If you haven’t found your lost cat from searching – either your own property, or neighbours’ in a five to seven house radius, all is not lost. There are other things you can do and equipment you can use to help you. You can even get other animals to help.
On this page
- Use your house as a trap
- Set up a kitty buffet
- Use a humane cat trap
- Use a wildlife camera
- Use a fish sauce trail
- Make technology work for you
- Get animals to help you
- Put up some ‘big signs’
- Put magnet signs on your car
- Try ‘simply sitting’
- Talk in a normal voice in your neighbourhood
- Still no luck?
Use your house as a trap
If your cat isn’t too timid, it’s possible that they may re-enter your home of their own accord, when it’s quiet and they think no-one is around. This may be unlikely for a scaredy cat, but what have you got to lose?
Start putting stinky food (tinned human-grade salmon, tuna, sardines or roast chicken are good) out at the same time and location. Cats in the Bag has more info about this.
Be warned: It will likely attract all cats in the neighbourhood!
It’s a bird. No, it’s a rat. No, it’s a cat!
To determine if it’s a cat eating the food, or another animal, spread flour around the food. You can tell from the footprints if it’s a cat, rat, possum or bird visiting the buffet.
Once you know that it’s a cat, you can start monitoring the area – stay in your car and see who comes, use a wildlife camera, or set a humane cat trap.
If food is being eaten from the Kitty Buffet, and you know from the flour imprints that it’s a cat, you can set a humane cat trap to see if it’s your cat.
We strongly encourage you to monitor the trap, rather than setting it and checking it in the morning. Cats are very stressed when trapped. If you catch another cat and your cat sees them stressed, it will make them harder to catch. It’s much kinder to stay within eyesight or earshot of the trap, so you can see or hear when a cat goes on.
Monitor from your car who’s coming.
If you trap someone else’s cat, let them go. Never leave a trap in a public place where it could be tampered with or stolen, then used to harm cats.
The Missing Animal Response Network has a useful video on using a trap to find Cleo.
There’s also a good video on using a magnet cat and spreading the food smell further.
Their YouTube channel has other videos that may help you.
Use a wildlife camera
If you’ve found inaccessible areas from your searches, or if you want to know if it’s your cat eating the food or someone else, a motion-detecting wildlife camera is a fantastic tool.
Again, leave smelly food out at the same time and day, close to possible hiding places so they don’t feel exposed getting to the food, and set the wildlife camera so that it will film whoever eats the food.
Some companies will hire out wildlife cameras. Hiring several of these could dramatically reduce the time it takes to find your missing cat.
If you live in Melbourne, Australia, you may be able to lend ours. A refundable deposit is required. Download wildlife camera instructions.
Lead them with a fish sauce trail
Use a spray bottle, or 10L pressure garden sprayer ($10 from hardware stores), add a bottle of fish sauce, fill up with water and spray a trail to the kitty buffet, trap, wildlife camera or your home.
Fish sauce is very smelly and cats are likely to follow the scent.
Make technology work for you
Use Googlemaps, or a similar website, to map out your search radius and look for likely hiding spots.
Smart phones are great for filming in small places that you can’t easily access – the phone will pick up their eyeshine. Watch Kendra’s footage from under her deck. Notice Fleur’s eyeshine? Once it was known where Fleur was, recovering her was relatively easy.
Borrow a selfie stick and use it to film even more inaccessible areas. You could even make your own. Andrea made one by fixing her phone to a small hinged speaker, which she attached to a long wooden ruler.
If you can’t stay near the trap to hear when the door closes, borrow a baby monitor.
A motion-detecting wildlife camera is great for determining if it is your cat coming to eat the food you’re setting out, or someone else. They are available for hire from some companies. If you live in Melbourne, Australia, contact us to see if ours is available for hire. We use a Scoutguard Zeroglow 8M. It is battery operated, silent, has no flash and can take photo or video.
We have had a motion-detecting alarm built. It consists of an audible alarm unit connected to an earpiece, with approximately 7m of cable. It’s ideal if:
- you’re using a drop trap to catch your cat and need to be alerted when someone is under the trap
- you need to know if there’s a cat in an inaccessible area.
