot.

Trap remains empty; maybe wildlife cameras will help

We’d already borrowed a humane trap from a local shelter but were having no luck. I then started reading more pages on your website and we decided to buy two wildlife cameras. Once the two cameras were set up, we could see that not only was he coming back to the garden every night, but also where he was going in the garden.

We moved the trap and kept placing tuna and a mix of some of his regular food inside. We then bought some bacon (he loves bacon, he stole it out of the bin once) and some fish sauce to make a trail from where he tends to enter the garden along to the trap.

Fish sauce trail gets Sylva’s attention

The fish sauce worked great! On the first might of the new location, he followed it to the trap and started eating food just outside the trap, and again the next night.

On the third night, he ate the food just inside the trap. And, finally, last night he went into the trap, eventually going far enough to trigger it. He was trapped!

He’s now home safe after having eaten, drunk and got lots of pets. He’s currently curled up in his favourite bed, fast asleep.

We can’t thank you enough for your website and all the advice on it. Without it, I don’t think we’d have got Sylva home, or it would have at least taken much longer, and we would have been really struggling emotionally.’ Alaina

Lost cat recovery kits needed everywhere

Alaina kindly donated one of the wildlife cameras to the shelter that lent them a trap.

We would love to have ‘lost cat recovery’ kits, of traps, wildlife cameras and big signs readily available to people throughout Australia, and the world, perhaps at pet shop chains. These items are often crucial in recovering lost cats.

If you know of any organisation that might be interested in helping more cats get home by lending this equipment to people, please contact us.

Seven days of day and night searching brings diabetic Henry home

Escape point: Front door
Time missing:  7 days
Recovery methods used:  Doorknocking, searching
Keys to recovery:  Searching
Distance from home when found: 180m

Henry is normally a stay-at-home cat, sometimes chilling in the back yard, but doesn’t go on adventures – unless a front door is left open. Cats and curiosity – how could he resist exploring when an opportunity presented itself?

Henry is diabetic and on twice-daily medication, so his situation was extra concerning.

Henry’s family followed the advice on this website and found him, seven days later, hiding in a 5cm gap on a building site 180m from home.

They detail below their advice for other people. Never give up!

‘Update – FOUND 😊🙏😊😊🙏🙏😊

Henry, my precious boy, has been found after seven long days and nights of searching.

We found him on a residential building site 180 m away, hiding in between the two boundary lines in a 5cm gap.

Henry was found 180m and three streets from home

We searched for seven days straight, as much as we could, day and night, including at 3am. We searched in a 50 to 200 m radius with a torch, as per all the advice. He was hiding.

(On a positive note through my door knocks and flier drops, I met many neighbours who were lovely and mostly supportive).

God has answered my prayers.

Look yourself, at night, in a 200m radius

A CSI type search was needed. Don’t give up on your cat. Look, look, look. Physically look for them. Start ASAP. They are usually close by.  Don’t wait. Look ASAP.  They are waiting to be found, stifled with fear. Look everywhere within a 50 to 200 m radius.

Your hard work will pay off!!

Don’t rely on others to look the way you would. I was told to look the way you would look for a ring, with a torch too.

Surely a cat couldn’t be in that small spot?

The owner of the block had seen my flyer but would never have thought to look in a 5cm spot, understandably. You have to look in close, tight spots.

A 5cm gap was enough for Henry to hide in

Henry is a 14 year old house cat, who is diabetic and on insulin twice a day. He was found alive. Dirty, but alive. Almost a miracle.

Straight to emergency

Safely in the arms of his family

We raced straight to the emergency hospital in Collingwood when found. As a diabetic old man, he is a high risk case, but he was OK.

Thank you God ❤️❤️❤️. Thank you to everyone!”

Door knocking and scent trail recovers Pretzel promptly

Escape point: Back door
Time missing: Two nights
Recovery methods used: Doorknocking with fliers; human scent, food and fish sauce trail; humane box trap

Keys to recovery: Immediate action; doorknocking with fliers; human scent, food and fish sauce trail; humane box trap
Distance from home when found: 100 metres when located, then lured back to his foster home

Putting fliers in letterboxes is a common approach used by people with a lost cat. Unfortunately, this is far less effective than door knocking. Pretzel’s prompt recovery highlights why.

An unkempt stray appears

Pretzel had appeared at Mary’s house as an unkempt, flu-ridden, ear mite-infested and ravenous stray. Over a period of about a month, she had befriended him, brought him inside and had him checked for a microchip. He was neither desexed nor microchipped. He was also FIV positive.

Impoundment would have meant a very uncertain fate, as the council’s pound provider:
(a) kills all FiV+ cats and
(b) is known to kill cats who people have found if no family comes for them – even if the finder has advised that they wish to adopt them.

A tradie does the unthinkable

While working out her next plan to determine if he had a family looking for him, Pretzel stayed in a room in Mary’s house. A tradie opened the ‘under no circumstances can you open this door’ door to his room. And he did a runner.

Mary sought help within hours of him going missing. This makes a prompt recovery so much easier.

Night 1 – No Pretzel

On Night 1, Pretzel didn’t eat any of the food or fish sauce trails that she left in the front and back yards.

We design door knocking fliers in Word, with two A5 fliers per A4 page. This halves printing costs.

Day 2 – Door knocking begins

We developed fliers and, on Day 2, Mary got to work, door knocking streets near her home.

It wasn’t long before Mary found that Pretzel had a family, sort of, at the end of the street.

They had moved to the area a year earlier. Unfortunately, they had left Pretzel’s Mum behind. Like Pretzel, she wasn’t desexed or microchipped. Her and her beaus would have continued having kittens, adding to the large number who fill shelters, pounds and rescue groups, day in and day out.

Pretzel’s family hadn’t seen him for about a month – the time he’d been hanging around at Mary’s. We don’t quite know why, after a year, he chose to leave home – perhaps three rambunctious kids were too much – but they were happy for Mary to adopt him. The costs of having another soul to care for were beyond the means of the single Mum.

Pretzel is located!

The next house Mary door knocked led to success. The man had seen Pretzel eating something in his back yard, just hours after he got out. He lived next door to Pretzel’s (now former) family.

Pretzel’s recovery route

We encouraged Mary to make a human scent, food and fish sauce trail from the man’s house to hers that night.  She also set up a humane trap in the back yard.

Just an hour or two after making the trail, Pretzel had followed it, walked into the trap and was safely back inside his warm home.

Why door knocking is better

So why do we say that doorknocking for Pretzel was better than letterboxing?

Mary was doorknocking in very late afternoon. The man who had seen Pretzel was retired. He had likely checked his letterbox earlier.

Had she letterboxed instead of doorknocked, she wouldn’t have known where Pretzel was – or recovered him – on Night 2. He would have had an extra night to travel further.

Welcome to your official new life, Pretzel.

Hero cat Daniel brings timid lost foster cat home

Lost and very timid cat, Katerina, looking up at her foster carer before she became lost. She's a short-haired tabby and white cat.

