It’s always difficult when a beloved cat goes missing. The worry, the stress; wondering what could have happened and how long it will be before your pet is safely home again. Fortunately, you may not have too long to wait. If your cat is chipped and wears a collar with your name and contact details, you have a good chance of being reunited soon. Most cats don’t stay missing for very long (the old saw that “she’ll come home when she’s hungry” often holds true) and typically recover very well once they do come back.
How long do cats go missing for? Usually, a missing cat will return within 24 hours. It can take longer if something has happened to prevent the cat from going home, such as injury, becoming trapped in a structure, being picked up by a concerned individual or a shelter, etc.
If you’ve found this page, you probably have many concerns about your missing cat.
- Why do cats go missing?
- How long will it take for your cat to come home?
- What can you do to find your cat?
It’s a scary and distressing time for any cat owner when a pet goes astray. Fortunately, you can find some answers right here. From how long it usually takes for a lost cat to come home to the tricks that can bring a cat back, we have the answers you’re looking for. Read on to find out more.
How long do cats go missing for?
In the vast majority of cases, a cat will simply return the next day. It’s unusual for a contented domestic cat to run off for more than 24 hours. Most of them remember where they live when the first pangs of hunger set in.
If your cat is taking longer than a day to come home, there could be a problem. It’s not unknown for a cat to come down with something or become injured; in this case, she may well decide to find a secure spot and hide for a while till she feels better. If your cat is an unspayed female, she may have become pregnant and taken herself off to have her kittens. (This is just one of many reasons why it’s important to desex kittens as soon as they’re old enough.)
Read Also: How Long Can A Cat Remember A Person?
Another reason a cat might take longer to return is that she’s become trapped in a structure. It’s not uncommon for cats to sneak into a shed, garage, outbuilding etc and become stuck there, either because someone closed a door while the cat was inside or because the cat can’t get out the way she came in. Sometimes cats get stuck on roofs or in trees, etc., having climbed up and found they can’t get down.
If your cat looked as though she was lost, she may have been taken in by a neighbour or a passer-by. I’ve known several cat owners who went through agonies of worry over a missing cat, while the object of their concern spent a couple of days being fed and pampered on someone’s sofa. People sometimes pick up “stray” cats and drop them at the shelter, too — one more reason why your cat should be chipped. Of course, she should also wear a collar with your details attached. Even so, collars can be lost, especially the breakaway collars I recommend for safety. An RFID chip can’t get snagged or fall off, and gives vets or shelters a way to reunite you with your pet.
Cats sometimes get lost after climbing inside a vehicle that drives away. A less pleasant possibility is that your cat has been displaced deliberately. This can happen if you have a dispute with a neighbour or other acquaintance. Some people think it’s reasonable to take a beloved cat away from the owner as retribution. They may remove the cat to a shelter or simply take her to another location and let her go. This is obnoxious, of course, but it does occur.
The worst possibility is that your cat has suffered a serious injury or has lost her life. I hate to mention the possibility but it does need to be considered. This is why I advocate for cats to be kept indoors if at all possible: the world is full of risks, from fast-moving vehicles to aggressive dogs and other possible predators. Abusive humans are a growing concern. Some people taking it upon themselves to destroy “stray” cats with poison, while others kill pets for fun. An indoor life may seem limiting but it really is the best for your cat.
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My cat has gone missing will he come back
Generally speaking, yes. Your cat may not even have wanted to leave in the first place, becoming lost after getting chased by a dog or pursuing a prey animal out of his normal range. The odds are very good that your cat will wander back on his own in a day or two. If your pet is collared and chipped, someone else may bring him home or contact you with his whereabouts.
There are lots of things you can do to speed up your cat’s return. Set his bedding out on the porch or another sheltered, rain-free spot near your house. If possible, leave his litter-box out too. This will allow your cat to relocate his home via smell.
If you see your cat hanging around outside but he is skittish and resists your attempts to bring him in, something may have given him a scare. You can fetch him back using a humane trap baited with his favourite treats.
Cat missing for 4 days
Four days is really not that long for a cat to go missing. While most are only gone for a night or two, it can sometimes take a bit longer for a cat to extricate herself from whatever predicament she’s got into. A healthy cat should have absolutely no problem taking care of herself for this kind of time-span; cats are highly adaptable and very good at finding food and shelter when they need to. It’s extremely likely that your cat will return unscathed on her own but you can still do things to help get her back.
Phone your local shelters and vets to see if they’ve encountered a cat matching your pet’s description (chipping should obviate this but sometimes the chip is missed). You should do this within a couple of days of your cat going missing. Most shelters will not keep a cat indefinitely. Even in a no-kill shelter, there’s a chance that your cat might be adopted out which can cause a lot of problems when you try to get her back. You may want to put up flyers in your area and ask people living nearby to keep their eyes open for your pet.
As suggested above, place her bedding and litter tray near the door to help her find the way back. You should also step up your searching activities, broadening the radius and checking in spots you may have missed.
Cat missing for a week
An absence of a week is rather concerning but not terribly unusual. A week’s time away does suggest something a bit more serious than the usual “got chased by a dog and hid in someone’s shed overnight” adventure; even so, cats generally come back even after this kind of timescale. If there is still no sign of your cat, continue to leave her items out on the porch and to patrol the neighbourhood. Make another round of the local shelters and think hard about anything you may have missed.
You should also consider whether your cat is missing because of a problem at home. If you’ve recently brought a new pet into the household, for instance, this may have caused the initial disappearance and may also be deterring your cat from coming home. In one instance I’m familiar with, a family “lost” their cat after getting a new dog. They took the dog away for a short “holiday” at a friend’s house, and sure enough, the cat returned while the dog was away.
Cat missing for 2 weeks
After two weeks, I would definitely be concerned about my cat’s whereabouts. Even so, it’s still highly probable that she’s fine and will be back in her own time. Cats love wandering and can very easily get beguiled by some interesting new territory. Keep searching for your pet and don’t give up. If you have a neighbour who was away during your last round of enquiries, check-in with that person. Consider putting up an advert in your local store or newsagent. You may also want to take out an ad in the paper.
Be prepared for a period of adjustment when your cat finally does come back. She will probably be very shaken up after two weeks away from home. Your cat will probably be ravenous at first but you shouldn’t let her overeat. This can make her sick. Give her small meals and be moderate with the treats, even though you’ll want to spoil her. Make sure you check her carefully for pest infestations or injuries. Have your vet look at her to make sure she hasn’t picked up any diseases. Female cats should be checked for pregnancy if they got out before they were spayed.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.