My Cat Went Outside And Hasn’T Come Back

Having a beloved pet cat suddenly go missing outside can be an extremely distressing situation for any pet owner. According to Lost Pet Research, between 12-18% of cats are likely to go missing at least once in five years. In this case, my cat has gone outside, as cats often do, but has yet to return home. Not knowing where your cat is or whether they are safe is incredibly worrisome. This article provides information and advice for pet owners going through this difficult experience, including strategies for finding your missing cat, coping while they are gone, and tips to prevent future escapes.

Preventing Cats from Escaping

There are several effective methods to keep your cat from escaping outdoors. One option is to install cat-proof fencing around your yard using materials that cats cannot easily climb, such as plastic mesh or chicken wire angled inwards at a 45 degree angle ( You can also build an enclosed outdoor cat patio or “catio” that allows your cat to experience the outdoors safely.

Other alternatives include leash training your cat to only go outside when accompanied and using deterrents like citrus or perfume scents around doors and windows. It’s best to identify why your cat wants to escape – curiosity, boredom, prey drive – and redirect that energy through interactive playtime, puzzle feeders and designated scratching areas inside the home.

With the right precautions, you can help satisfy your cat’s outdoor urges while still maintaining safety. Consistency and early training are key to preventing unwanted escapes.

When to Start Worrying

While cats have good instincts for self-preservation, you don’t want your cat to become too lost or stay away for too long. An indoor cat who gets outside may suffer from exposure, dehydration, starvation, infections, parasites, and injuries from other animals or cars. So how long is too long for a cat to be missing outside?

According to PETA, the average lifespan for an outdoor cat is just 2-5 years, compared to 12-20 years for indoor cats. 1 Cats can usually survive for 2 weeks without food if they have access to water. But cold winter temperatures, predators, and cars pose much more immediate threats. Beyond 2-3 days, an indoor cat’s chances of returning home diminish greatly.

So if your indoor cat has been missing for more than 12-24 hours, it’s time to ramp up your search efforts. Check with local shelters and veterinarians and post notices online and around your neighborhood. The sooner you start looking, the better the chances your cat will make it home safe.

Searching for Your Lost Cat

Searching for a missing cat starts right at your home. Make sure to thoroughly check inside and outside your home – under decks and porches, in crawlspaces, garages, and sheds – everywhere a scared cat may hide. Check with neighbors as cats will often hide under someone else’s porch or in their garage.

Start searching outside at dawn and dusk when cats are most active. Bring a flashlight to search at night. Make sure to check in shrubs, under vehicles, and anywhere a cat may find refuge. Shake treats and call your cat’s name to try to draw them out.

Leave your cat’s litter box or used litter outside which can attract them home with familiar scents. Place the litter box near where your cat went missing. Also set out food and water to encourage your cat to return. Check the food and water periodically to see if any has been eaten.

Ask neighbors, mail carriers, and others who regularly travel through your area to keep an eye out for your cat. Post flyers with a photo of your cat around your neighborhood. Also post on social media sites like, Facebook, and Craigslist lost and found pets.

You can find more tips for finding lost cats at and

Making it Home Safe

Once your cat is found, it’s important to take them to the vet for a checkup to ensure they are healthy and uninjured after being outside (source). The vet can check for parasites, viruses, injuries, dehydration and other medical issues. Provide your vet with details about when your cat went missing, how long they were gone for, and where they were found.

If your cat was not already microchipped, get them microchipped at the vet visit. A microchip is a permanent form of identification that can help reunite you with your cat if they ever get lost again. Make sure your contact information in the microchip registry is up to date. You should also get an ID tag with your phone number to attach to your cat’s collar (source).

When you return home, confine your cat to one room at first, such as a bathroom, to allow them to readjust to the indoor environment. Provide food, water, litter box, toys, scratching posts, a cat tree, and places to hide in their safe room. Slowly reintroduce them to the rest of the house over the next few days.

Coping with Loss

Losing a beloved cat that goes missing can be extremely difficult and trigger intense grief. It’s important to allow yourself to go through the natural stages of grief, which often include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions arise without judgment.