Escape point: Back door
Time missing: Five days
Recovery methods used: Food and fish sauce trails; box trap; wildlife cameras; motion-sensing audio alarm; magnet cat; house as trap
Keys to recovery: Immediate action by foster carer; wildlife cameras; motion-sensing audio alarm; magnet cat; house as trap
Distance from home when found: 0 metres

A momentary lapse of concentration is all it takes for a cat to become lost. On a sleepy Sunday morning, when her foster carer forgot to close the back sliding door for a couple of minutes, this is exactly what led to very timid – and not yet touchable – foster cat Katerina slipping into the back yard. Daniel, a cat who she adores, was the key to getting her back inside, after nearly five days.

Katerina’s foster carer, Reem, didn’t realise she hadn’t closed the door, until she couldn’t find Katerina in the house. Then she saw her in the back yard and followed her. Unfortunately, when a cat is in unfamiliar ‘territory’, they’re on very high alert for danger.  Following them usually leads to them running away, which is just what Katerina did, right into a jasmine hedge adjoining a neighbouring property.

Reem borrowed several wildlife cameras and, to our relief, they showed that Katerina came into the back yard each night, except when it was very rainy. We think she was hiding on an adjoining property – hidden by day, out for food (and Daniel!) at night.

How will we recover her?

We discussed options to recover her, given that she was staying close to home:

  • trap her in a box trap in the back yard
  • use the house as a trap, by luring her inside:
    • using a food trail
    • with a laser light, which she loved playing with
    • using Daniel as a ‘magnet cat’

then quickly closing the door once she was well away from it.

Daniel, the medium-haired black cat, who lured Katerina inside the house

Daniel the hero cat

Box trap – no thank you very much!

The cameras showed that Katerina had no interest whatsoever in going into the box trap. Even though smelly human-grade fish was inside it, she only sniffed it on the outside. As she had been trapped in one 14 months earlier, this was perhaps not surprising.

With it likely to take a number of days to ‘desensitise’ her to going inside the trap, using Reem’s house as a trap, and Daniel as a magnet cat, seemed like the quickest way we would recover Katerina.

Is the house suitable?

We FaceTimed with Reem to view her house layout, to see if this was feasible. Unfortunately, all of downstairs was open plan. We decided to:

  1. have Daniel near the door, so that Katerina might come inside to be near him
  2. make a food trail leading to an irresistible buffet upstairs
  3. have Reem hide downstairs, behind the sofa, and observe when Katerina came inside
  4. have Reem silently text her husband, who was hidden upstairs waiting for Katerina to reach the buffet
  5. have Reem silently and carefully close the door once Katerina was well away from it.

House as a trap plan goes ahead

Reem moved her sofa to next to the back door, so she could push the screen door closed when Katerina came inside, and slept there. Daniel slept in a crate near the back door and was visible from the back yard, through the glass. Katerina would have to come inside to talk to him and be near him.

We lent Reem our custom-made, wireless, motion-detecting alarm system so that she could be alerted via an earpiece when Katerina was inside, and sleep until then. We are very grateful to rescue volunteer, Chris, for building this for us, for another tricky situation. The converted driveway alarm from Jaycar is incredibly helpful – and was quite inexpensive to make.

Katerina approaches

In the early hours of a Friday morning, nearly five days after Katerina got out, the alarm went off, waking Reem from her slumber and sending adrenaline coursing through her body.  Katerina was inside – or at least half way inside!

Daniel, the love of her life, had been talking to her from his crate by the door. Despite being able to see him in the crate from outside, the camera shows that Katerina was loitering in the back yard for 1.5 hours before she ventured inside to be close to him. You can see how hesitant she is about stepping all the way into the room.

Had Daniel not been there, it’s very unlikely she would have come inside. She could likely smell Reem and may have been alert, but the allure of Daniel was irresistible.


Eventually, she stepped all the way into the room and away from the door. At exactly 2:27am, Reem very quickly closed the sliding door. It was an extremely close call, though – as soon as Katerina heard Reem move, she sprinted to the back door. When she saw the door moving, she changed direction and ran to the glass pane, stopping her escape. After five stressful and wet nights, Katerina was safe.

Katerina has been quite unsettled by her experience, and has spent a lot of time hiding. Daniel, sadly, has done little to comfort her. Love flows one way, it seems. But he is still a hero and deserves lots of treats for getting her back.

Willow found after nearly two years

‘Unless you find their body, never give up’. That’s the lost cat creed. It really is the essential attitude to take when your cat is missing. And it’s exactly what Willow’s person, Julianne, did.

Fireworks and unlocked cat flap – a terrible combination

Eight month old tabby cat Willow lying on a fluffy mauve blanket

Escape point: Unlocked cat flap
Time missing: Nearly two years
Recovery methods used: Many including doorknocking, searching, big signs, billboards, tagging cars, humane traps, newspaper article and Facebook page
Keys to recovery: Microchip
Distance from home when found: 24km car drive

Eight month old Willow fled through the cat flap on New Year’s Eve 2020, presumably terrified by fireworks going off. Her official human, Julianne, was holidaying interstate, with her teenage children in charge of the house.

The holiday was immediately cut short and then ensued a very comprehensive, determined and arduous search for Willow.

Finally, after one year, 10 months and two days, confident young Willow was found, after she was taken to a shelter. She was living a 24km car drive from home.

Recovery methods used

We guided Julianne on things she could do in addition to her existing strategy, including:


Hand-painted billboard with 'Willow is lost. Please help us find our baby. Call (phone number) and a photo of Willow

Willow’s first hand-made billboard

Julianne had already erected a large billboard on their side fence. This was later followed by a billboard kindly donated by a local real estate agent.

Willow's second, professionally-printed billboard. It says 'Lost tabby cat. Grey/cream with fluffy tail. Please help find Willow. Friendly and likes other cats but may run if approached. If sighted, call 04xx xxx xxx.

This was later followed by a billboard kindly donated by a local real estate agent.

Newspaper article about the efforts to find Willow

Julianne is a very confident and extroverted person, a trait that has helped recover other cats, and secured media coverage in one of the city’s newspapers.

Willow became known as the Basin Billboard Cat, after her suburb, The Basin, and the giant billboard.

Many sightings, but no Willow

The extensive community awareness led to many sightings of possible Willows in the local area. Unfortunately, they were lookalike cats.

Map of sightings

We suggested that Julianne map all the sightings to see if there was any pattern. Initially, they were all in a straight line, heading south west, a similar direction to the suburb where Willow was eventually found.

After a while, there were no sightings. However, despite the time pressures of working, studying to be a nurse, and being a mother to five children, Julianne refused to give up.

Other cats’ lives changed along the way

During the long search for Willow, Julianne helped a number of other lost and homeless cats in the local area, including Jasper, who had been lost for eight years.

Finally, the much-longed-for phone call

One year, 10 months and two days after Willow fled through the cat flap that fateful night, Julianne finally received the phone call she had longingly dreamt of for so many hard nights. Willow had been handed in at a shelter.

