Using a Cat Detective: The Pros and Cons Owners Need to Know

Key takeaways

Finding lost cats can be extremely stressful, emotional, and traumatic. There are many ways to go about it, but a more unique option is to hire a private cat detective. It sounds like the basis for a comedy film, but it's a genuinely effective search method.

Cat detectives use a combination of expert animal behavior knowledge and search and rescue tactics to help locate your kitty.

As always, there are pros and cons to hiring a detective. We explore whether this could be the right option for you before offering our expert advice on how to find your kitty.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. How does a cat detective find your missing cat?
  3. Pros of using a cat detective
  4. Cons of using a cat detective
  5. Top 3 most effective ways to find a lost cat
  6. FAQs
  7. Final thoughts

How does a cat detective find your missing cat?

Cat detectives are experts in their field. They combine their extensive knowledge of cat behavior with thorough search methods. But how exactly do they find lost cats? Let's look at some of their methods.

Create a personality profile

In order to understand your kitty's motives and behavior, a cat detective will put together a personality profile. They will likely ask you questions like:

Is your cat timid or sociable?

Are they indoor only or outdoor as well?

Are they adventurous?

How do they normally spend their days?

Where do they normally go?

Do they frequent neighbors' houses?

This basic understanding of your cat's personality will inform the detective's strategy.
Funny looking cat wearing a hat indicating its unique personality

Gather information

Once they have put together an overview of your kitty, they'll start to gather more general information. This can include:

Information about your area

Information about your neighbors

The kind of environment they're used to

Whether any changes have taken place in their routine

This will start to paint a picture of why and how your kitty has gone missing. Whether a new pet has spooked them or predators have been chasing them.
The reason will often influence your cat's behavior, so it's an essential step to being reunited. In this stage, the detective will also often chat to your neighbors about potential sightings.
Image of cat detective thinking about all the information about the missing cat

Thorough physical search

The next step is a thorough physical search. Based on the information they have gathered, they will build up a picture of the area, clues, and the likely steps your kitty has taken.
They will be on the lookout for signs of your cat as well as actual sightings. The search will often begin close to home, ticking off any obvious places, before venturing further afield.
Cat detective searching for a lost cat in the dark with a flashlight

Set up humane traps

If your detective thinks they may have found an area of interest or signs that your cat has been in a particular place, they will set up humane traps to try and catch them.
These tools are safe and harmless, which means that even when you're sleeping, proactive steps are being taken.
Part of this might include setting up wildlife cameras in specific areas to monitor the activity around a trap. If nothing can be seen, they will likely try another area.
Orange cat inside a humane trap outside

Distribute flyers and utilize social media

Alongside constant physical searches, a detective will also make and distribute missing cat posters and flyers to spread the message to as many people as possible.
They will also use social media, which can be extra effective in reaching as many people as possible. A service like PetRadar's is a popular choice.
After selecting the radius of neighbors you'd like to reach, we will set up a sponsored ad campaign for your missing kitty. This features a digital missing cat poster that will pop up as a paid ad on your neighbors' Instagram and Facebook feeds.
A cat owner posting about their missing cat on social media

Pros of using a cat detective

So far, this all sounds great, right? Let's take a look at some of the pros of investing in a cat detective to see if it's the right choice for you.

1. Time saver

If you're a busy person with a tight schedule, making the time to search for your furry friend can be difficult. Alternatively, if you have small kids or travel for work, then it can be nearly impossible to start an effective search.
Knowing somebody is invested in finding your kitty can put your mind at rest. The less stress, the better!
Image of a clock showing the passage of time

2. They are effective

It's no surprise that with the amount of effort, time, and knowledge of lost cat behavior, you're likely to be reunited with your kitty. A pet detective can be a one-stop shop for all your search needs. If you want to focus on a physical search, they can take over the posters and social media campaigns. And vice versa.
This duo of dedicated searching proves very effective. There have been stories of the Cats Protection detectives reuniting cats from miles away.
Recently, they managed to reunite a cat found in Essex that had been missing for 4 years with their owner, who lived in Manchester (source). This is an incredible achievement and one unlikely to have happened without the help of expert cat detectives!
A happy cat owner reunited with their lost cat

3. They can track pet theft

The awful truth is that many pets are stolen. If you have a pure breed, the likelihood is that they are very valuable. Unfortunately, there are people out there who profit from selling our furry friends.
Without prior knowledge of how this works, it can be extremely difficult to try and track down a theft if you suspect that's what has happened.
A pet detective is well-versed in this criminal underworld and will know exactly what steps to take and how to go about finding your little buddy.
Police officer taking a report of a stolen cat

Cons of using a cat detective

Like everything in life, there are cons. It's important you understand these before investing in a pet detective service.

