A wildlife camera (aka trail camera, motion-detecting camera) could well be your most important ally – and best investment – in finding your lost cat.
Even if you haven’t seen your cat, they may very well be on your or a neighbour’s property. We’d encourage you to beg, buy, borrow or hire one, as they have led to many cats’ recoveries.
On this page
- Features to look for in a camera
- Models used to date
- Buying in-store
- Buying online
- Hiring cameras
- How to set up the camera and food
- Lead them to food with fish sauce trail
- Donate your camera to help other lost cats
Features to look for in a camera
These features are best for lost cats:
- battery operated
- photo or video option (we find video most useful, as you can see where they approached from, what they did, where they went to)
- no visible glow when filming – this may frighten your cat
- SD card
- LCD screen (ideal, but not necessary)
- linking to your phone (ideal, but we haven’t found one that does this yet).
An LCD screen means you can view footage in situ. If yours doesn’t have one, you’ll need either an SD card reader (stationery stores, approx $40), SLR camera or computer with SD slot to view the footage.
If it links to your phone, you’ll be alerted when your – or another cat – is at the camera. If you find a model that does this, please let us know!
Models people have used for their lost cats
The models below have been successfully used to find lost cats.
Time is of the essence for finding your cat. The longer they are lost, the further from your home they could move. So buying a camera from a bricks and mortar store will be quicker than buying online. If you buy online, we recommend paying extra for express shipping.
Anaconda – 16MP. $180 at Feb 2021
Anaconda – 32MP. $280 at Feb 2021
We do NOT recommend the Swann 1080P camera from Bunnings. It consistently over exposes both photos and video. If this is the only camera you can find, try covering the top LED bank with black insulation tape.
You should be able to find a decent camera online for about $40. If you buy two or more (highly recommended to find your cat as quickly as possible), you will likely receive a discount.
We use a Scoutguard ZeroGlow 8M camera, but it is quite expensive.
Hiring a camera
www.faunatech.com.au hires out sets of five wildlife cameras. Hiring five will drastically reduce your search time, as you can be monitoring five properties at once.
If you live in Melbourne, Australia, you may be able to lend ours. A refundable deposit is required. Download wildlife camera instructions.
Equipment you’ll need
- (Preferable) Camera strap to secure it to a solid object. If no camera strap, consider using an ocky strap
- SD card (7-Eleven’s, Officeworks, KMart etc)
- SD card reader (if your camera doesn’t have an LCD screen)
- 2-3 cat meals of smelly wet food per camera per night. We use human-grade tuna, salmon or sardines.
- Several bottles of fish sauce (supermarket or Asian grocer; keep receipts)
How to set up wildlife camera and food
1. Set it up in a quiet part of the property, ideally so that your cat can get to it without being in the open too much (eg they can walk under bushes or near a fence line to reach it).
2. Aim it at immovable objects where possible eg fence, wall. If plants are in its range, even small weeds, they will trigger it and wear down your batteries.
3. Test the coverage area by walking in front of it. When happy with what it’s filming, after dark, place several meals’ worth of stinky food (eg tinned human grade tuna or salmon, warm roast chicken) about 1 – 2m from the camera. You need to use several meals in case other cats come before yours does.
4. From the buffet, make trails of small pieces (approx 2mm diameter), approx 2 – 3m long, extending away from the buffet, in difrrent directions. Make sure the trails don’t intersect – your cat may get confused and start following a trail away from the buffet, instead of towards it.
Don’t use too much food for the trails – you need them to be able to smell it, and know that there’s food there, but not become full before reaching the camera.
From the property boundaries, use fish sauce trails to connect with the food trails. Drizzle it along fences and tree trunks so the wind may carry the smell – it’s super stinky.
Again, make sure the trails don’t intersect.
5.Using the camera strap, secure the camera to something solid so it won’t fall over eg gas meter, post, tree, table leg. If there isn’t anything suitable, places three 425g tins of food in a triangle shape. Place the camera against one of the ‘sides’ of the triangle. Secure with ocky strap or webbing.
6. Check the camera in the morning. Unless your cat is likely to be out during the day, it’s probably best to turn it off and conserve your batteries for night time use when they’re more likely to be coming out.
7. Keep filming each night on each property for two to three nights before moving it to another one.
Lead them with a fish sauce trail
Using fish sauce (from supermarket or Asian grocery store) for part of the trail can be helpful, especially if you need to make a long trail of several metres.
Buy a lot and keep the receipts – you could go through one 250mL bottle of sauce each night, depending on the size of your property and how many trails you are making.
If you need to make a very long trail (eg lead your cat from an alley back to your property), put the fish sauce in a spray bottle (supermarket) or 5L garden pressure sprayer (hardware store, $10-15) and spray a narrow stream.
It’s generally best to not leave food out during the day – Magpies and Indian Mynahs will likely eat it. Ants will also likely swarm all over it.
No longer need your wildlife camera?
We help rescue groups and individuals to find lost cats. We would be very grateful for your donated camera, so we can lend it to others whose cat is lost.
Please contact us if you have a camera you’d like to donate.