A couple had seen her living in a factory area. Being fluffy, and reasonably friendly, she seemed out of place. They asked nearby business owners if she lived with them, but they didn’t know her. The couple befriended her with food, took her home and then to the shelter.

Julianne's daughter, Sienna, beams after collecting Willow from the shelter. Their car tag has a big 'found' written over it.Julianne and her daughter Sienna holding Willow, in front of the billbord that remained duringthe nearly two year search

Watch the joyful reunion.

Willow’s microchip did the rest.

<Quote from Julianne>

How did Willow end up so far from home?

Map showing how far Willow was found from her home in The Basin to Clayton, Melbourne

Lost from The Basin, found in Clayton, Melbourne.

Only Willow knows that, unfortunately. Given that she was found so far from home, it’s possible she got into a car engine and was transported out of the area. One of Julianne’s neighbours used to live in Clayton, where she was found. Could she have been an accidental hitchhiker in their car?

Alternatively, as the sightings were all in a line initially, perhapsWillow had some very important cat business to do in the suburb where she was found.

(Coincidentally, some years ago, another cat named Willow got out of her foster home the night she arrived after pushing the fly wire frame out of the window. Searching was unsuccessful.

Six months later, she was found in her original suburb, about 8km away. With zero bond to her new foster home, it seems she turned on her cat GPS and walked back to her previous home).

No longer a kitten, but still the boss of the house

Willow yawning - still boss of the house

Willow was just eight months old when she was lost. This cheeky fluffy girl was 2.5 years old – and much larger – when she was finally found.

In the nearly two years of Willow being missing, Julianne adopted another cat to keep Willow’s cat friend company. But Willow quickly asserted her place as queen of the household.

The lost cat creed

Julianne did exactly what is often required to find a lost cat: ‘Unless you find their body, never give up.’

Prompt action brings inside-only Poppy home in three days

Escape point: Window
Time missing: Three days
Recovery methods used: Wildlife cameras; trap
Keys to recovery: Immediate action by adopter and foster carer; wildlife cameras; trap
Distance from home when found: 15 metres

An open window led to newly-adopted and timid cat Poppy making a run for it at 8:20pm on a Wednesday night. Thankfully, her adopter, Kayla, sought help from Poppy’s foster carer, Kazi, immediately and Kazi contacted us.

If a cat can fit through a window gap, they likely will, especially when in a new home.

The next afternoon, Kazi and Kayla drove across town to pick up wildlife cameras and a trap from Poppy’s rescue group.  That meant we were able to get wildlife cameras set up on Thursday night.

Poppy’s likely hiding place

Kayla lives in #8 at the back of a unit complex on a busy road. The people in #9 had seen Poppy run past their unit when she first got out. From looking at Googlemaps, we thought it most likely that Poppy would have headed for properties at the back of the complex, where there were gardens, rather than staying in the unit complex which is mostly concrete.

So we had an idea of where to set the equipment up.

Wildlife cameras were placed in the garden area at the bottom of the yellow square

Fluffy cat appears on camera

Early on Friday morning, a wildlife camera captured a blurry photo of a fluffy cat. Photos aren’t as helpful as videos, but at least we knew there was a fluffy cat in the area. Kayla thought it was quite likely Poppy.

Is this Poppy? Or a lookalike cat?

The next night, video confirmed that it was definitely Poppy, thanks to her unique tortoiseshell markings. She had quite a good sniff of the camera when she approached the area – it would have had Kayla and Nazi’s scents on it. Huge relief to Kayla and her partner.

Poppy approaching wildlife camera

There had been quite a bit of rain and Poppy’s fluffy tummy was clearly wet from wading through grass to get to the food in front of the camera. But she had found shelter, somewhere, as the rest of her was dry.

Will she go into the box trap?

The next night, Kayla put a trap out, tied the door open, and put a camera inside the trap, to see how far Poppy would go inside. (Sometimes, cats will only put their head in and need to be ‘desensitised’ to it before they’ll go all the way in and can be trapped). The trap was covered with a tarp, due to the rain.

Poppy was happy to eat from the trap

Yes she will

Poppy didn’t seem too hesitant so, on Saturday night, the trap was set. At about 1am, she was brought back to safety, with much relief amongst the five-person team that was helping her. And with wet paws and tummy.

Poppy is a timid cat, having been rescued from a stray cat community. But she wasn’t so timid that she had to be trapped. This made it easier to trap her as she wasn’t trap shy, unlike two-time lost cat Sammy (link).

Glad to be home

Once she got home, Poppy miaowed all night and has been much more affectionate towards Kayla and her partner than before her unplanned adventure. We see this quite often – sometimes, a cat who has never sat on someone’s lap does so for the first time when they come home after being lost.

Glad to be home

We never know what lost cats have experienced while they were missing, but the fact that they are very often more affectionate than before they were lost might indicate that it was a frightening ordeal for them – and one which we should prevent by keeping our homes secure at all times for inside-only cats.

Three-legged Katsu falls three stories – and survives

Time missing: Three days
Distance from home when found: Three metres horizontally and three stories vertically
Methods used: Searching along streets; neighbours searching back yards; personal searching from rooves
Keys to recovery: Personal searching from rooves

When Katsu got out from the deck of his three-storey apartment, he got a lot more than he bargained for.

His person, Annie, initially believed he had climbed up a lattice to the roof, walked along neighbours’ rooves, then climbed or fell down to ground level – somewhere.

People on a lost pets Facebook suggested that night time searching would likely help, so she spent two entire nights walking along footpaths and calling for him in the busy suburb. She also asked neighbours to search their back yards, but they didn’t see him.

We encouraged Annie to do the searches herself, which she then did. She lives in an inner city suburb, where buildings – and rooves – are close to each other. So she climbed on nearby rooves and looked into backyards, whilst calling for Katsu.

And there he was – behind next door’s water heater, curled up in a drain, the heater keeping him warm during a cold snap.

Annie now thinks Katsu actually squeezed through a 6cm gap on the apartment deck, rather than climbing up the lattice, and fell from the third storey roof into the backyard – having three legs, his balance is a bit compromised.

Katsu squeezed through gap on this deck

The deck led to here

He then likely walked along here

It’s thought he fell into this yard, then hid behind the hot water heater for warmth

Being behind the water heater, he wasn’t visible at ground level. Neighbours had looked in their back yard, as had Annie’s partner, but they neither saw nor heard him. Perhaps Katsu was still in shock at his situation and feeling extremely unsafe. Had Annie not searched from rooves, he likely would have been there for longer before being found.

‘All the advice was so accurate’, said Annie.

‘We initially kept looking all over our suburb but it turned out he was exactly as the info says – right next door, hiding’.

‘The advice to search yourself, rather than others looking for you, is absolutely right. If I had have searched that backyard on the first day, I likely would have found him sooner’.

Katsu slept on Annie’s head after being found and is now banned from the deck! When they move to the country, they’ll be building him an enclosure to prevent any more stressful adventures.

^ Top

Eight years a lost cat

Escape point: Unknown
Time missing: Eight years
Distance from home when found: ‘Nearby’
Keys to recovery:  Caring person; feeding; trapping; microchip

Unless you find your lost cat’s body, never give up. They are likely nearby and doing OK.

