Top 3 Sounds to Attract Cats When They're Lost

Key takeaways

Each cat sound means something different. While you may think you can communicate with your kitty by imitating them, it's highly unlikely they'll recognize the sounds.

However, cats have very impressive homing abilities thanks to their incredible hearing and sense of smell. This is why using sound is essential when looking for your lost pet.

Three important sounds that attract lost cats are their cat food, their name, and familiar household sounds. We'll be exploring these in more detail to help you attract your lost kitty.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. 3 Sounds to attract cats when you're searching for them
  3. Cat sounds and what they mean
  4. Can you imitate cat sounds to communicate with them?
  5. FAQs
  6. Final thoughts

3 Sounds to attract cats when you're searching for them

If your kitty has gone missing, or you're trying to call them back for the night, there are some sounds that will attract them. Rather than meowing at the top of your lungs, try the following.

1. Rattling cat food

Cats have incredible hearing abilities and can detect sounds from 4 times the distance humans can (source). Your cat will know certain sounds a lot better than others, and the sound of their cat food will certainly be one of them.
Continually tapping a can of food or rattling a dry food bag can be effective as it will be heard from far away.
Top tip: Remember to use open containers of food to help your cat locate you through their sense of smell.
Lost cat sat next to a food bowl outside looking at the sunset

2. Calling their name

It may sound obvious, but when you're out searching or waiting at home, continuously calling their name will be one of the most effective ways to attract them.
Cats can remember and identify vocal patterns, so if they hear your voice, they'll know it's their loving owner (source.)). This will help if they're frightened, stressed, or disoriented.

3. Familiar household sounds

When my kitty went missing, we recorded the sound of our back door opening. They have always associated this with dinner time.
When we were out searching, we'd constantly play the sound out of our phones, and it worked! Our little orange cat appeared, hopeful for dinner.
If there's a particular sound your cat is attracted to around your home, take a recording of it and use it when you're out searching. It may sound like a long shot, but it worked a treat!
Missing kitten listening to sound waves to find their way home

Cat sounds and what they mean

To know what sounds will attract your cat, it's important to figure out what sounds cats make and what they mean. While we may assume we understand our kitties, they have very specific sounds for specific needs or emotions.

Cat meow

Naturally, only kittens meow. Adult cats grow out of meowing, as it is usually just used as a way to get something like milk, food, or attention.
However, our furry friends have realized just how handy it can be to continue meowing throughout life. Our kitties see us as their parents, meaning they meow even in adulthood to communicate their needs with us.
A meow can mean a lot of things, and you'll come to know exactly what sounds and noises your cat makes and what they mean. Here are a few examples:

High-pitched meow: Often means they are startled or hurt (source).

Low-pitched meow: Signals that they are becoming aggressive or angry, often towards other animals.

Short meow: Experts have agreed that a short meow is a way cats greet their owners (source).

"Our kitties see us as their parents, meaning they meow even in adulthood to communicate their needs with us."

Illustration of a green cat meowing


While we may associate purring with a happy and relaxed kitty, there are some other reasons why our cats begin to vibrate. This includes:

Self-soothing: There has been some research that suggests cats may purr to try and relax (source). This could come after injury or sickness, so always be observant, even if you think your kitty is blissed out.

Wanting something: While you may think most purring sounds the same, the frequencies differ depending on the mood of the cat. If they want food, the frequency is usually higher and more demanding.


Every cat owner knows what hissing means. Although, every kitty is different. Here are some common meanings of a cat hiss:

Warning: A cat may hiss if they're warning you or other animals to stay away or stop interacting with them.

They are hurt: If your cat is in pain or has just received an injury, their natural reaction may be to hiss (especially if you accidentally touch a sensitive area).

Stress: Unwanted attention, loud noises, or new visitors and pets can stress your kitty out, resulting in more hissing.

Protective: If your cat has recently given birth, it's likely they'll be very protective of their kittens. Make sure you don't handle them too early, or you'll risk a hiss (source).

Can you imitate cat sounds to communicate with them?

Unfortunately, despite our many efforts and no matter how uncanny our impressions are, cats won't understand human imitations of meows. But this isn't to say it won't get their attention. However, if you're trying to attract your cat back home, you're better off opting for calling their name in your own voice.
In general, mimicking meows and purring won't do any harm. If anything, your cats will appreciate the effort you're making to interact with them. But avoid hissing at your cat, even if you're trying to discipline them. This can scare, confuse, and distress them and isn't a good tactic for teaching good behavior.
Cat owner sat on the floor with their cat trying to communicate with them


How do you call a cat back home?

The best way to call a cat back home is to repeatedly call their name and shake their food bag. You can also leave their litter box and blankets outside to help them smell their way home too.

What sounds interest cats?

Cats can recognize vocal patterns, so the sound of your voice will be most interesting to them. Alongside this, the sound of food tins opening and bags shaking will also interest them.

Do cats leave home and never return?

Yes, some cats do leave home and never return. This is very rare and is usually because they have recently moved house and gotten lost, become frightened in their current home, or become sick and have run away to find a place to die peacefully.

How do you call a cat to come?

The best way to call a cat to come to you is to get low to the ground so you seem less threatening, extend your arm and make a 'ps ps ps' sound. Don't be too loud or pushy, and respect the cat's decision if they don't want to come to you.

How far can cats smell home?

Cats can smell a scent from 4 miles (6.5km) away! This means the smell of their home can help them find their way back after a long adventure.

How do you attract a scared cat?

To attract a scared cat, you need to stay calm. Cats will be able to sense if you feel agitated and will be reluctant to come to you. Don't pressure the cat to come to you if they are scared. Instead, sit down near them and gently call them to you. Patience is key.

What attracts cats the most?

What attracts a cat most depends entirely on the cat. However, the majority of cats will be most attracted to the smell and sound of food.

Final thoughts

If your cat has run away and you are struggling to attract them, start a PetRadar search. We'll create a digital missing cat poster and use social media to target thousands of your neighbors through sponsored ads.
We've already reunited 8000+ pets, so let us help you. We'll support you every step of the way and offer helpful advice throughout the process.

Written by

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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.

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