It is extremely rare for a cat to go more than 1-1/2 to 3 streets in any one direction from where it goes missing. Within the first few days, a lost cat is usually just over the fence or a few yards down from your home. If your cat was scared by loud sounds i.e. construction or by dogs barking and running, then your cat might have ventured a few more streets away. Networking with your neighbors to be on the lookout for your cat, as well as getting their permission to check their yards, is important.
I highly recommend the following resources: www.lostapet.org – Missing Pet Partnership and www.catsinthebag.org . Many of your questions will be answered about lost cat behavior and how to construct an effective flyer that gets excellent results.
First, do a thorough check of your home to make sure that your cat is not hiding in your home. Cats can hide in garages, entryways and crawl spaces, attics, behind cabinets and appliances, closets, etc.
Cats are most visible between the hours of 8:00 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. Remember to take your flashlight and binoculars. Cats are also on the move between 6:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Vary the times of day and the directions when you take your walks and do your searches. Make sure to check fencing, shrubs, trees, decks, garages, cars when doing your search. If your cat is familiar with the scent of your family dog, then take the dog for a walk; always ending the walk with your home’s location. Rain actually heightens the scent.
The average time for a cat that goes missing and then returns on its own is 3 – 10 days. It is not at al unusual for a cat to go missing 2-1/2 months before being reunited with its owner. The burden of work is still with the owner. You may have to set a humane trap in order to catch your cat, as outlined in the Missing Pet Partnership link above.
It is extremely important to keep checking the animal control that has jurisdiction for your area to see if your cat has been brought in or picked up. You must plan on visiting and checking animal control and the area shelters. Visiting is important, because volunteers are too busy to break from the phone and check an animal; or a volunteer may be new or on a new schedule. Animal controls hold stray animals for 72 hours. Saturday is considered a 24 hour period of the total 72 hours. For the City Of Houston, it is BARC that is your animal control. Your link to search is www.petharbor.com . When calling them or visiting them, BARC should be able to tell you the Key Map No./Zip Code from which an animal was brought in or picked up. Always make sure that your animal control and the area shelters have three (3) copies of your lost flyer/lost cat report — one copy for the receptionist; one copy for the veterinarian’s area; one copy for the holding/intake area.
Also visit, check, and leave your lost cat flyer/lost cat report with Citizens For Animal Protection (CAP), the Houston SPCA, and the Houston Humane Society. These shelters are NOT “no kill”.
Make sure to ALWAYS offer a Reward, No Questions Asked in all of your flyers and in your website notices. Cats are not visible like dogs; you want to reward all efforts made on behalf of trying to find your cat.
Post your cat on www.craigslist.org (only the Lost And Found category — the Pets category has a lot of scamming), www.petfinder.com, the Houston SPCA.org lost and found pets web page, and www.tabbytracker.com .
Please be sure to leave your lost cat flyer/lost cat report with your area vets. You can post a lost cat notice at your PetsMart and Petco.
If your cat has an owner registered microchip, then the vets, shelters, and animal control will scan for the microchip and allow for a quick reunite.