During the search for her own lost cat, Willow, Julianne noticed a gorgeous champagne cat living under a community hall. A local had seen him there for at least a year.

Over a number of months, she befriended him, then trapped him so she could get him scanned for a microchip. He was comfortable being stroked while he was eating under the hall, and very calm and curious in the trap – all signs that he had grown up with people and likely once had a family.

Lost cats often take refuge under buildings

Success! He was desexed, microchipped, his microchip details were up to date and he lived close by. However, his family chose not to have him rejoin them.

Julianne spoke to nearby businesses, to see if anyone was caring for him. Sure enough, a kind barber shop and a librarian were. During an 11 week Covid lockdown, they made sure he didn’t go without.

At some stage during his ‘eight years a lost cat’, he had fractured a leg and hip, likely after being hit by a car on one of the two busy roads nearby, and had an unusual gait as a result. But he’d survived.

Just a babe

Jasper was only about 12 months old when he was lost. He was nine when recovered. This beautiful guy, who once had a family, had been on the streets for most of his life.

Now safe, loved and cared for – with a bung leg

His sad story tugged at the heartstrings of Vicky and she adopted him. He is now living in the lap of luxury, his days of eking out a living on the streets, and keeping safe from cars on two major roads, behind him.

Never give up

Always remember: unless you find your lost cat’s body, never give up. Keeping going is hard. But your cat could well be like Jasper – very close by and managing well on their own.

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The secret life of Nailah

Escape point: Back door
Time missing: Five days
Recovery methods used: Trap; heat-detecting scope; doorknocking
Keys to recovery: Doorknocking; confident cat; friendly neighbours
Distance from home when found: One house (front yard of next door)

Most rescue groups require foster cats to be inside-only, to prevent them from becoming lost or injured.

When we were searching for ‘very timid and almost untouchable’ foster cat Nailah, it took a few days before we learnt that Nailah was leading a secret life. She also wasn’t timid.

What we thought

We initially understood that:

  • she had got outside, for the first time, through an open back door
  • after the arrival of a new, bouncy 11 week old puppy, she ‘voted with her feet’ and ran away from her foster home of three months
  • we probably had many stressful weeks or months ahead of us before we found her, as she was very timid.

We began the all too familiar process of searching for a timid lost foster cat.

Trap and heat-detecting scope unsuccessful

Nailah’s carer set a trap on her property for two nights, with no luck.

Luana’s foster carer, Claire, came over with her heat-detecting scope to survey under the house and the back yard. Nothing.

Doornocking begins – at an unusual time

We developed fliers and identified the priority areas for doorknocking – close to where timid Nailah was likely hiding.

It was a Wednesday in mid-May. Doorknocking after work wasn’t possible, as it would be dark by the time volunteers finished work; people are often reluctant to open their door after dark.

So daytime, mid-week doorknocking was the only option, before Nailah had a chance to travel further. Normally, this would be pointless, as most people would be at work, but Nailah became lost when Covid was still ruling the world. Many people were working from home.

Natasha and Hannah both asked to start work late so they could doorknock those blocks.

People were lovely and most were happy to have a wildlife camera on their property. Fliers were left under the front door of those who weren’t home, so they wouldn’t get lost amongst junk mail.

Sightings quickly come in

It only took a few hours before the sightings began to come in.

‘She’s in the back yard of #11 – three houses away!’

Nailah in #11’s  back yard

Natasha secured her place in the Employee of the Month awards when she asked to leave work early, a few hours after arriving late, to hopefully trap Nailah.

Another resident a few houses down also called with a sighting,

Frustratingly, by the time Natasha arrived at #11, Nailah had moved on.

A resident at #6 in the adjoining street – and next door to the foster carer – then called.

‘We see that cat a lot and feed her,’ they said. ‘She’s often at our back door asking for food.  She’s lovely – our cat quite likes her. We’ll call you again if we see her.’

Nailah under #6’s house

They sent us a photo of Nailah under their house from a previous night. They also said they could pick her up.

The secret life of ‘indoor-only, very timid and almost untouchable’ Nailah was a secret no more. She was a confident cat. She was outside a lot. And she was friends with next door’s cat!

More work disruptions

Later in the afternoon, #6 called again – Nailah had arrived.

Volunteer Leah dropped what she was doing at work to hopefully secure Nailah. And she did.

‘She was just sitting at the front door of # 6, with their cat, waiting to be fed,’ she messaged. ‘She came right up to me and I easily got her into the carrier.’

All of us, except perhaps Nailah, breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Nailah’s secret life of charming the neighbourhood was over, but she was now able to find a person to love her for life, with no pesky 11 week old puppy.

And we didn’t have to search for nine months to find her.

Luana gets lost in dense bush

Escape point: unlocked dog flap
Time missing: 14 days
Distance from home when found: 190 m
Search methods used: Searching; wildlife camera; doorknocking; humane trap

Keys to recovery:  Dedicated people; doorknocking; wildlife camera; humans leaving their scent

Most of the lost cats we help are from urban or semi-rural areas; areas where buildings, fences and roads may be landmarks for cats.

So when we saw where Luana was lost, our hearts sank. It was dense bush, with steep embankments that are largely inaccessible to humans, and some houses. This was new.

Dense forest where Luana was lost

How are we going to find her amongst this?

Luana had lived in a new home for seven days. Although she’d shown no interest in the dog flap, on Day 7, it seems she followed the dog out through the flap while her person was at work. No Luana in the house when she came home.

Luana’s person, Antoinette, did the right thing and immediately advised her foster carer, Claire, who contacted us.

Antoinette looked around her property and did actually see – and touch – Luana, who was hiding near a water tank right by the house. Unfortunately, she left her hiding place before Antoinette could bring her inside, likely by climbing up the lattice.

And she wasn’t seen again.

Water tank near where Luana was hiding

Water tank near where Luana was hiding

Wildlife cameras to help

We recommended using wildlife cameras, as this wasn’t a case of buildings being the only possible hiding places for her – there was a whole forest to search.  A thick, impenetrable forest and treacherous terrain.

By day, Claire and Antoinette searched the property as best they could, trying to scale the steep and challenging embankments.

By night, for several nights, Antoinette set the cameras and feeding stations on her property, and under her house, but they yielded nothing.  Antoinette’s dog also didn’t act unusually during walks on the property. It seemed Luana had left the area.

It was time to raise local awareness of her and reach out to neighbours.

Thermal imaging camera added to the lost cat tool kit

With the bush being so dense, Luana could have been sitting a few metres away and wouldn’t have been seen. So Claire bought a thermal imaging camera (FLIR Scout TK Pocket-sized Thermal Monocular), which detects animals’ body heat.

Even at night, if Luana was in nearby bushes, she could be located.

Delivery was going to be two weeks, which was a problem, but it actually only took a few days. Although she was found before it could be used, it would have been a huge asset to the search.

