Lost and found: how to search for a missing cat

Magic and Leo both went outside last Saturday evening. When I called them back at bedtime, Leo came in but Magic did not. I lay awake most of the night, listening for any sound of her presence, and getting up several times to look around the garden and the street without success. There followed two days of intensive searching. Although I did not have the same intuitive feeling which told me that Felix had died, after a second night had passed I had to face the fact that I might never see her again or know what had happened. Many friends and neighbours gave practical help and sent messages of support. And then came a phone call telling me she had been found locked up in the basement of a nearby house! She is now safely home – very hungry, in good shape physically, but emotionally less confident and more clingy than before. Leo was delighted to see her.

I think I did most of the right things, but I’ve now drawn up a checklist for what to do if a cat goes missing:

1. Be prepared in advance. Have your cat microchipped (yes, I’d done that) – consider a collar with a name tag (I’m thinking about that one) – take a series of photos of her from different angles, and update them as she grows up (this is very important, but I realised I had not taken any recent photos of Magic on her own since she was a young kitten).

2. Check your own property thoroughly, both inside and out – cats can easily get shut into cupboards or outbuildings – and check surrounding streets.

3. Contact your immediate neighbours to ask if the cat is trapped somewhere on their property – this is a very common scenario, as in Magic’s case.

4. Make up a flyer which includes the best photo, your address and phone number, a description of the cat and the date she was lost. Display copies outside your own house and in nearby streets, and at your local veterinary clinic, and consider a mailbox drop.

5. Alert all your other neighbours by text or email, including the photo, or calling at their houses. Ask them to look in their garages or sheds.

6. Post an online appeal: Facebook, local animal registers (here in New Zealand Petsonthenet), neighbourhood websites.

7. Phone local agencies: SPCA, Animal Control, veterinary clinics.

8. Worry won’t help so do your best to keep calm and look after yourself. Visualise your cat being well looked after somewhere and coming back home in good shape.

9. If and when your cat returns or you discover what has happened to her, remember to take down the flyers, inform all the above agencies and individuals what the outcome has been, and thank the people who have helped in the search.

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