1. They are expensive

While every company differs in their pricing, it's common for most cat detective services to cost around $100 an hour (source). This means a 10-hour search could rack up a hefty $1000 bill (source).
This is a huge investment, especially when you'll often need longer than 10 hours to find your kitty.

2. Finding your pet is not guaranteed

Unfortunately, it's not a money-back situation. You could potentially invest thousands of dollars to find your furry friend with no result.
While it's guaranteed to improve the chances of finding your kitty, it's not guaranteed you will be reunited.

3. It's not continuous

The most important element of searching for a missing cat is consistency. Which is why, at PetRadar, we won't stop advertising your missing kitty until they are found. Unfortunately, unless you have an endless amount of money, your pet detective won't stick around for long.
It's likely you'll agree on a number of hours to start off with, and once this is exceeded, they will continue until you choose to end the service.
This means if your kitty isn't found in the first search, then you'll no longer have the help of a pet detective for the rest of the search.

“The most important element of searching for a missing cat is consistency.”

Top 3 most effective ways to find a lost cat

There are plenty of alternative and effective options to find missing cats if you don't think a pet detective is the right option for you.

1. Lure your cat back home

If your cat has become displaced, meaning they are outside of their territory and disoriented, then helping them figure out their way home can be very effective. To do this, you can tap into their incredible homing abilities.
Try leaving items outside your house that have a strong smell, especially items with their scent on. This can include food, treats, a litter box, blankets, toys, and scratch posts. Cats can smell a scent from an incredibly 4 miles (6.5km) away, so this will help them find you again.
Their hearing is also very impressive, so keeping windows and doors open to help them hear the familiar sounds of the household will also be helpful. After all, they can recognize vocal patterns, so your voice should attract them back home.
A bowl of cat food placed outside as a lure

2. Keep searching

Don't give up the physical search. It's been documented in many recent studies that a thorough physical search is the most effective way to find your cat and find them alive.
If they are sick or injured, it's unlikely they're trying to find their way home. Instead, they will settle in a safe hiding place. So, the only way to find them again is to keep searching.
Top Tip: Indoor cats hide in the smallest and most secretive places in your home. Be sure you have thoroughly checked your house before starting an outdoor search.
Person searching for clues of their lost cat in their yard

3. Use social media

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, especially for contacting a community. There will likely be Facebook and WhatsApp groups set up for your area to help neighbors contact and update each other.
Make sure you join these groups to spread the message of your missing kitty. In your post, be sure to include:

Photo of your whole cat's body

Close-up photos of memorable physical traits

Description of your cat

Description of your cat's temperament

Where you live

Where they like to go

Alongside this, you can use paid advertisements on Facebook and Instagram to spread the message to thousands of people living in close proximity to you. Start a PetRadar search now to see just how many people you can reach.
Image of a social media post about a lost cat


How much does a pet detective cost?

The cost of a pet detective ranges depending on the company. However, in general, they usually cost around $100 an hour, meaning a 10-hour search could rack up a $1000 bill.

How effective are pet detectives?

Pet detectives are very effective in finding your lost pets. They use their expert knowledge of pet behavior and classic search and rescue methods to make sure you are reunited with your furry friend.

How far do cats roam when lost?

The average roaming distance for a cat is only a few hundred meters. However, when they are lost, they can roam anywhere upwards of 2 miles a day, so it's important to search further afield.

What are the chances of finding a lost cat?

At PetRadar we have a 68% success rate, so you have a high chance of finding your lost cat with us.

Can cats find their way home if lost?

Cats have incredible homing abilities, meaning they can find their way home if they are lost. However, if they become disoriented outside of their normal territory, they may find it a lot more difficult to find their way home.

Why do cats go missing for weeks?

Cats can go missing for weeks for lots of different reasons. Some common ones include:

Sickness or injury

Disruption to their environment or routine

Being chased or threatened out of their territory[[/faq-answer]]

How to find a lost cat?

A thorough physical search is the most effective way to find a lost cat. Alongside this, you should also distribute missing cat posters, use social media, and take steps to lure your cat back home.

How do I find my lost outdoor cat?

Finding a lost outdoor cat can be tricky as they are more adventurous than indoor kitties. Start with a thorough physical search in your immediate area and then gradually extend the radius of the search. Make sure to contact local animal shelters and vets to see if your kitty has been handed in.

Final thoughts

Whether you use a cat detective or not depends on your personal situation. They can be a fantastic option if you are short on time. But if you can't bring yourself to spend that amount of money, you can be just as effective searching yourself.
We have reunited 8000+ so far, and this is only increasing. As well as organizing and executing a social media campaign for you, we also support you emotionally through this tricky time. We know just how difficult it can be. A cat is a family member, and we'll do all we can to get them home safely.

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