If You've Lost Your Outdoor Cat...

Having your outdoor cat go missing can be a very traumatic experience.  We are here to help however we can! These tips can help increase the odds of you being safely and quickly reunited. 


If you adopted your cat from MAC, please contact us at (423) 305-6500×3. We will send out a Facebook alert to our followers, as well as share the information with our staff and volunteers.

Check Your Local Surroundings

Cats are territorial, so outdoor-only and indoor/outdoor cats generally do not run away from home just to explore, like a dog might. When they don’t come home, it’s typically because something has interrupted their normal behavioral patterns and they either can’t make it back home or they are too frightened to try.


Perhaps a dog, a new cat or some other threat chased the cat out of her normal territory – she may end up a quarter of a mile to a mile away from home (unlike indoor-only cats who tend to hide no more than 2-3 houses away). 


Once she stops and finds herself in an unfamiliar place she will generally find a safe, dark, quiet place to hide and wait for the threat to pass. For some cats, particularly those who are more timid, this hiding stage could take days or even weeks. 


Alternatively, she may have been unintentionally removed from her normal territory by a Good Samaritan who thought she was abandoned, or by a vehicle she was resting in. Until you know for sure which it was, it’s important to conduct thorough and frequent physical searches under porches, in garages and sheds, under bushes throughout your entire neighborhood, (bearing in mind that cats are likely to feel safest coming out of hiding or announcing their locations at night and in the early morning, when it’s quiet), use posters and social media to spread the word and ensure as many people are looking for her as possible.  Don’t give up!


Important Note: You may get advice to put your cat’s litterbox, food or similar items outside to lure your cat back home. Unfortunately, doing this may actually attract other cats and wildlife to the area, making your cat feel even more threatened.  A better option is to put out articles of clothing, blankets, etc. that carry your scent and will smell familiar only to her.


If your cat has been chased out of her territory and is hiding, it may take several days or longer before she feels hungry and thirsty enough to risk leaving her hiding spot. If you suspect you know where she is hiding but can’t coax her to come out, setting up a humane trap to catch her when she does can be an effective way of capturing her – please call us at (423) 305-6500 x3 for information on renting a trap.

Spread the Word

File lost pet reports immediately with local animal shelters, veterinary offices, pet supply stores, anywhere that “animal people” might congregate. 


Be sure to visit local shelters in person to view their animal populations, since your description of your animal may not match someone else’s (for example, while you may know your cat is clearly a Russian Blue, she may have been entered into the shelter’s software system as a grey, or your buff tabby may been described by someone else as orange).  The only way for you to know for sure is to view every cat yourself, and do so regularly, every few days.


If you are posting lost pet flyers (remember that your indoor-only cat is likely to be hiding just feet away from your house, not across town), you will likely have better response by using language like “REWARD” or “PET NEEDS MEDICATION” than just “LOST PET”. 


Be sure there is a clear picture of your pet on the sign, and remember that collars, etc. could have fallen off. If possible, hold back one or more distinguishing features (like an old scar) that you could use to verify whether someone calling about obtaining the reward actually has your pet. 

Leverage the Power of the Internet

Try to post your lost pet on as many local website as possible.  In addition to “lost pet” sites, post on your local neighborhood facebook groups (like North Chattanooga Neighbors) and any other community pages.  Be sure to use a recent, clear picture of your pet, and if there is more than one animal on your photo be sure the one lost is easily identified.  

There are many social media sites in the area devoted to helping lost pet owners, including:

Other excellent options are to post your lost pet information on Pawboost.com, which will alert local Facebook followers, and on the Nextdoor app.

While it’s good to spread the word about lost pets, keep in mind that your indoor cat is lily to be very close to home, so you are likely to have the greatest success by alerting your neighbors and other locals.  

For more information and tips visit:  https://www.missinganimalresponse.com/lost-cat-behavior/