How to Find a Lost Cat in 5 Simple Steps

Key takeaways


While you may be convinced your cat is exploring the great outdoors, it's important to thoroughly check your house before making any assumptions. This includes moving furniture, checking appliances, and checking wall cavities.


If your search of the house has not proven successful, it's time to branch out and explore the outside space. Check gardens, outbuildings, bins, trees, and under cars. A thorough physical search is always more effective than other search methods.


Use PetRadar to start a digital missing cat campaign. We use social media to notify thousands of neighbors about your missing kitty. While we’re busy at work, you can continue being proactive by going door-to-door and asking your neighbors for help.


If people come across a lost cat, their first instinct will be to take it to a local shelter or veterinary clinic to check if it is microchipped. So, call and visit all the local animal shelters and vets.


You've done everything proactive that you could. Now it's time to create missing cat posters to keep the community engaged with the search.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. Step 1: Search the house
  3. Step 2: Search outdoors
  4. Step 3: Start a PetRadar search
  5. Step 4: Call and visit local shelters
  6. Step 5: Create digital and physical missing cat posters
  7. FAQs
  8. Final thoughts

Step 1: Search the house

While you may be convinced your cat is exploring the great outdoors, it's important to thoroughly check your house before making any assumptions. Cats are inquisitive creatures, and they have likely found some perfect hiding spots around your home that you've never even seen before, especially if it's a lost indoor cat.

Move the furniture

No space is too small, so when you're searching for your kitty, don't disregard any nook or cranny. Follow the checklist below to ensure you don't miss your furry friend:

Beds: A classic spot for cats is beneath beds. They are dark, safe, and have plenty of things to hide behind. It's no good just having a quick scan. Instead, remove everything from under the bed and strip the bedding. I once found my 21-year-old cat hiding inside a pillowcase, so be thorough!

Sofas: Lift and move all of your sofas and chairs. It's likely you'll find a lost cat fast asleep hiding in plain sight. Even if you're buddy isn't snoozing under a sofa, the disruption to their territory may attract them.

Coffee tables, bookshelves, and dining tables: Check behind, under, and on the remaining furniture in your living room. They may have become stuck after thinking they could squeeze their fluffy bodies into a safe nook.

Wardrobes and drawers: While you may keep the doors to your wardrobes and drawers shut, if you turn your back for a second, our curious friends will be exploring. It's very possible they have ventured into the exciting land of clothes and found it quite comfortable. Open up all the doors so they can make their way out if need be.

"Cats are inquisitive creatures, and they have likely found some perfect hiding spots around your home that you've never even seen before."

A white and orange kitten hiding under a sofa in drawers in the house

Check appliances

This is why we love cats, right? Their endless curiosity about the seemingly mundane. Whether that's a fascination with the fridge or an obsession with the washing machine. Be sure to check the following places:



Washing machine


Check for any holes in the walls

Firstly, don't panic. Having a cat in your walls may sound like a nightmare situation, but it's surprisingly common and not too difficult to resolve.
Search your house for corners or areas where your cat may be able to gain access to a wall cavity. Once you have found an entrance point, move through your house, gently knocking on the walls and calling your kitty's name. Listen for a quiet meow or scratching in response.
If you locate your missing cat, go back to the entrance point and call from there. Leave cat food, treats, and familiar-smelling blankets to help your cat find their way back.
Top Tip: If you suspect your cat is in the walls, listen for a quiet meow or scratching in response.
A whole family searching their house for a missing cat.

Step 2: Search outdoors

If your initial search of the house has not proven successful, it's time to branch out and explore the outside space. This can be daunting, but don't let it overwhelm you. Outdoor cats have fantastic homing abilities, and most missing cats won't roam far.
The most effective way to find a lost cat is through a thorough search. So, relax and tick off the following places in a systematic approach. A hiding cat is a stubborn cat, so you'll need patience and a basic understanding of lost cat behavior.

Under cars

A scared cat will tend to seek dark, hidden places. Frustratingly, cars are the perfect spot. However, for obvious reasons, this can be dangerous.
Besides the potential for the car to move, oil spills can be extremely toxic. For this reason, checking under your and your neighbor's cars should be your first port of call.

Up trees

A cat's natural instinct is to be high up. This is because it gives them a full view of any predators and other animals from a vantage point. If your cat is lost, their fear (or desire to explore) may motivate them to climb. The most common opportunity in a residential area is trees.
Call your cat's name, shake their favorite treat bag, and wait for a response. If you do find your kitty too high up, you may need to call the fire department to help you reach your beloved cat safely.
Fire brigade finding a lost black cat in a tree branch

In hedges and bushes

My cat used to love making her way into the most dense hedges in our garden and sleeping peacefully for hours. However, she often struggled to find her way out again. Thorns, sharp twigs, and thick brush can all make it tricky for your cat to escape again.
Use a torch and methodically search all hedges and bushes in your back and front garden. Be careful not to startle your lost cat, as this could cause injury if they become agitated. Indoor cats are likely to stay close to home and close to the ground, so hedges are a good place to start with an inexperienced kitty.
Top Tip: Take steps to lure your cat back home if they aren't showing themselves.

In outbuildings and bins

Outbuildings are likely to have holes in their windows and walls. Even if this isn't the case, a window or door may have been left open and banged shut in the wind, trapping your curious kitty.
Similarly, open bin lids may have lured your hungry cat with delicious smells of rotting food. Desperate for a few scraps, your furry friend may have ventured in and become stuck.
It may be worth setting a humane trap if you think your cat is in the area but too scared to come out of hiding. Ask animal control for some advice and help.

"Outdoor cats have fantastic homing abilities, and most missing cats won't roam far."

