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How Long Do Cats Go Missing For – Finding Lost Cats

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It’s one of the worst feelings in the world when you realize your beloved cat is nowhere to be found. While cats are notorious for being adventurous creatures, you will still worry about them going missing and being out on their own. As a cat owner, you will find yourself asking, how long do cats go missing for?

Cats go missing between 24 – 72 hours maximum. In rare cases, cats can also return home after going missing for several weeks or years.  Missing cats can survive out in the wild for days by themselves just by hunting and foraging off the land. 

While most cats go missing for just a day or two, there are some cases when this can last for a period of weeks or years. In this article, I’ll share with you some surprising numbers when it comes to missing cats.

You’ll learn about their tendencies, and what they encounter in those first few hours after going missing. This will help you get an idea of whether you should panic or worry if your cat goes missing. I’ll also share some helpful tips on how to find a missing cat quickly and safely transport them home. 

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How long do cats go missing for on average 

Cats will usually go missing for about two days on average. Every pet owner will experience different levels of concern regarding their cat disappearing based on your cat’s lifestyle.  

If you have an indoor/outdoor cat who sleeps outside, it might take you longer to notice they are missing, whereas a cat that has only ever lived inside you would notice missing right away. There is no reason to get too alarmed until your cat has been gone for over twenty-four hours.   

If your cat spends some of his or her time outside, they are more likely to have wandered further away and will take longer to come back than a cat who has never left the comfort of your home.   

Is it normal for cats to wander off for days

It is not normal for a cat to wander off for days, especially if you are their primary food source. Most cats make it a point not to miss mealtime and will turn back up in time to eat.   

Of course, there are exceptions to this, especially if you have a cat that splits his or her time roaming back and forth between being outdoors and inside your home. If your cat has a large yard, it’s more likely they ran off chasing an animal or caught an interesting scent and will show up back at home on their own.  

Cats are very passionate hunters, and many scenarios could lead to your cat inadvertently wandering off for days. Your cat might have caught a smell they liked and followed it much further than they meant to go. Your cat could also have been spooked by an animal or car and took refuge somewhere until they felt safe to come out.   

Some cats also really enjoy climbing trees, and they can chase a squirrel or bird up to a very high tree branch and then realize that they are too high up to climb down. If you live in a heavily wooded area, it is worth venturing outside and looking up to see if your cat is stuck in a tree.   

Do cats remember where they live

Yes, cats do remember where they live. Cats have a sense of smell that is a thousand times stronger than humans, and they will rely on this sense as their primary function to get home.   

Additionally, cats are believed to have a homing instinct that allows them to find their way back to you. While the science behind this is not fully understood, there have been many instances in the history of cats showing back up after being a long way from home.   

It is vital to know, though, that this will not be the case for all cats. If your cat is injured or ends up taken in by another family, they may become disoriented and lose their way. The best way to ensure your cat is reunited with you is to have them microchipped.  

If someone picks up your cat and brings it into a vet, they will be able to scan your cat’s microchip and quickly confirm your home address and that the cat has a loving owner who can be contacted. This ensures your cat does not end up in a shelter, adopted by another family.  

Can an indoor cat survive outside

Yes, an indoor cat can survive outside. While more predators and dangers are lurking outside, even an indoor cat that has never been outside could survive for a long time out in the elements.  

Cats are born with innate skills that allow them to hunt and take care of themselves, even in unfamiliar circumstances. As long as your indoor cat is getting enough food to survive, they would have a good chance of survival in the wilderness. Your cat will be at an advantage if they have been safely introduced to the outside prior to them going missing.  

However, there are many other factors outside of starvation that make it dangerous for a cat to be outside. Some of these include your cat running into traffic, encountering other animals such as wolves or hawks, and various diseases carried by other predators. There’s a reason your sweet cat is safest when they are at home with you!

Can cats find their way home if lost

Cats can find their way back home if lost. For the most part, cats who end up missing are scared and want to be reunited back at home just as much as you do. Your cat’s first instinct will be to hide for a while until they get their bearings out in the wild.

 Eventually, though, they will wander out for food and water and attempt to make their way back home. Cats have long memories and are good at remembering places they have been before, so they are programmed to find their way home.   

