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For pet owners, few things are more distressing than discovering that their cat has gone missing.

In spite of our best safety precautions, cats are fast and can slip outdoors and be gone in a moment. The thought of your precious kitty lost and afraid, vulnerable to the many dangers of the outdoors, fills you with fear and anxiety. You desperately want to find them, and quickly. But where are they?

Here are some suggestions that are generally thought to offer the best success in finding a lost cat.

The Home
First, be sure your cat isn't still in the house. Quickly but thoroughly search your home. Check the washer, dryer, freezer, dishwasher, and any other large appliances that your cat might have ventured into and become trapped. Look in all cupboards, closets, drawers, boxes, and under beds. Turn off the TV or stereo, listening carefully for your cat.

The Search
Once you've confirmed that your kitty is not inside, time to start with the outdoors. Cats will run for the nearest cover when they feel vulnerable, so chances are good that your cat is still very close-by, but extremely frightened. Though he may hear and even see you, he may not respond to your call. You must try to locate his hiding spot, or draw him out of it. Starting with your own property, look under any bushes and hedges. Carefully check garages, carports, sheds, and under porches. Move and lift what you can and look under and behind heavier things. Look in and under your vehicles. Next, enlisting as much help as you can find, begin a door to door canvas, asking residents if they would check their own property, outbuildings, and vehicles for you. Cats can get into open car windows, even get trapped inside trunks. Bring some paper and pen, and leave your telephone number with people you talk to. Leave a note in the mailbox for those not home, asking them to do the same checks. Have everyone searching for your cat look under and in parked cars, hedges, bushes, storage containers, even empty trash cans. Give as many searchers as you can something to draw the cat out- a favorite treat or a can of cat food, and shake or clink the can while calling kitty's name. Squeaky toys could work, too. Look up in all trees and call to your cat, stopping frequently to listen for your kitty's meow. If there is any new construction going on in your neighbourhood, cover this area very thoroughly. Check all culverts, ditches and storm sewers, and every nook and cranny that could possibly hide a cat. Remember, cats can get into very small spaces.. so leave no stone unturned in this all-important initial search.

Who to Call & Visit
Call every vet clinic in your area, and all animal shelters or pet hospitals in your own and other surrounding districts. Leave your number and phone back daily, but don't rely on them completely. Mistakes can happen. Go to at least your closest shelter in person, to check for your cat, and return every few days. Check with any rescue groups in your area also, and ask if they can suggest anyone else you could contact.

More Tips
Try your search in the evening. It's often only with the quiet of nightfall that a frightened feline feels safe enough to venture out. It might return home at this point, or move to another hiding spot, possibly one you have already checked. Bring a flashlight to see, and don't go out looking alone at night.

As animals use scent so well, try placing items outdoors that may attract your cat - strong smelling foods like tuna or sardines, and some articles of your own (unlaundered) clothing, such a sweater, sweatpants, socks or shoes. Include things with your cat's scent, too - his litter box, scratching post, a favorite toy. Try sprinkling catnip around - it can't hurt. Ask anyone who frequently walks around your area - mail carrier, paper delivery person, dog walkers - if they have seen anything. Give them your number or a flyer. Talk to kids! Children are usually more observant of animals, and frequently know of places to look that an adult wouldn't think of. Get their parents permission first, of course, if they volunteer to actually help you look around on your street. Maybe their parents will help, too. Place an ad in all of your local and regional newspapers, and check their Found Section daily. Find out if any of your local radio stations will announce lost pets. If you have any local community Internet listing of this type, consider this (use caution - don't list any personal information!) There are some strange people out there.

Include your cat's photo if possible, a clear closeup, and a good description. Use eye-catching fluorescent colour. Post these where they are highly visible and will be easy to read. Put the date on and offer a reward. State how loved and missed this cat is by his family. Cover as large of an area as you can with these, a one-mile radius if possible. Flyers are a very vital tool in getting your kitty back, often the one thing that brings a lost cat back home. Post along all your neighbourhood streets, and on bulletin boards in local supermarkets, laundromats, libraries, parks and playgrounds groomer shops, pet stores, vet offices and all shelters in your area. The more people who see your poster, the better your chances of success. Ask at all your local schools if posters are permitted, and put up around the surrounding grounds.

Safety Precautions
Most people are sincere and want to help you, but unscrupulous types have been known to attempt to scam others desperate to get their pet back. They don't have your cat, but are looking for money. To avoid being victimized or crushed with false hope, and for your own personal safety:

Don't specify an amount of reward, or indicate it's a large amount.

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