Lost & Found Cats

Lost & Found Cats


Losing a cat is extremely frightening, the first tip is to not panic. According to the National Lost Pet Survey, 74% of cats who are lost are successfully recovered. There are concrete steps you can take to effectively recover your cat, but you must also be mindful to tailor your search to your specific cat. How do they respond when people yell or run straight at them? Are they aloof? Will they respond to their name? Swift action, coupled with major neighborhood networking, will increase the odds of recovering your animal. A major factor is to get the word out and not be shy in enlisting help. We have adapted tips from ASPCA and Maddie’s Fund to give an overview of best practices for recovering your animal.

Your cat is missing…tips & tricks

  • A lost cat is likely still close to home, if not still inside, hiding
  • Cats may not act like their indoor self when they escape outside. Cats tend to find the nearest hiding place and stay put until it feels safe or they are hungry enough to return home.
  • Check your property and your neighbors’, including garages and sheds. Use a flashlight with a strong beam to search under and around potential hiding places. The light might reflect off their eyes, revealing their location.
  • Shaking a food dish or treat jar will sometimes lure animals out of a hiding place.

Step 1: Search your home

  • Unless you saw your cat escape outside, don’t immediately assume that your cat is out of the house. Your cat could be hiding in a room or closet that is usually closed or may have found a new hiding space.
  • Make sure to check every room, shelf, closet, drawer, trunk, box, and behind every piece of unmovable furniture. Cats can squeeze into small spaces!

Step 2: Search your yard

  • A lost indoor cat that escaped outdoors is likely within 150 feet of the initial point of escape. More details on why.
  • Think like a cat: Imagine you’re a foot tall and searching for a place to hide. Where is the closest place you could run for cover? Use this thought process everywhere you search inside and outside your home. Did kitty run under the deck or porch? Is there an open grate that goes under the house? Do you see a line of bushes your cat could hide in?
  • Do not assume a normally gregarious cat will come when called. When frightened, cats silently hide.
  • If possible, leave the door or window the cat escaped out of open. They will most likely feel safest to come out of hiding once the sun sets and will return home along the same route he or she escaped.
  • Since this may not be possible due to other pets or safety concerns, consider placing a humane cat trap near your cat’s escape route. Traps are available to borrow at the Humane Society of Charlotte to help recover your cat. We realize setting a trap sounds drastic and a little scary, but if kitty is unable to reenter your house overnight, you may never know he or she attempted to come home. By placing a trap near this exit/entrance point, you may discover kitty waiting for you in the trap when you wake up in the morning.
  • Search during the day, lure at night. Only leave food out inside a humane trap, that way you will know who (or what) is eating the food when you check a few hours later or in the morning.

Step 3: Expand the search

If your cat is accustomed to an indoor/outdoor living, you may want to start with a larger search radius since she may be more comfortable outside than your typical indoor-only cat. A spooked indoor or outdoor cat may run further from home before finding a place to hide. Expand your search radius to about 500 feet from home.

Step 4: Report your lost cat to your microchipping company

Microchipping can reunite you with your cat if he or she is brought to a clinic or shelter. If your cat is microchipped, contact your microchip company and let them know your cat is lost and make sure your contact information is up to date so you will be called if the cat is recovered. If you have your cat’s chip number but don’t know the company to look up information, you can find this through the Universal Pet Lookup.

Step 5: Talk to your neighbors

  • Have you looked around your yard at the most obvious places your cat could have run to for cover?
  • Did this include places in your neighbor’s yard?
  • Do they have a garage door that may have been open when they took the trash out and is now closed?
  • What about their hedges, crawlspaces, and deck?
  • Ask if you can walk into your neighbor’s yards to check for your cat or if they would mind opening their garage door so you can take a quick look for kitty inside. You are the key figure here; you will look more thoroughly for your cat than neighbors, and receive greater peace of mind if you perform the search.

Step 6: Make Flyers

Post flyers in your neighborhood to get the word out that you are actively searching for your cat.

Make sure to include key information such as:

  • Color photo with a brief description of color, hair length, or distinguishing marks. If you do not have a photo, the description is a MUST.
  • Phrases like…
    • Do Not Chase
    • Call upon sighting: Do not approach
    • Please call or text a photo to [number here]
  • A cell phone where you can be reached/texted at any time

Before you post any signs, make sure they will draw attention. If you printed it out on white paper, tape it to a large florescent piece of poster board to draw the eye. Post signs where they can be seen by drivers. Use websites like Canva to help make a flyer with photo included, but you can also make flyers using any text program or writing directly onto a bright poster board.