What are the chances of finding your lost cat

A study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine found a 33% chance of finding your lost cat within the first week and a 56% chance of finding your lost cat within two months (NCBI).  

 While those odds may feel discouraging, the circumstances surrounding each cat’s disappearance are unique, and those numbers account for an extensive range of situations and scenarios. Assuming your cat did not go missing due to other outside factors, they typically do not wander far away, so your best chance of finding them is during the first week within a few miles of your home.  

How far can a lost cat travel  

On average, a lost cat usually ends up 3-4 miles away from their home (MLAR). If your cat ran away on their own, it would typically head for a familiar area. Think about whether your cat is particularly fond of a certain section of your yard or neighborhood, and spend extra time looking for them there.  

While cats will not typically travel that far from home, they often are hidden away in tricky to spot hiding places, which makes it more difficult to find them. It helps to get down at their height and look for any hiding places on the ground level. 

What should I do if my cat is missing 

If your cat goes missing, you will want to take action as quickly as possible. Try to avoid panicking. Letting your mind go straight to the worst-case scenario will not allow you to find your cat any faster. Stay optimistic and remember that it is entirely likely your cat is just up to some mischief and will turn up at home quickly.  

 First, spend some time going through your home from top-to-bottom to confirm your cat is not just hiding in an unusual spot. Check under the beds, in closets, in the attic, and anywhere else your cat could have snuck into without you immediately notice. 

 Once you know your cat is for sure not hiding in your home, it is time to start alerting your neighbors in the surrounding area that you are missing your cat and ask them to keep an eye out. It is beneficial to provide a photo visual to your neighbors as well.  

 It’s easiest to conduct your most thorough search for your cat during daylight hours when you can see most clearly. When you make your initial search rounds, make sure to bring your cat’s favorite food, or treat along with you. If you find your cat, they will likely be scared and may need to be encouraged to come out from their hiding spot.  

 It may also help bring your cat’s carrier along with you to ensure that you can safely transport them back home if you find them. While your cat will want to be reunited and return home with you, they will be overloaded with stimuli outside and may try to jump out of your arms and run off again.   

If your neighborhood or community has an online forum, you should also post a description of your cat and a photo on there as well. Make sure to note whether your cat is microchipped, as that makes it much easier to confirm their identity.  

What should I do if my cat comes home from being missing

If your cat returns on his or her own from being missing, try to react in a reassuring way not to spook them. Your cat is probably feeling very overwhelmed and potentially traumatized from their time out in the wild alone, especially if they do not typically spend a lot of time outside.  

 Your next step should be to spend some quality time with your cat, petting them and inspecting them for any injuries or unusual marks. Keep an eye out for any wounds, bite marks or scratches that might need attention.  

If you believe your cat was attacked by another animal or was injured somehow, you should schedule an appointment with your vet. The vet will thoroughly inspect your cat and assess whether they need any shots or additional cleaning to any wounds.   

How Do I Prevent My Cat From Running Away 

To prevent your cat from running away, you need to ensure that there is no easy way for them to escape from your home. Make sure all the windows and doors are properly sealed. Also, keep a close eye when you are entering and exiting your door that your cat does not dart out.  

 If you have an indoor cat with a history of running away, you should devote some time to figuring out how they are escaping if you are not sure how they are getting out. It saves you a lot of heartaches to keep them from escaping versus trying to find them once they’ve already gotten out. 

 It is much easier to prevent a fully indoor cat from running away; as you know, they are safely confined within your home. If you have a cat that goes outdoors as well, you certainly lose some of the elements of control.  

Cats that live outside do have a shorter lifespan on average, as there are a prodigious amount of external threats for your cat outside of your home. Of course, there are still ways to protect your outdoor cat from getting into too much trouble. 

Having a safe yard with a fence is an excellent way to ensure other animals cannot harm your cat and may keep your cat from running away too far. It’s also a good idea to provide an outdoor food and water dish to allow your cat access to food if they spend the night outside. 

Closing Thoughts 

Having a missing cat is always a heart-wrenching experience. The best thing to do is try to stay calm and have a plan in place to get them back home. Ask people to help you search and get the word out that your cat is missing as fast as possible. We will be rooting for you and your cat to be reunited quickly!