Doorknocking begins – and Luana is located

We arranged for 600x900mm coreflute signs to be printed and Claire and Antoinette were going to erect them in the closest streets. But they weren’t needed.

On the morning of Day 12, before the signs were put up, Antoinette doorknocked people in the nearest street, with Luana’s flier.

There was immediate success. People at both #4 and #6 said they’d seen Luana. She had, in fact, been at #4’s for several nights, and they’d put food out for her.

#4 has two indoor cats and also puts food out for magpies and kookaburras. Luana probably hung around there as she could eat the meat meant for the birds.

#6 also has cats – fellow gingers, in fact – as does #3. Cats have a knack of locating houses with other cats.

Tip: If you’re doorknocking for your lost cat, one of the questions we recommend you ask people is if they live with animals.

If they have dogs, especially if they’re outside a lot, it’s perhaps unlikely your cat will be there. But if they have a cat, it’s very likely that they’ll feel safer where other cats live.

It’s also likely that their cats may show a sudden interest in looking out windows, which is just what #4’s cats did.

Antoinette searched #4’s backyard thoroughly, but didn’t see her.

Wildlife camera put to use again

Antoinette and Claire set a wildlife camera and food at #4 that evening and, the next morning, were overjoyed to see footage of Luana on it, clearly identified from her collar and specialty bell.

This is one reason we strongly recommend that all cats – even indoor-only ones – wear cat-safe collars and ID tags: should your cat become lost, they will be distinguishable from any other similar-looking cats in the area. It makes it so much easier to find them.

The footage showed Luana very carefully approaching the camera, keenly sniffing it (it would have had both Antoinette and Claire’s scent on it), walking away and coming back several times before eating. It also showed her spraying nearby!

Antoinette was delighted. ‘There’s five vids of her staking out the food before eating, then returning for more. She looks good, very fluffy and dry.’

Time to bring her home

Being skittish, a humane trap was the quickest way to bring Luana home.

On the evening of Day 13/14, Claire and Antoinette set the trap up in #4’s back yard, then Claire stayed in her car to listen for the door closing, so that she could immediately cover the trap with a sheet and reduce Luana’s stress.

But Luana had other ideas. While Claire was monitoring the trap, to Antoinette’s husband’s great shock, Luana walked through the dog flap back into the house, the dog flap through which she had exited 14 days before.

Claire drove straight back to Antoinette’s.

‘‘We couldn’t believe it,’ said Claire. ‘She walked right in and sat at a table to eat. We were both lying on the floor under the dining table with a big fluffy blanket, giving her pats. After two weeks of stress, we were so relieved that she was safe.’

Wanting Luana to stay put, we asked Antoinette if the dog flap had been locked.

‘Yes, and it has a security guard, ten tonne safe in front of it and barbed wire.’

Why now, after 14 days?

How, after two weeks, did Luana suddenly find home, just when she’d been located at a nearby street?

We believe it may be due to scent: Antoinette and Claire’s scents were on the camera, which Luana sniffed intently; Antoinette left her scent while doorknocking the street; and Claire and Antoinette left their scent when searching the bush at the back of Antoinette’s property – as best they could, given how dense and steep it was.

Perhaps this was enough for Luana to ‘join the dots’ and make her way home. Or, as Claire puts it, ‘perhaps the scent reminded her of being happy and warm at Antoinette’s place’.

Alli and Romi, two other cats we’ve helped, also seem to have followed their person’s scent back home. It’s why we recommend including what we call ‘walking, talking and sitting’ (info to come) in search efforts.

Luana had lost a bit of weight, but was otherwise in good health.

As with so many cats, she was found very close to home, even though she’d been lost for two weeks. As the crow flies, or cat walks, #4 is just 190m from Antoinette’s home.


Luana was found just 180m from her escape point

Luana was found just 190m from her escape point

After this stressful experience, Claire decided to adopt Luana. She’s loving life, back with her old friends.
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Hilbert cuts an interstate holiday short

Escape point: Front door
Time missing: Three days
Distance from home when found: 90 m
Search methods used: Doorknocking, early morning walks, fliers on poles, visualisation

Keys to recovery:  Doorknocking; fliers on poles

A week’s holiday in Adelaide was abruptly cut short for one Melbourne family, when their cat Hilbert became lost. Just two days into their holiday, he snuck through the front door at 4am when the housesitter opened it.

Driving back to Melbourne to find him was the beginning of a very stressful few days.

Start with the basics

Before contacting us, Hilbert’s person, Maddi, had implemented some of the known lost cat recovery methods, including speaking to neighbours (not letterboxing) and early morning walks, so there was some local community awareness of his situation.

Sightings from one street away

During her first day of doorknocking, a neighbour one street away said they’d seen him on their nature strip.

Nadi then received another sighting from the same street, a bit further away.

This is one of the good things about confident cats being lost: they’re more likely to be seen by people, as they hide less than timid cats.

The down side is that these adventurous souls are more likely to travel further from home, making the search area larger.

We were in the process of making up artwork for big signs [link] to make it easier to reach more people, including drivers.

But they weren’t needed.

Day 3 – Found!

At about 10.30pm on his third day missing, a neighbour in the same street as the previous sightings made contact. Hilbert was in their front yard!

Running down the street in her dressing gown and slippers, with tears streaming down her face, Maddi rushed over to the house and there he was. The neighbour is a cat person and ushered Hilbert into their carrier. He made no struggle at all and Maddi carried him safely home.

So close

The front yard where Hilbert was hanging out is just two houses – 90m – away, as the crow flies, from his home, but on a different street.

Hllbert’s home is the red marker


This is just what lost cat research shows – that most lost cats are found within a 3-5 house radius.

A missing cat is very traumatic

For Maddi, a very empathic person who helps people for a living, the hardest part of Hilbert’s time missing was imagining what he was going through.

‘I imagined that he was freezing cold somewhere, crying for his brother and very scared,’ she said.

It was also difficult as she was doing all the searching on her own. Her husband was more pragmatic – ‘he’s a cat; he’ll be OK; he’ll be having fun’ – and didn’t share Maddi’s level of distress. And her kids just wanted to go shopping for toys at Kmart!

How she reduced the stress – a little

Maddi has a scientific background and found it comforting to read the evidence-based methods and statistics of lost cat recovery.

When she didn’t find him on the first day, she read that he would be hungrier by Day 3 and would be more likely to come out of hiding then. She also read that the starvation period kicks in after two weeks. Mentally, she set a time of two weeks.

Each of the success stories she read about, including a cat who was found after three months, gave her hope.

This is why we write about some of the cats and people we have helped: so that more people know that lost cats are found and they are likely very nearby, despite what friends and family may be saying. It takes effort, time and determination, but is very do-able.


To help dispel some of the fear and stress, we encouraged Maddi to visualise seeing him back with her, in her arms, safe. She was actually doing this to calm herself as she went to sleep on the third night – at the exact time the neighbour made contact with the amazing news.

It might sound ‘woo woo’, but professional athletes use visualisation extensively to help them achieve their goals. There are neurological reasons why it works.

