I picked her up from a cat hotel where she had stayed while I was abroad. On that day, like a movie cliché, everything that could go wrong indeed went wrong. This led to—try to imagine this—a wriggling stressed cat inside a cat carrier, finally managing to open a zipper and jump on the sidewalk.
The split second it took me to respond was too long. Magenta, stunned by the streetlight, jumped (thank god for small favors, like Stephen King always says) not to the road, but to the nearest bush.
And that’s how a whole month of horror, depression, hope, and guilt, had started. As, you see, Magenta jumped inside a bush that was inside a garden that was in a semi-rural area. All gardens there had bushes, large trees, giant piles of logs for the winter, climbing plants on the walls, sheds full of buckets and boxes, and what not. Try looking for a scared feline in these conditions.
But I tried, of course. First, on that horrible evening, alone. Then, with some help from a garden owner. Then alone again. At some point, I had to go home, hoping to come more prepared with her food, treats, clicker, and toys the next morning. I cried myself to sleep and did come the next morning, but she did not show up.
On the second or third day of visiting this neighborhood looking for Magenta, this time armed with professionally printed ‘Missing cat’ posters, I found out that the crime-scene a.k.a. garden is actually part of a guesthouse. So, I booked a room for a few days and opened a Magenta War Room.
How to Find a Lost Cat
Every day, I would go out looking for her in the garden and around the neighborhood. I would leave smelly food around the garden. At nights, I’d go out with a flashlight, hoping to see her hiding under a bush or on a brick wall. I felt like in a 1990s computer game quest, hunting for pixels and waiting to move to the next mission. But nothing happened.
Every day and every night.
At the same time, I published missing ads everywhere. On Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, sent emails to local vets, animal shelters, published ads in newspapers. I got so much help from so many people who responded to my ads, people who lived near where she was lost or even in a different city but thought they saw her. I checked (almost) every lead (almost—because going to a different city made no sense). And still nothing.
In the evenings, still at the guesthouse, I had instant noodles, watched Netflix and went out with my flashlight every few hours. Again. Nothing.
At some point, after about a week, I had to leave the guesthouse and go back home. But I continued coming to the neighborhood again, every day.
Using a Trail Camera
One day, after I was already back home, I got a call from a nice older guy who liked feeding hedgehogs in his garden. He had a trail camera , and send me the photos and videos of a tabby cat he saw coming there at night. Even though it was not Magenta, this gave me an idea. So, I bought a trail camera and, with the approval of some garden owners, put it in the garden.
I found that Magpies, crows, rats, mice, and even robins really like cat food. But Magenta did not show up.
Despite countless days of searching, I did not give up. Most of the time. The reason for that wasa paper I read that gave me some hope.
“A physical search increased the chances of finding cats alive… 75% of cats were found within a 500 m radius of their point of escape.”
In fact, “the median distance for… indoor-only cats was 39 m (25th and 75th percentiles 9 and 137 m, respectively; n = 164 cats).”
These results made me confident that Magenta, an indoor kitty, had to be nearby. If not in the same garden where she was lost, then maybe the one or two near it. Not more than that. So, I continued searching, refilled the food, and rechecked the camera.
Where to look for your lost cat? Focus around the area where your cat went missing. Bring smelly treats, call your cat name, but don’t make too much commotion as it might scare your cat. At night, use a flashlight, as cat’s eyes glare in the dark.
Lost cats can sometimes find their way home. If your cat escaped from home or another familiar place, leave their litter box, food, and toys outside. The scent might draw them back home.
Ask for help
Inform vets and animal shelters in your area. Let the neighbors know. Your lost cat might be hiding in someone else’s basement, attic, or garage. Publish missing ads wherever you can and try to think about different demographics. Use different social media platforms for different age groups, local Facebook groups (Tinder?!), physical posters in neighborhood and near shopping centers, ads in the printed media for the older demographic. Publish in online databases. Offering a prize might motivate people to look for your cat.
A trail camera
This might be handy, as described above, to find your cat when you’re not actively searching at the location. Plan on what to do if you see your cat and how you’re going to trap them.
Some people contacted me and suggested using trail dogs, but after discussing the details of the case with said experts, I found out it would probably not work in our case. It’s still worth mentioning, though, because it might work in yours.
Don’t lose hope
Keep trying using the tips above. Remember that lost cats can find their way home.
My Lost Kitty is Found!
After one month of pixel hunting in the dark, walking in parks, accidentally feeding rats, even of finding someone else’s lost cat, after all that, Magenta the lost kitty was found. Apparently, she got tired of starving outside in the cold German winter. She showed up—thin but otherwise healthy—in a basement of a neighbor, 40 meters from where she was lost.
Share Your Stories!
If you have a story about a lost kitty or another pet, and would like to share it with us, please share it in the comments below.