Understanding lost cat behaviour
Understanding how a lost cat behaves is crucial for increasing the chances of finding them. When a cat is new to an area due to a recent move or being a rescue pet, their behaviour will differ from how they act at home. The cat will likely feel frightened and insecure in an unfamiliar territory, triggering their instinct to hide as quickly as possible.
In a new area, the cat won’t encounter familiar smells and will be in a territory marked by other cats, which can make them feel unsafe. As a result, they will seek out the first available hiding place and remain there. Contrary to instinct, a frightened cat will not keep running, as it would be alarming for them to be visible in another cat’s territory.
The cat’s primary instinct is to find safety by hiding close to home, staying silent. It is likely that a cat in a new area will not venture far and will probably hide within a 100-meter radius or around five houses from their home. Their overriding goal is to find the first hiding place they come across and stay there in silence.
Here are some actions you must take
Provide Shelter, Food, Water, and Familiar Scents: Immediately place fresh food and water outside your home or in a sheltered area nearby. Set up a sturdy box with a towel that carries your scent or your cats blanket(unwashed) and other items that are familiar to your cat. Cats heavily rely on their sense of smell, so this can guide them back to you. Leaving food and shelter may encourage your cat to return, even if you are not present. Leave a window or door open if possible, the smell of home could lure them back.
Search and Call Persistently: As soon as you realize your cat is missing, begin searching and calling for them. Repeat this process every day for several weeks. Focus your search efforts in the immediate vicinity of your home within a five-house radius. Also, explore parallel roads, but be cautious not to inadvertently lead your cat further away. Stop, wait, and call for a significant amount of time, using your normal voice to reassure your cat that it’s safe. Cats are highly sensitive to even the slightest hint of anxiety.
Lost cat after newly moving home
A newly moved-in cat is likely to be nearby but extremely frightened and panicked. They will not immediately respond to your calls as their instinct is to protect themselves from any perceived threat. Timid cats may remain in hiding for an extended period, while bolder ones might respond within hours or days. It often takes several days or even ten to twelve days for cats to emerge from hiding in search of food and water.
Best Time to Search: It is important to search and call regularly throughout the day. However, conducting your search during the night time significantly increases the chances of your cat responding. The ideal time is when it’s quiet and most people have gone to bed. Call frequently in your garden overnight and, when searching on the street near your home, ensure you have someone accompanying you for safety. Carry cat treats, a tin of strong-smelling food like sardines, and a cat carrier (hidden if it might scare your cat). When you find your cat, be prepared for their panicked reaction, as they may struggle and scratch.
Lost cat advise
Why search when it’s dark and quiet?
Cats feel safer in the dark, making them more likely to leave their hiding place and respond to your calls.
The cat will be less afraid of noise, as human activity and traffic will be significantly reduced.
Sound travels longer distances at night, increasing the likelihood of your cat hearing your calls.
Remember to be patient, wait, and repeat your search efforts. Your cat’s behaviour has nothing to do with their love for you, recognition of your voice, or ability to smell you—it is solely driven by their instinct to hide when frightened. If your cat is bold enough, you may hear them respond, particularly if they are nearby and shut in. Night time is when sound travels further, and cats tend to feel safer, making them slightly more willing to venture out.