Maddi’s advice to others

Maddi said that doorknocking and ‘pounding the pavement’ was critical in finding Hilbert.

She also recommends taking care of yourself.

‘If you don’t look after your own wellbeing, you’ll lose heart and hope and stop looking. Make sure you’re eating. Try to get sleep.

The night he was found, I was close to giving up. I didn’t feel I could keep doing this every night. Receiving messages of support and encouragement from ScaredyCats was really helpful.’

Maddi also suggests recruiting friends and family for support and not doing the searching on your own.

We know how emotionally gruelling it is being the only one still working to find a lost cat. Some people we have helped have described the experience of their cat being lost as more traumatic than their parents dying.

Step by step, until they’re home

When we could see the stress Maddi was under, we suggested she think of every single thing she did to find Hilbert as bringing her one step closer to him being home: every neighbour she spoke to, every flier she gave to someone, every early morning walk she did, the big signs we were preparing etc.

Every evidence-based action you take to find your lost cat adds up to recovery.

‘This gave me more of a sense of control,’ she said. ‘I looked at what was in my control and what wasn’t. I could control the early morning walks and the big signs. I couldn’t control that we went on holiday. I tried not to blame myself.’

Who are you? You smell weird

When he came home, Hilbert’s brother, Chomsky, complained that he smelt ‘weird’, and hissed at him. This is quite common, as cats are such scent-focused beings.

But with a good re-introduction process, they were friends again before long.

Welcome home,  Hilbert! You may be getting more walks on your harness and lead from now on, with your brother. But just remember not to become a door dasher. You can’t put your Mum through this again.

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Ginny jumps from two storey roof

Escape point: tearing flyscreen on slightly open upstairs window
Time missing: Six weeks and three days
Distance found from escape point: 230m (five houses, across two streets)
Recovery methods used: doorknocking; wildlife cameras and feeding stations; big signs; humane trapping.
Keys to recovery: big signs; wildlife camera; humane trapping; one volunteer’s dedication.

  1. Even though Ginny is a confident and very friendly cat, it was five weeks after she jumped from the roof before we received a sighting. For timid cat, Romy, it was more than four months before we received a sighting. This highlights how ‘guarded’ cats can be when they’re initially displaced.
  2. Flyscreens are not cat-safe unless they’re Crimsafe
  3. If you have an opportunity to get a lost cat inside a secure area like a house or secure shed (no gaps, no open windows, no cat flaps, preferably no chimneys), seize it. If the balcony door was very slowly and quietly opened when Ginny was on it, it’s possible she would have run into the house, instead of jumping from the balcony. She could have then been trapped inside the house and brought back to safety five weeks sooner.

A child opening a window to give foster cats some fresh air led to a very prompt ‘lost’ status for very friendly foster cat, Ginny.

At her new foster home for less than 12 hours, she pushed the flywire out of an upstairs window frame and jumped onto the roof overnight.

Flyscreens are not cat proof

Wildlife cameras and feeding stations were set up in the nearby area, but no Ginny.

A sighting

Six days later, Ginny was seen on the next door neighbour’s roof, miaowing, seemingly for help.

Ginny was on this roof for six days

From a cat’s point of view, the rooves of her carer’s home and next door’s are almost connected.

Just like her carer’s home, the neighbour’s was a large two storey house. It seems she had been on the steep roof – or that of her carer’s – the whole six days, unsure how to get down.

Ginny jumped from her carer’s roof to the neighbour’s

Bring in the pro’s

With the roof being quite steep, a professional rescue service was asked to help. We thought we had ‘the cat in the bag’.

Ginny is a very friendly and confident cat, but cats behave differently when they’re lost – and frightened.

Ginny was very wary of the rescue person when he approached her on the roof. After jumping onto the neighbour’s balcony, then back onto the roof, running past him, then back again towards the balcony, she made a brave leap from the two-storey roof and into another next door neighbour’s back yard.

Searching of that yard, unfortunately, didn’t find her.  She had made a very quick getaway.

Back to square one

Very frustratingly, we were back to square one. And Ginny’s carer was unable to assist any longer.

Another rescue volunteer, Lauretta, kindly stepped up, doorknocked neighbours in the area and erected the usual 600x900mm coreflute big signs we increasingly use to help find lost cats.

Large coreflute signs help raise awareness

Neighbours were all very friendly and helpful and were happy to have wildlife cameras and feeding stations at their properties.

Unfortunately, again, these yielded nothing over several weeks. With no Ginny on the cameras, and no reports of sightings from the big signs, we began to fear that she had badly injured herself from the two-storey jump and was deceased somewhere.

Ginny’s foster home was near a park which also had a large, densely-vegetated reserve. We wondered if she may have headed there, but cameras yielded nothing there, either.

Six weeks later, a breakthrough

Finally, more than six weeks after Ginny got out, a breakthrough text message came through:

The breakthrough text

The photo of a ginger and white cat sitting on their fence looked very, very much like Ginny. There was much, much happiness amongst the three of us who were working to find her.

Five houses, again

Their home is just five houses away (230m, as the crow flies) from Ginny’s escape point. This matches lost cat behaviour research, which has found that most cats are found in a 5-7 house radius of their escape point.

After six weeks, Ginny was just five houses away

They first saw her sitting on their fence, at dusk at 5pm; at 10pm, she was under their deck.

Ginny is quite a confident cat, and her being out at dusk and sitting on a fence matched the behaviour of a confident cat. But, like almost all lost cats – even confident ones – she wouldn’t allow them to approach her. Lost cats go into survival mode, being wary of everything, and don’t trust people easily.

They were asked to put food out for her, to hopefully keep her in the area. Then, the cameras and feeding stations were relocated to their property.

Bingo! Ginny was on the camera!!

The hardest part was over

The hardest part of recovering lost cats is finding where they are. Once you know where they are, bringing them home is usually easy (unless they jump from a two storey house to evade a professional animal rescuer).

And so it was with Ginny.

A humane cat trap was set up on the property and Ginny was trapped.

Six weeks and three days after she became lost, she was finally brought back to safety.

We asked Lauretta to update the big signs with ‘found’ notices, so that neighbours knew she had been found, then took them down a few days later.

Lauretta and her son updated the signs

Commitment to finding lost cats is crucial

Ginny was only recovered due to the dedication of a single rescue volunteer who lived near Ginny’s escape point. Each night, Lauretta set up wildlife cameras and feeding stations, checked them in the morning and moved them to different properties after a few nights at that location.

She also helped erect the big signs.

We thank Lauretta, profusely, for her work in bringing Ginny back to safety. Sweet Ginny was adopted soon after, to someone who adores her. She spends every morning playing and zooming, and every evening snuggling on the couch and watching TV.
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Amarisa squeezes through 5cm gap

Timid cat Amarisa was lost for five days and hadn’t eaten for eight days when she was found.

It’s those lapses of concentration that can do you in. Amarisa is a timid cat who had just moved into a new home. True to scaredy cat form, she had stayed in the wardrobe and under the bed for the entire three days she had been there.

