Lost Cat specific advice
This is an extremely important step in finding a missing cat and is often overlooked.
Perform a thorough search of your own property.
Search your own property (inside and out) thoroughly. A cat who has been spooked can hide in silence in a cupboard or under a bed and be mistaken for missing.
Search your local area
When cats go missing it is very common that they are within a 5 house radius of their usual territory and are generally hiding in silence.
Therefore we recommend that you also search, with the owner’s consent, the properties within a 5 house radius of your cats territory (many cats territory is their own backyard). Be sure to look “in and under” e.g. in sheds, under decks etc as these are common places that cats will hide.
Try searching at night
Cats may also venture out of their hiding place at night – try performing a night time search using a spotlight to try and pick up your cat's eye glow.
Search quietly and calmly
Avoid calling for your cat, banging tins of cat food with a spoon etc. A hiding cat is already frightened, and noise (even familiar sounds like their name being called by their favourite human) typically just frightens them more so they are even less likely to come out.
Cats can hide for a long time
If you don’t find your cat straight away, don’t be discouraged. It is common for a cat to hide for 3-10 days before finally feeling calm enough (and hungry enough!) to venture out. We recommend you perform a thorough search of the area every 24-48 hours for the first 2 weeks.
Ask around - what was happening in your cat’s territory on the day they went missing? Were there tradespeople working in the area – either at your home or at a neighbouring property?
If so, your cat may be hunkered down in their van, completely unknown to the tradesperson. Chase down these leads by asking the tradie to have a thorough (looking ‘in and under’) search of their vehicle.
Animal control do not house cats as they do for dogs (i.e. there is no council pound for cats).
However, in the event that your cat has been hit by a car and is deceased, the council may pick these animals up.
For this reason we recommend you contact your local council to enquire as to whether a cat matching your missing cats description has been found deceased.
In situations where you know where your cat is, but cannot get to them - e.g. hiding deep under a deck and won’t come out or spotted repeatedly in a neighbour's yard, a humane cat trap may be useful to get your missing cat home.
Humane cat traps should only ever be set if you have a good reason to suspect your cat is likely to be caught in the trap. They should not be set “just in case”.
Sourcing the trap
Humane cat traps can be purchased, hired, or are sometimes available from local cat rescue groups.
Be sure to use a smelly food that your cat likes for bait (e.g. tinned cat food).
Other animals can be caught in the trap too
- It is common that other cats (pets, stray or feral) may be caught in the trap
- Other animals, such as possums, may also be attracted to the food and caught in the trap
While being caught in a humane trap does not hurt the animal, it can be frightening and distressing to them.
If traps are used inappropriately they can become dangerous (e.g. trapping an animal with no shade on a hot day can lead to death, which can lead to you being prosecuted for animal cruelty).
Inform the property owners and neighbours of the trap
- Have consent of the property owner to trap on their property. This person should know exactly when the trap is going to be set, where the trap is located, when you will be checking the trap, and how to contact you if they need to.
- Inform the neighbouring properties of what is going on (if trapping in a residential area). There are likely to be outdoor cats living in the area, and it is best that these cats are kept temporarily indoors while the trap is set to avoid being caught.
Monitor the trap in accordance with the law
- According to the 1999 Animal Welfare act (section 36 ‘obligations relating to traps’) any person who sets a trap to try to live capture a cat must inspect that trap (or have another competent person inspect the trap) within 12 hours of sunrise on each day the trap is set, beginning immediately after the day on which the trap is first set. You should be familiar with your responsibilities under the Act before you set the trap. Failure to adequately monitor the trap is a punishable offence under the Act.
- While the above is the minimum legal requirement for checking traps, we recommend you check the traps more frequently than this. If a trap has been set overnight, we recommend you check it first thing in the morning. If a trap is set during the day, we recommend that you check it every 3-6 hours. You may need to enlist the assistance of other people e.g. the owner of the property where the trap is set, in order to monitor it appropriately.
- Tools such as a baby monitor or a wildlife/trail camera can help you monitor the trap. Even better, you may be able to set up a ‘hide’ to watch the trap yourself.
- Be mindful of the weather before setting a trap. Do not set a trap in an area with no shade/shelter if very cold, wet, or hot weather is expected.
Using a trap is a big responsibility.
Always ensure you have carefully read the trap instructions, understand how it works, and have a solid plan for monitoring and checking the trap.