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Home > Cats > How Does a Lost Cat Behave? Vet-Reviewed Considerations & FAQ

How Does a Lost Cat Behave? Vet-Reviewed Considerations & FAQ

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Nobody wants to lose a cat and no cat wants to get lost. Unfortunately, any cat can get lost and have a hard time finding their home and family again. Even cats that are kept inside can find a way out of the house. Everyone should know how a lost cat behaves so we can identify that they’re lost and can help them reunite with their families if possible. Here is everything that you should know about how lost cats behave and how you can help them find their way back home again.

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The 3 Types of Lost Cats to Consider

Not all cats behave in the same way when they get lost. A cat’s lost behavior depends on how they lived before getting lost. Knowing the three types of lost cats will help you understand how they might act while lost so you can better identify how to help them.

1. The Indoor-Only Cat

Cats that spend all their time indoors aren’t familiar with any outdoor territory, even the yard that’s immediately around the house. Therefore, if they happen to get out, maybe through a window or a cracked door, they are not likely to feel safe or know exactly what they should do.

Indoor cats that get lost outdoors typically run to a nearby concealed space, where they can hide from possible predators. Their instinct would be to stay there, sometimes for days, without making a sound to ensure that they won’t get detected by dogs and other dangerous animals or even strange people. Indoor-only cats usually won’t even meow from their hiding spot even if their owners are calling their names nearby. Therefore, you likely won’t spot an indoor cat that has been lost.

british short hair cat shot indoors
Image By: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

2. The Displaced Indoor/Outdoor Cat

Cats that are allowed to spend some of their time outdoors are usually more comfortable with wandering and exploring than strictly indoor cats would be. When a cat that has access to the outdoors gets away — such as during transport to the veterinarian — they are considered displaced, not lost. But the chance of a displaced cat finding their way back home on their own is slim.

These cats may hide like indoor cats would when getting lost, but they are not usually so afraid that they won’t make noise or come out of their hiding spot to find food or investigate a situation. Therefore, you may see a displaced kitty looking for a way to survive in unfamiliar territory. The cat might come out to see if they recognize you as part of their family or meow at you as if asking for help. They may act skittish but shows signs of having a home.


3. The Lost Indoor/Outdoor Cat

An indoor/outdoor cat is considered lost instead of displaced when they run far enough away from home that they cannot find their way back. This can occur when a predator chases them or when loud noises like fireworks and lightning happen. In cases like this, cats are typically afraid and can be aggressive. They might act like a lost indoor-only cat or a displaced cat that has access to the outdoors. They are typically used to people, so they might come out to get food that you offer or even enter the safety of a kennel, in hopes of being transported back home.

fat tabby cat standing outdoor
Image By: Li Lin, Unsplash

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How to Help a Lost Cat When You Identify One

There are many things that you can do to help a lost cat reunite with their home and family. First, try to contain the cat for their safety until their owner can be found or a rescue center can get involved. You can do this by putting a kennel out and placing food inside the kennel. Leave the door open and move away from the kennel, then wait. Eventually, the cat should go inside the kennel in search of food, and then you can close the door.

Outfit the kennel with a blanket and water to ensure their comfort until they can be relocated back home or to a more secure place. Always be gentle, calm, and quiet when trying to contain a lost cat. Speak in a low voice, and use slow movements so as not to scare the kitty. If you cannot safely contain the cat, contact the Humane Society so they can come out to do the retrieving.

Once the cat is safely contained, look for flyers and signs on store windows and posts around town to see if someone is trying to find the cat. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a flyer and be able to call the owner directly so the reunion can take place. If you can’t find any flyers or signs, take the cat to the veterinarian to see if they can find a microchip.

If a microchip is in place, the vet should be able to contact the cat’s owner. If no microchip is available for scanning, you have a choice to make: Take the cat home to care for them until you find the owner, or take them to a rescue center and let them handle the issue. If you decide to take the cat home, you can post flyers or even hire a pet detective through the Missing Animal Response website to help you figure out who the cat’s owner is.

You can also place an advertisement in the newspaper and turn to social media to search for leads to the cat’s owner. Don’t give up hope; there are local Humane Societies and rescue centers available to support your efforts, so it is a good idea to keep in close contact with them.

cat hiding outside
Image By: Maciej Czekajewski, Shutterstock

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Identifying a lost cat on the streets is a sad situation, but with a little effort and diligence, you may be able to reunite the cat with their worried family members. Consider what you would do if you lost your cat when determining where and how you should be looking for the owners of the lost cat that you found. Don’t forget to seek the assistance of a Humane Society or rescue center if you need help caring for the cat and finding their rightful owner.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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