Thinking she would stay put, her carer left the front door open for a minute while she got something from the car. Amarisa quickly made a run for it – perhaps she sensed a change in air currents with her whiskers.

Searching begins

We searched her foster carer’s property but there were no possible hiding spots. There was a door to the under-house area, but it was too small for a cat to get through.

A team of five people did CSI-type searching of many neighbours’ properties over five consecutive nights. We found nothing.

On the fifth night, one of the searchers suggested we look under the carer’s house. It seemed impossible for Amarisa to have got through that tiny gap, but we had nothing to lose.

No cat could get through this gap. Or could they?

A moving paint splatter

While we were crawling on our stomach under the house, we spotted a splatter of paint on an opposite wall. As we moved closer to the splatter, it moved too. A possum, perhaps?

When we got to the wall, the splatter had disappeared. A peek into a gap too small for our head revealed the most amazing, most beautiful, most wondrous sight – Amarisa, in all her grey glory.

I’m not moving!

Despite having lived with her previous carer for 18 months, she wouldn’t move towards her, even for food, and even though she hadn’t eaten for eight days. It took five hours to get her out.

Read the Finding Amarisa Facebook page to see how we did it. We set this page up to find more people to help with searching, not to replace it.

Amarisa’s ‘only-for-cats’ hiding space needed ingenuity to get her out.

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The great Topaz escape

To foster carer Jenny, it was a day like any other day. To timid cat Topaz, it was the day she scared herself witless by squeezing through a new gap in her enclosure and venturing into the great outdoors.

Topaz’s cat friend Archie called out to Jenny to alert her. Panic! Jenny sought our help immediately.

Under houses make great hiding spots

Jenny thought she saw Topaz run under her weatherboard house – a perfect and very common hiding place for a frightened cat. We blocked all exit points under the house with sheets, towels and whatever else we could find. We then put a audio device that detects motion under the house to see if she was there.

After about an hour, the alarm went off. Topaz was there! We now had to get her back to safety.

Lifting floorboards gives Topaz a way up

We didn’t want to risk Topaz fleeing – if she was under the house, at least we knew where she was.  So we lifted up floorboards in one room, put food down the hole and put a light in the room so that Topaz would realise she could come up into the house. No dice. A neighbour’s selfie stick and Jenny’s mobile phone enabled us to pick up cats’ eyes. There was definitely a cat under the house, but Topaz still wouldn’t play ball. Another anxious night loomed.

On day 2, she starts calling

Most timid cats will stay silent, but on Day 2, Topaz started calling to Jenny through the loungeroom floor – the opposite end of the house to where we’d lifted floorboards (of course). Jenny did some more unplanned reno’s and cut holes in the loungeroom floorboards.

Jenny’s hacksaw skills led to Topaz’s recovery.

Day 3 and she’s safe

On Day 3, Topaz finally came up through the hole.

Even though Topaz had lived with Jenny for a year, when she came up, she was very disoriented and frightened, acting almost as if she’d never been in the house before.

Topaz and her three-legged friend Archie, in their now-reinforced enclosure

Jenny has now triple-checked the cat enclosure and Topaz, and Archie, have remained safe and happy.

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A Mexican standoff and a grumpy dog

Sheridan was lost for eight months. Her microchip saved her.

Two weeks after foster cat Sheridan bolted out the front door when someone came in, she took our breath away by showing herself to us one late afternoon. She was just two doors from her foster home, even though she’d been missing for two weeks. She had adopted a house that was under construction,

When we started very slowly approaching her, she ran to a very narrow, ‘only for cats’ gap between the house and the fence. We waited for three hours for her to move from the gap, one of us at either end, hoping food would tempt her. She wouldn’t budge.

Why go in a trap when I can jump over it?

So we set two traps – one at either end of the gap – and waited some more. She didn’t fall for it. She had grown up as a street cat and had been trapped at her original home, before coming into care. Perhaps she knew that traps meant change.

The last we saw of Sheridan was footage on the wildlife monitoring camera we use to help find missing cats. She deftly jumped over one of the traps.

We continued doorknocking on weekends and searching neighbours’ properties at night, but sadly didn’t find her.

Eight months later…

A long eight months later, we received a call from a shelter. Sheridan was there. We immediately drove across town to pick her up.

We were curious where Sheridan had been living all this time and how she came to be at a shelter so far from where she got out. So we went back to doorknocking and found the neighbour who had trapped her.

Sheridan had taken up residence in the lady’s beautiful Azalea garden, just 500m from her foster home. The lady’s dog didn’t appreciate this and issued an ultimatum – it’s me or the cat.

If her dog was more cat-friendly, the lady would probably have kept her.

In the eight months she was missing, Sheridan only moved 500m from her escape point. We think she walked to a park, so she could sustain herself by catching dinner.

Sheridan was in quite good condition. She had no doubt developed some hunting skills when she was living on the streets before coming into care.

Importance of microchipping and identification

Sheridan would not have been reunited with us if she wasn’t microchipped.
Microchipping your scaredy cat is really important. We also recommend that they wear a cat-safe collar (one with a breakaway clasp or elastic insert) and ID tag.

Sheridan isn’t a super scaredy, and is also 100% lady. She would have been easy to scan at a shelter. Not all scaredy cats are like this, though, so a cat-safe collar and ID tag lets shelter staff know that they do have a person who cares about them.

While microchips, collars and ID tags are important, preventing timid cats from getting out of your home is the best thing of all.
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Wildlife camera helps us find Latte

Like Sheridan, Latte became lost from her new-ish home when a door was left open. Over the next two weeks, a team of people doorknocked and searched the neighbourhood for her. Fresh from the Amarisa search, crawling under houses had become second nature, but we didn’t find her.

There’s no hiding on a wildlife camera

We also set up a wildlife camera at her new home, to see if she was coming for the food we were putting out.

One glorious night, a tortoiseshell cat appeared on the footage. Thanks to Latte’s unique markings, we immediately knew it was her. We then went about desensitising her to the trap, by tying the door open and putting food further inside it as she became more confident each night, using the wildlife camera to check on her progress.

Torrential rain on D-day

D-day arrived – she was going all the way into the trap (as were a lot of other cats!). So, we decided to trap her manually using the bottle and string technique, to avoid catching other cats. The weather gods turned on a real performance for us, with thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

Flash flooding didn’t deter us from bringing Latte back to safety

Manual trapping protected neighbours’ cats

Sitting in a car in the driveway, with most of the windows covered with sheets so she would be less bothered by our presence, we waited for her to appear.

Once she was fully inside the trap, we pulled the rope. Success. She was finally safe. Wet, but safe.

But we searched there!

We think Latte had been hiding under the next door neighbour’s house, as we saw her jump their fence to get to the trap. We had searched there as best we could, but there wasn’t enough room for us to crawl under it, so we had to look from the outside. Looking for eyeshine with a torch, we saw nothing.

It highlighted that, even if you don’t see your cat, they could still be there. Using a wildlife camera, filming with a mobile phone and listening for motion on a motion-detecting alarm can help overcome this problem.