Step 7: Social Media

Utilize social media!

  • Next Door allows you to quickly connect with and inform multiple neighbors at once in a large area
  • Lost and Found Pets-Charlotte group page is a Facebook group that shares local lost pet information
  • Craig’s list local lost and found pet listings
  • Check Animal Care and Control’s website
  • We’ve partnered with Petco Love Lost to help pets reunite with their families. Petco Love Lost is a free, easy-to-use national resource, using patented pet facial recognition technology to make it easier than ever to find possible matches for lost and found pets. You can share photos of your lost cat to Petco Love Lost and check their found cats page to see if your cat has been found by someone in the community.

Step 8: Contact Animal Control

In Mecklenburg County, please call 311 or click here to file a missing cat report with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control within hours of discovering your cat’s disappearance. You can also visit CMPD Animal Care & Control in person at 8315 Byrum Drive, Charlotte, NC, 28217.  Due to space restrictions, Animal Care & Control holds animals for three days only, hence why filing a report quickly is so important.

It’s worth noting that cats may end up at the shelter weeks or months after they are lost. There are well-publicized cases where a missing cat reunited with their owner years later! A cat may be hiding and too frightened to move about much, and when she finally develops a new outdoor routine she may be caught by a well-intentioned neighbor who sees a hungry or fearful cat.

Occasionally, a cat may hitch a ride in a car, truck, or moving-van and a cat may end up in another part of town, a neighbor’s workplace, or at a nearby gas station. This is uncommon but does happen. Filing a report with animal care and control where the cat disappeared will help if the cat has been transported to another area within the same jurisdiction.

You can also email your Lost Cat flyer to CMPD Animal Care & Control at accfacebook6@gmail.com and it will be posted on the Animal Care & Control Facebook page as soon as possible. Lost animal pictures can also be sent via a private Facebook message along with contact information and where the cat was lost/last seen.

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If you believe you found a lost cat, you must contact Animal Control to report your find. Keep in mind when you find a friendly cat that she may well belong to a neighbor who desperately wants her back. Since lost cats may take time to stop hiding, the condition of a found cat may not reflect the love and care their owner gave them. Please give an owner a chance to reclaim the cat before claiming it as your own. You can also check neighborhood social media posts or even post about your find to see if any neighbors recognize the kitty.

Many outdoor, community cats do not have owners. One way to tell the difference between a community cat, who is accustomed to outdoor life, and a lost owned cat is appearance. If a cat looks healthy and is ear-tipped, it is less likely to be a missing cat (some ear-tipped cats may have been adopted into a new nearby home). A lost pet cat is more likely to be dirty, matted, and possess protruding ribs due to starvation. If the cat is healthy but unowned, it likely needs the spay/neuter services of our TNR program.


Microchipping can reunite you with your cat if he or she is brought to a clinic or shelter. If your cat is microchipped, contact your microchip company and let them know your cat is lost and make sure your contact information is up to date so you will be called if the cat is recovered. If you have your cat’s chip number but don’t know the company to look up information, you can find this through the Universal Pet Lookup.

A microchip is not a form of GPS but has to be scanned much like a barcode. When your cat is recovered, or if you currently have pets in need of a microchip, low-cost microchipping is available at Essential Care, our pet wellness clinic.

What else?

You can also visit the following resources:

Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 130A-192 requires “If the animal is a dog or cat, the finder or approved rescue organization shall hold the animal for the 72-hour holding period provided for in subsection (a) of this section or such longer holding period that may be applicable to the shelter by ordinance or local rule”.

If you are unable to retain the lost cat in your home, please call 311. In some cases, if the animal is sick/injured or very young, CMPD Animal Care & Control will send an officer to your location to pick up the animal; or you may bring the lost cat directly to Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control, located at 8315 Byrum Dr., Charlotte NC 28217. The Humane Society of Charlotte is unable to shelter lost or stray animals.

If the cat has not been reunited with its’ owner after the 72 hours in shelter holding period or the 14 day in-home holding period: you may continue holding the cat, privately rehome, or contact other area rescue organizations who may assist with alternative placement, or you may bring the cat to the AC&C shelter who will attempt every method possible in creating a positive outcome.