Chicago's no-kill shelter for cats, rabbits and dogs

Finding Your Lost Cat

If an indoor-only cat escapes outside, it can be challenging to find him or her. Understanding the behavior of a lost cat will help you in your search.

Once outside, indoor-only cats will not come when called. They will not answer an owner’s call and they will not necessarily meow until the seventh or tenth day. They will not show themselves, will not emerge during daylight hours, and will not allow themselves to be seen or found during this time. If you do get a glimpse of your cat, he or she may flee. This behavior can continue up to 7 weeks, or possibly longer.

Most lost indoor-only cats are usually hiding within a two-to-three-house radius of their home. They hide in sewers, under storage buildings, between fences, under decks, and in basements—in the smallest and most unlikely places you can imagine. No place should be dismissed as “too small” for a cat to hide in. These cats are frightened and often revert to feral-like behaviors: hiding, staying quiet, and not moving.

Tips to Find a Lost Cat

  1. Set humane traps. It is imperative that you begin trapping as soon as possible after losing your cat. Set at least two traps strategically placed, baited, and set nightly for at least 4 weeks. Tuna works as a good bait.
  2. Inform as many people as possible and ask them to be on the lookout for your cat. Distribute flyers to every house in a three-block radius. Post larger flyers on each block. Get everyone involved. Talk with your postman, paperboy, neighbors, and kids.
  3. Search day and night in your yard and nearby yards. Be sure to bring a flashlight to look under decks and in dark, cramped spaces.
  4. Drop off flyers at nearby vet offices and other animal-friendly businesses.
  5. Contact local rescue groups and visit your animal care and control facility.
  6. Post your cat’s information at and
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