Black cat exploring a new environment. Stood on a plank by an outbuilding over a river.

Step 3: Start a PetRadar search

It's important not to lose hope if you still haven't found a sign of your beloved pet. You're much more likely to find your buddy if you remain calm, logical, and proactive. It's now time to ask for help from your neighbors.

Digital missing cat advertisements

Here at PetRadar, our job is to locate missing cats. To do this, we utilize the biggest superpower of our generation in finding lost pets. Social media. Instead of sticking posters up and hoping your neighbors will take notice, we have created a way for you to tap into the hours your neighbors spend scrolling through their feeds.
Once you start a PetRadar search, we'll create a sponsored advertisement campaign that will reach your neighbors' Instagram and Facebook feeds. They'll see an ad pop up with an image of your cat and bold writing telling them that they are missing. You can decide how many people you want to reach, depending on how far you think your cat will travel.
Alongside this, we also:

Manage all reported sightings

Provide you with a personal dashboard to monitor the campaign

Provide instant notifications when updates come through

Provide emotional support

List your missing cat on the PetRadar website

"Here at PetRadar, our job is to locate missing cats. To do this, we utilize the biggest super power of our generation in finding lost pets, and that's social media."

Social media

Whilst we’re busy at work, there are things you can do to increase the chances of finding your loved one. It's likely your neighborhood has multiple Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups to stay connected. These are incredibly useful in spreading the message and recruiting more help. People can report sightings of your lost cat in real time and offer useful advice about the area.
Be sure to include the following information in your communication:

Photos: Share as many photos as possible, including images of your whole cat and then specific close-ups of memorable physical traits.

Name, age, and breed: Cats can look very similar. If someone thinks they have spied your kitty, information like this can help them determine whether it is your beloved pet.

Where you live: Don't feel that you need to be specific if you'd like to keep your information private, but sharing your general location will be helpful for people on the lookout.

Your cat's personality: It may not seem too important, but it's essential that people know whether your cat is timid, adventurous, or aggressive. This can make or break an interaction with your lost cat.

Top Tip: If you live in an apartment complex, pin up your number or Facebook profile with a note asking to be added to local social media groups.
Image of a phone with a cat navigation app open.


Don't worry if you're not part of the online community. Going door-to-door can be just as effective. Ask your neighbors to complete the checklists above for their houses and their outside spaces. The more awareness, the better.
With their permission, checking their gardens will speed up the process. The more boots on the ground, the better. It's also important to be as proactive as possible as soon as possible, so the quicker the search is on the way, the better.
Expert Insight: Why not try a cat detective? Their expert knowledge of cat behavior may give you the help you need.

Step 4: Call and visit local shelters

While your neighbors are joining the search, you should be calling local shelters and vet clinics. If people come across a lost cat, their first instinct will be to take it to a local shelter or veterinary to check the microchip or ID tag.


First, ask if they have found a cat matching the description of your missing pet.


Ask if you can visit the shelter in person.


Repeat for all of the local vets and shelters in the immediate area.

In the meantime, leave your cat's favorite treats and your cat's litter box outside to help them smell their way home.
A local vet sat with a lost cat in their office

Step 5: Create digital and physical missing cat posters

You've done everything proactive that you can. Now it's time to create missing cat posters to keep the community engaged with the search.

Designing lost cat posters

There are a few things to keep in mind when designing your missing cat flyer. Follow our top tips below:

Print in high quality and color to increase engagement

Include unique physical traits (E.G., specific markings, colors, and stand-out features)

Include information on your cat's personality (E.G., adventurous, timid, aggressive)

Include at least one high-quality photo

Include contact information

Use bright colors and bold fonts to make it eye-catching

Top tip: Check out our full guide to designing the most effecting missing cat poster. Once you sign up to PetRadar, we'll provide you with a free downloadable template so you don't have to worry about spending time designing your flyer!
Example stylized missing cat poster with an orange cat in the center.


Can cats find their way home if lost?

Cats have incredible homing abilities and can use their powerful sense of smell, sensitivity to the Earth's electromagnetic field, and impressive hearing to navigate their way home if they get lost.

How long do cats go missing for?

Cats can go missing for a long time and still find their way back home. Most cats tend to only go missing for 24 to 48 hours. However, there have been cases of cats finding their way home after years!

How do I attract my cat back home?

To attract missing cats back home, keep your windows and doors open, leave treats and food outside, and leave their litter box with blankets and clothes outdoors. These familiar smells will help lost pets locate their way home.

How far will a lost cat wander?

Recent research has shown that some cats will wander for up to 80 miles (128km) to find their home (source). However, most cats, especially an indoor only cat, will only travel about 0.2-0.5 miles (0.3-0.8km), so you're likely to find your cat close to home.

How far can cats smell their home?

Cats have an incredible sense of smell, which means they can smell their home from 4 miles (6.5km) away (source). This means that they can often find their way home if they are lost.

What do cats do when they are lost?

Indoor cats often find a quiet sheltered spot close to home to wait and hide. A scared cat will act similarly. However, if your cat is more adventurous, they may be exploring a neighbor's house or new lands.

Do most lost cats get found?

Yes, most lost cats get found. At PetRadar, we have a 68% success rate for reuniting lost cats with their owners.

Final thoughts

A social media campaign can be an incredibly effective resource to help find a lost cat. So far, we have reunited 8000+.
During the process, we prioritize supporting you emotionally through the tricky time. It's never easy as a pet parent when your fur baby goes missing. They're part of the family, and until you are reunited, it can be incredibly stressful and emotional.
Don't worry. We'll be there from start to finish with top tips and useful resources like downloadable missing cat poster templates. And remember, your feline friend will most likely be found alive and safe.

Written by

Image of the author
Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

Language selection