If your cat remains missing after an extensive search, begin to prepare for the possibility that your cat may not return. Consider having a memorial service or creating a special place in your home with photos and memories of your cat to honor them. This can provide closure. You may also want to make a donation in your cat’s name to an animal shelter or rescue organization.

Don’t lose all hope though – some missing cats do eventually return after weeks or even months. Continue to keep an eye out and check back with local shelters periodically. With time, most pet owners are able to find peace and move forward while still cherishing the happy memories they shared.

It’s normal to feel sadness, anger or guilt, but don’t blame yourself. Understand that you did the best you could to protect your cat. Focus on the good times you had together. If feelings of grief persist or worsen, consider talking to a pet bereavement counselor or mental health professional. They can provide additional coping strategies to help you through this challenging time. With support, the grief will gradually lessen, and fond memories of your beloved cat will remain.


Shelters and Rescues

One of the first places to check for a lost cat is local animal shelters and rescues. Contact all the shelters and rescues in your area and provide them with a detailed description of your missing cat along with a photo if possible. Leave your name and contact information so you can be notified if your cat is brought in.

According to Petco Love Lost, you should call shelters every 2 to 3 days for updates on lost pets as new animals come in daily. Check the shelter’s website and social media for photos of animals they’ve recently taken in. You can also file a lost pet report with Petco Love Lost which uses facial recognition technology to help match lost pets nationwide (

The American Humane recommends asking the shelter to scan your cat for a microchip if found, as this will quickly provide your contact information. Get the details of each shelter’s intake process and lost pet procedures. Leave flyers with your cat’s photo and your contact info that the shelter can post.

Risks Outdoors

Outdoor cats face many dangers when roaming unattended. One major risk is getting hit by vehicles. According to the American Humane Society, outdoor cats are 3 times more likely to get hit by cars compared to indoor cats [1]. Outdoor cats also face threats from other animals, such as coyotes, foxes and even dogs. Fights with other cats can also lead to injuries and abscesses.

Outdoor cats have a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases like feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. These viruses can lead to a weakened immune system and make a cat more prone to illness [2]. Parasites like fleas, ticks and ear mites are also much more prevalent in outdoor cats.

Extreme weather conditions like very hot or cold temperatures can also pose dangers to outdoor cats. Dehydration and heat stroke are risks in the summer, while hypothermia and frostbite are concerns in the winter.

Overall, the many risks faced by outdoor cats result in a shortened life expectancy compared to indoor cats. Indoor cats generally live 10-15 years, while outdoor cats average 2-5 years [3].

Training Your Cat

One of the best ways to make sure your cat comes home when they get outside is by training them to come when called. Here are some tips for training your cat to come when called:

First, get your cat’s attention before giving the command. Make eye contact and call their name cheerfully and clearly. Start training indoors first, then gradually move outside once they respond well inside (source).

Use positive reinforcement. When your cat comes to you, reward them with treats, petting, or playtime. This will motivate them to respond. Never scold or punish them for not coming initially. Remain patient and keep sessions short.

Consider clicker training. The sharp “click” sound can mark the exact moment your cat does the desired behavior. Immediately reward after the click. This boosts learning speed. Pair the clicker sound with the verbal command (source).

Practice in distracting environments so they learn to focus on your call over other stimuli. Vary locations and use random rewards to maintain interest. With regular 5-10 minute sessions, most cats can learn this skill!


By this point, you have hopefully gained some insights on what to do if your cat escapes outside. To recap, start by searching nearby areas thoroughly and leaving out familiar scents to help guide your cat back home. Check local shelters and rescues and don’t forget to spread the word among neighbors and social media. While it’s natural to worry, try to stay positive – cats are resourceful creatures and often make their way back given time.

If your cat remains missing, make use of prevention tips like microchipping and deterrents to help avoid future escapes. Although losing a pet is painful, remember that you gave your cat a loving home. With hope and persistence, there’s still a chance your cat may walk through the door one day. Don’t give up!

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