Get animals to help you
If your scaredy cat has a good cat friend in your home, especially one who’s talkative, take them out in a carrier with you when you’re searching or trapping. You can use them as a ‘magnet cat’ by putting their carrier at the end of a trap – check out from 4:25 on this video for how to do it.
This will hopefully not apply to you, but if your missing cat isn’t desexed, you could use an undesexed cat of the opposite sex as a magnet cat.
Cats will be able to smell your missing cat and will be drawn to investigate. Take them outside, perhaps on a harness and lead (you will need to teach them to be comforable with this) and see where they go.
If they loiter around a particular area, looking intently, your cat may be there.
Many dogs can smell a cat and may become more alert.
Many birds have special alarm calls when they see a cat. If your cat is confident and likely to be exploring during the day, keep an ear out for alarm calls. The birds could lead you directly to them.
In Australia, here are some common ‘warning, warning, warning – cat, cat, cat!’ birds.
Listen to their alarm calls
Click on the link, find ‘alarm call’ from an Australian recorder, then hit play.
Noisy Miner These cheeky birds pretty much swear at cats until they move on. Listen.
Australian Magpie Listen.
Grey Butcherbird Listen.
Willie Wagtail Listen.
We’ve taken a year off our cat’s life by playing them.
Use ‘big signs’
- you receive sightings of your cat from neighbours, or
- they’re a confident cat, or
- you’re running out of steam
you could try using ‘big signs’. These are more effective for confident cats who are likely to approach people, and for dogs, than for timid cats. However, it’s worth a try.
Put large magnet signs on your car
If you live in a busy area, consider having some custom-made magnetic signs made up and place them on your car. As for the big signs, include just a photo, street and your contact details.
Try ‘simply sitting’
Instead of searching, just sit and chill. Your cat may come to you when you seem less frantic. Cats in the Bag has info on how to ‘simply sit‘.
Talk in a normal voice in your neighbourhood
One cat came home when they heard their people having a conversation, in a normal voice, in the front yard. They hadn’t previously responded to their family’s (increasingly desperate!) calls. No doubt, they were much more familiar with with the sounds of casual conversation than frightened calls. And, no doubt, they were grounded when they came back.
Still no luck?
Even though you haven’t seen them, and they haven’t been seen on a wildlife camera, or been trapped, they could very well still be out there, somewhere.
We understand how despairing you may now be feeling, after all that you’ve done. For their sake, you could:
- do another round of doorknocking and searching. If two weeks has passed, your cat may have gone beyond the starvation period and be out and about (as much as a timid cat goes out and about) and easier to find
- expand your search area further. Although we searched for Sheridan, we didn’t search quite as far as she had travelled
- put ‘big signs’ up further afield
- seek help from a reputable animal communicator
- keep visiting pounds and shelters every few days. In Australia, by law, facilities are required to hold animals for eight days before deciding on their next step. However, there are many very sad instances where this wasn’t done
- ask neighbours if anyone has recently moved in, out or gone away – your cat may have accidentally ended up hitching a ride, or could be locked in a garage or shed. If they have reached the starvation limit, and used to call when they were with you, there’s a chance that they may now make a sound
Coupe takes an unplanned road trip
Timid cat Coupe slipped out the front door at about 6am one cold and dark winter’s morning, when one of his sleepy humans was heading off to work. His other human searched for him, but didn’t find him.
Seven months later, his person received a call – Coupe had been found, a massive 80km away! How on earth did he get there?
We have a theory. Coupe lived in a new estate, where a lot of houses were under construction. Finding himself out of his warm home and in unfamiliar territory, in the icy cold, we think he may have crawled into the warm and snuggly engine bay of a just-arrived contractor’s vehicle, then ended up taking a frightening car ride to far, far away.
A good samaritan steps in
A kind man who lived in Coupe’s unplanned new territory noticed him hanging around and was determined to help him. It took a while, but he was eventually able to trap him and have him scanned for a microchip.
Coupe is now safe and back with his delighted family.