wikiHow to Avoid Losing Your Cat

Every year, millions of cats become lost, and many are never reunited with their people. This article will help you avoid losing your cat in the first place, and have the best chance of being reunited should something happen.


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    Get your cat microchipped at a vet clinic or animal shelter. This is the best way to ensure that, if your cat ever becomes lost, you will be reunited. A microchip is a tiny radio transmitter that is inserted under the skin and remains there for the rest of the cat's life. If your cat ever shows up at a vet or animal shelter, they will scan for the chip, retrieve your information, and contact you.
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    Identify your cat using a cat-safe collar at all times. Make sure your phone number is clearly readable on the ID tag. Cat-safe collars either have break-away latches or elastic to allow the cat to escape should they become caught on something.
    • Putting a collar on your cat tells strangers at a glance that your cat has a home. Without one, someone could take your cat home assuming it is an unloved stray.
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    Check the collar often to be certain the tag is readable and the latches are working. Take this time to check how tight it is around the cat's neck. If you have a growing kitten or your cat has been packing on the pounds, you will need to loosen the collar so it is comfortable.
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    Keep your cat as an indoor cat. Cats that are allowed to roam outside live, on average, less than half as long as indoor cats. Many simply disappear one day, and their owners never know what happened to them. In addition to the many dangers like cars, other animals, and disease that can hurt or kill your cat, an indoor cat that gets out is likely to stay much closer to home than an outdoor cat who becomes lost. This makes finding them much easier if they do turn up missing.
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    Take photos of your cat in case it becomes lost. These can be invaluable for use on flyers and handing out at animal shelters and vet clinics. Try to take color photos that show off visual identifiers like unusual markings, face shape, and coat pattern. If your cat is lost, local vets may be able to recognize your cat if someone brings it in as their own, and animal shelters will have an easier time figuring out which of the 15 brown tabbies is yours.
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    Use a leash and harness when outdoors. Some cats learn to walk on a leash and can be taken for strolls, while for others this is a safe way to let them explore the backyard. Always attach the leash to a harness designed for cats (not a collar) and make sure it is properly adjusted to avoid injury.
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    Always transport your cat in a sturdy carrier when leaving the house to prevent escapes and protect them in the car. Place an absorbent towel in the bottom of the carrier, and provide food and water for long trips.
    • Use a towel or blanket that smells familiar if possible. Try putting it in the bottom of the cat's favorite bed a few days before any car trips so it can acquire her smell.
    • Many cats will object to carriers at first, especially if they come to associate them with uncomfortable trips to the vet. Make the carrier less threatening by leaving it out with the door open when you are home, and hide treats and toys inside, even if your annual vet visit is months away. If the cat comes to see the carrier as a fun place to hide, it will make using one much easier.
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    Don't tempt your cat to escape by leaving doors or windows with torn screens open. Once they learn a way out, they can sneak out much quicker. Fix the hole in the fence before they realize how exciting life on the other side is. When opening the door, deter your cats from coming too close; train them to stay at least 5 feet (1.5 m) back. This makes answering the door much less stressful!
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    Train your cat to come on command, if you can. If she escapes or becomes lost, she will know to come back when you call.
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    Use a cat playpen to give your cat some fresh air and entertainment. You can find these in specialty stores or online. Provide shade, water, and a soft bed in the pen. Always monitor your cat when she is outside, either by doing something nearby (this can be a great way to entertain your cat while gardening), or by staying near a window with a good view of her. Never leave a cat unattended outside.
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    Instruct temporary caregivers to keep the cat inside, watch doors and windows, and show them how to use the carrier in case of an emergency. Be sure to note any bad habits ("He always bolts for the back door when I open it!"). Leave emergency numbers like your regular vet, emergency clinic, and local shelters, so the caregiver can contact them if the cat becomes lost or sick.
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    Be especially careful during stressful times like holidays, family upheavals, and weather extremes: a cat that is normally relaxed may behave in unusual ways when stressed.
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    Do everything you can to find your cat if he goes missing. Most importantly:
    • Search your area, checking known hiding places as well as other areas that would interest him. Look in small, dark places like under decks, in garden sheds,etc. Call his name, and listen closely in case he is calling back (often the case with scared or trapped cats).
    • Contact your local vets, shelters, and animal control, providing them with photos or distinguishing marks, and the animal's microchip ID number.
    • Post flyers in your area with multiple pictures of your cat, distinguishing marks and behaviors, and your contact information. You may wish to offer a reward.
    • Leave a live trap near your house with your cat's favorite, smelliest food inside. Animal control and shelters will usually rent or lend these traps for short term use, or you can purchase them at big box hardware stores. Check the trap frequently, and be sure to release any unwanted visitors a safe distance away (skunks and raccoons are notorious for finding their way into these kinds of traps).


  • An indoor cat can still enjoy the outdoors in an open window (with a secure screen), in an outdoor pen, or on a leash and harness. The key is to keep them away from dangers and very close to home.
  • Have a carrier for each cat you own so you can transport them all at the same time if necessary.
  • For any carrier or enclosure, always check the spacing of any wire to make certain it is small enough to confine the cat and not trap a head or paw.
  • Update your microchip registry any time your contact information changes. You can usually do this by contacting the manufacturer of your microchip. If your phone number changes, be sure to get new ID tags with the new phone number.
  • Even indoor cats should be kept up to date on important vaccines like rabies and distemper(FVRCP) in case they get lost and exposed to infected animals. Talk to your vet to decide which vaccines are right for your cat.
  • When spayed, cats can sometimes receive a spay tattoo during the surgery. This alerts shelters that the cat has been spayed so they don't try to perform the surgery again if the cat comes in as a stray, and is a good idea if your vet/shelter offers it.
  • Keep a list of all the vets, shelters and animal control centers in your county and those nearby. Include phone numbers and addresses for quick reference if your cat goes missing. Learn your county's policy on lost and stray animals, sometimes the police department is responsible, sometimes the county contracts out to a local shelter.
  • Have at least two collars with ID tags, in case one gets lost.
  • In some areas, permanent tattoos are used in place of microchips. Most shelters will check for both kinds of permanent ID, but ask your vet or local shelter which is best in your area.
  • Having more than one cat provides companionship and entertainment for all of the cats, and can alleviate some of the boredom indoor cats can experience.


  • Be especially careful with doors when transitioning an outdoor cat to the indoors. They often need time to adjust, and will be determined to escape for a while.
  • Never attach a leash to a collar. Collars that do not break away can cause serious injury if the cat tries to jerk away, and cat-safe collars will allow the cat to escape easily.
  • When taking a cat outdoors, avoid any potential chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. Cats bathe with their tongue, so anything they walk on gets ingested.

Things You'll Need

  • Microchipped cat
  • Cat-safe collars
  • Camera
  • Cat harness and leash
  • Sturdy carriers
  • Cat playpen (optional)

Article Info

Categories: Getting a Cat