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Fleur’s eyes shine brightly on a mobile phone

Foster kitty Fleur got out of her foster home when a housemate left a back door open. No sooner was she putting her paws on grass than she was being chased by her carer’s dog – talk about making a frightening situation more frightening!

Searching begins

It was about 1am when Fleur’s distressed foster carer, Kendra, reached out for help. Kendra did all the right things, acting immediately and searching through the night.

Gotta love a smart phone

During daylight, Kendra made technology work for her and used her mobile phone to film under a deck. Cat’s eyes reflect light and give off a distinctive ‘eyeshine’ when light shines on them. Filming with a phone in dark places is really helpful when you can’t physically get into the space.

When she first filmed, she saw nothing. Another try and she could see something. Fleur must have moved between the first and second filming.

“Do you think this could be a cat’s eye?”, she texted, with the video.

Film with a smart phone in dark places to identify eyeshine of a lost cat. se a mobile phone

We knew where Fleur was hiding, thanks to her eyeshine showing on smart phone video .

While waiting in a queue at the supermarket, we watched the footage and a big smile spread across our face. Yes, yes, yes, this was most definitely a cat’s eye. Fleur was one step closer to being recovered.

How to get her out?

Now that Kendra knew where Fleur was hiding, she had to get her out without giving her a chance to bolt.

It can be helpful for people who the cat knows best to be involved in their recovery – their fear may be slightly less (very slightly!) when they hear a familiar voice, smell a familiar scent or see a familiar sight (although Amarisa didn’t see things this way).

Matt and Clare to the rescue

So Fleur’s previous carers, Clare and Matt, trekked across town to help. Coincidentally, Clare and Matt helped with Amarisa’s recovery, as they lived in Amarisa’s neighbourhood.

Matt removed some boards from the steps that connect to the deck and created a large enough opening for Fleur to be recovered. (Luckily, Kendra’s landlord is her father).

Fleur has remained safe since then. And her human friends are more careful with doors.

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Friendly Noah finds his wild streak

Although Noah is a confident and friendly cat, after becoming lost from his foster home he reverted to timid behaviour

Noah, a friendly and confident foster cat, became lost after getting off a second storey balcony. His carer doorknocked the neighbourhood and searched their properties, after dark.

As he is a confident cat, he was more likely to be out and about exploring, rather than comatose with fear. So she also put up ‘big signs‘ around the area.

Success! Noah was spotted by a neighbour.

He’s friendly, he’s confident, he knows his carer, so getting him home should be dead easy, right? Wrong. Whenever his carer approached him, he’d run off, even when she had yummy food.

She had to use a humane cat trap to get Noah back to safety.

An unsecured balcony leads to tragedy

Ebony and Crystal were lost from their foster home soon after arriving

If you’ve never worked with timid cats before, you might be tempted to cuddle them soon after they come to you, to let them know they’re loved and safe. But this can be disastrous. And so it was with Ebony and Crystal.

Two young sisters, one black and one white, they had come straight from the streets. They’d never lived with humans before, let alone been touched by one.

A new record for becoming lost?

Very soon after they arrived, their foster carer tried to pick them up from their crate, which led to them panicking and getting out. They had been at their foster home for all of 30 minutes. Their escape route of choice? A balcony.

It had been very loosely netted in by the carer’s friend. but there were lots of gaps. The carer’s own cats didn’t try getting out. But Ebony and Crystal, two panicked cats in a new home, most certainly did.

A neighbour’s cat comes to the rescue

A team of volunteers, from near and far, started doorknocking and searching neighbours’ properties. Although there were no signs of Ebony and Crystal on neighbours’ properties, an exploring cat who lived next to the carer did bring good luck.

Cavorting In an alley, he was soon joined by another cat. A small, young black cat. Ebony!!  Indeed, the Missing Animal Response Network (formerly Missing Pet Partnership) recommends trying a ‘magnet cat‘. We didn’t plan that to be his role, but were delighted when he offered.

Naturally, being a timid and displaced cat, Ebony wouldn’t come to anyone. And as quickly as she appeared, she disappeared.

We find her new home – a timber yard

Another night of searching and we spotted the distinctive shine from a cat’s eyes with our torch, in a timber yard on the other side of the alley. The next day, we spoke to the staff. They had, indeed, seen a small black cat when they first arrived at work, in the dark, but no white cat.

Wildlife camera and cat trap are put to work again

The staff were lovely and were happy for us to put a trap and wildlife camera on the site.

The wildlife camera worked its magic – yes, Ebony was living there. We fixed the trap door open then desensitised her to the trap – after all, she’d only recently been trapped at her previous home – and monitored her progress on the wildlife camera. Once she was going all the way in, we caught her. But where was Crystal?

Timid teenager Crystal didn't survive after becoming lost from her foster home

RIP Crystal

Ebony and Crystal had a close bond. We were puzzled why they wouldn’t be together.

A white cat on the road

More doorknocking revealed that a neighbour had seen a white cat on the busy road outside her carer’s home the fateful night they got out. Tragically, the cat was deceased.

We called vets, shelters and the council to see if anyone had picked up a deceased white cat, without luck. However, we received other information indicating that this was very likely Crystal.

Searching and recovery takes time

Finding lost cats often needs a large investment of time. The search for Ebony and Crystal, and recovery of Ebony only, took a team of six people about 120 hours – three full time working weeks.

We were incredibly sad that Crystal hadn’t survived after they fled from the balcony. Ebony and Crystal were teenagers just beginning their lives. Once they learnt to trust people, which wouldn’t have taken long due to their youth, they had a bright life ahead of them. RIP Crystal.

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Balcony claims another life

Lost cats face hazards if they get out near busy roads. Gizmo was hit and killed by a car soon after being adopted, after getting off a balcony.

RIP Gizmo, another victim of an unsecured balcony in a new home

An unsecured balcony also claimed the life of newly-adopted Gizmo, a gorgeous but timid ginger kitten who had been lovingly raised by his foster carer from a young age. A week after he was adopted by a young couple in an inner city suburb, he was given unsupervised access to their balcony. He disappeared.

We searched and used the wildlife camera, but didn’t find him.

The rescue group that had originally saved his life soon received a call from an emergency hospital. An injured Gizmo had been brought in by a good samaritan. He had been hit by a car. He didn’t survive.

Once again, a beautiful kitten with his whole life to look forward to was taken from the earth far too soon. RIP Gizmo.

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Finding cats is hard work; keeping them safe is easier

Many of these cats were inside-only foster cats. They became lost when doors were left open, or balconies unsecured.

Windows are the other common escape point for timid cats.

If you’re caring for a timid cat, you will save yourself and other people a lot of time, stress and expense by keeping all escape points secured.


This page is dedicated to Akasha, a very frightened cat who got out of her foster home in December 2014. Illegal fireworks are thought to have frightened her so much that she pushed the flywire out of the frame of an open window, then jumped from the first floor.

She hasn’t been found, despite searching for months.

Lost cats and how we found them

❤ Akasha – Still missing, but not forgotten ❤