Cat Finders New Hampshire's Lost Cat Network


  • Cat Search Tips


    Cat Search Tips





    Please scroll down to read the discussions of the following issues:

    1. My cat is missing:what should I do first?
    2. Time of day to search
    3. Where to look
    4. Attitudes and beliefs that can prevent you from being reunited with your cat
    5. Safety Considerations


    1. My cat is missing; what should I do first?

    If your cat is an indoor-only cat who managed to get outside:

    • Please read Missing Pet Partnership’s “The Silence Factor ” first  (Click on the link & when new window opens, scroll down to “Additional Behaviors”) The Silence Factor is a term coined by Kat Albrecht of Missing Pet Partnership. It refers to the survival tactic that cats use when very frightened, hurt, or sick. They hide in silence, and will not respond to your call as they normally would, even though you may be right near their hiding spot. Even if  you shake their treats, and they are  hungry, they might not respond. Eventually they reach their threshold for hunger and thirst, and break cover, but it might take hours, or even days or weeks, especially if they are able to eat bugs or rodents in the meantime.
    • Do a thorough search in your home, yard, garage, sheds, etc. Don’t merely call your cat’s name, but assume your cat may be unable to respond (read about The Silence Factor above) and search as if your cat were unconscious or mute. Use a flashlight to peer into dark hiding spots, even during the daytime.
    • Leave open the window or door that your cat escaped through, if possible. Make it easy for your cat to come back home on his/her own.

    For any missing cat:

    Outdoor-access cats also go missing. An outdoor-access cat who is in his own territory is much less likely to be hiding in fear than an indoor cat, at least, not for long. However, if your cat does not come home as usual, then you want to be sure he or she is not trapped somewhere. So with either an indoor-only cat or an outdoor-access cat you will still search the same places–but the indoor-cat is less likely to respond to your call.

    • Do a thorough search in your home, yard, garage, sheds, etc.
    • Go to your local shelter and fill out a lost cat form. This is very important, especially if your cat is not microchipped. If anyone should bring your cat to the shelter and you haven’t filled out a form, the shelter may hold your cat for seven or ten days and then place him or her up for adoption. If your cat is adopted out, there is little chance that you will get him or her back. So please fill out the form at your local humane society or shelter immediately.
    • Notify your Animal Control Officer or police dept. to see if anyone has reported finding your cat.  Also notify nearby cat rescue agencies (see our Helpful Links page) Cat Finders, and veterinarians in your area. Call your public works dept. or sanitation dept. to make sure they have not picked up any cats hit by cars that might be your cat. (A very hard phone call to make, but better than searching in vain).
    • Check Cat Finders’ website and Facebook group page daily.
    • If your cat has not returned by nightfall, leave food and water where your cat can reach it. Put it in a semi-sheltered spot (next to a hedge for instance).
    •  Or–use a humane trap. If you have not used a trap before, please consider contacting a Cat Rescue organization–they can maybe lend you a trap and tell you how to trap your cat safely. An Animal Control Officer may also be able to assist you in trapping. For more information about Cat Rescues, please see our Helpful Links page.  Do not put out additional food for your cat if you have set a trap. You want your cat to be hungry enough to be tempted into the trap. Traps should be monitored. If you can’t check the trap every hour or so, then close it up and provide food and water. You do not want your cat to be caught in a trap for any length of time, especially in extreme weather. Also, some traps can be opened by dogs or other animals, so for your cat’s safety, keep an eye on the trap. Once your cat is trapped, bring the trap inside the house before you open it!
    • Increase your chances of finding your cat by listing him/her on our Cat Finders website. It’s free! Just email us with information about your cat at & include your contact information so that anyone who sees your cat can notify you directly. Cat Finders will add your cat’s picture and info to this website.
    • Also you might want to post your lost cat to Helping Lost Pets is a free service that adds your cat to a national database of lost and found cats. You can make a printable, sharable flyer on their site, and can use their map to search for lost and found cats in your area.
    • Look EVERYWHERE! Ask everyone. Many people in our state are animal lovers and will be happy to help.
    • Place ads in the local newspapers–most will run a short ad for about three days at no charge.  After that, you can re-submit the same ad. It’s also a good idea to check the local papers to see if anyone has found your cat & has placed a “found” ad. This is most helpful right after your cat has gone missing, but if it’s been a while, you can always look at the newspaper archives at UNH or your local library.
    • Use  the links on our Helpful Links page to get information and suggestions from the experts, and to search other lost cat websites. Read our “Happy Endings” page to see what has worked for other people, and how they have found their lost cats. Or just search using the term “Reunited”.
    • Search and your local shelters’ websites to see if your cat has been taken in by a shelter and is up for adoption somewhere. Check frequently. I cannot stress this enough. A cat might wander for weeks, months, or longer before somebody brings him or her to a shelter.  You’ll find links to some NH shelters on our “Helpful Links” page. However, you should also visit the local shelters, and give them one of your flyers, so they can keep an eye out for your cat. . . though don’t count on them to notify you.  They are usually very busy, and might not recognize your cat from the photo. There are so many lost cats, and many look very much alike. While most shelters would love to reunite you with your cat, their job is to care for and find new homes for the cats in their custody, which takes up most of their time. Also, be aware that the shelters do not list all adoptable cats on their websites, and there are often cats who are in cages in back rooms that you wouldn’t even see. So it is up to you to ask questions. It doesn’t hurt to notify every shelter in your area, not just the closest one, because somebody might have dropped your cat off at a shelter near their job, which might be miles from your town. Also, sometimes an overburdened shelter will transfer a cat to a different shelter, farther away. Or, your cat might show up in another town–it happens now and then. Cover every base.

    Should I put out my cat’s litter box to attract him or her home?

    No!  Experts say that putting  your cat’s litter box outside may interfere with your cat coming home in several ways:

    1. Neighborhood cats can use the litter box to mark their territory, further intimidating your cat and making him or her feel less safe to come home.
    2. It can attract predators, lets them know there is a cat nearby. Cats bury their waste for just this reason, to protect themselves from predators and territorial cats! You are making your indoor cat, who is likely hiding on your own property or next door, feel more insecure, which can actually make it less likely that your cat will come home.
    3. We know of no conclusive evidence that shows that cats are “attracted” to the smell of their own waste, in the sense of being lured toward it. If they are outside, the world is their litter box. Try luring with food and water instead.
    4. There are so many other things that need to be done when your indoor cat goes missing. We worry that people will think it’s okay to just put the litter box outside, and wait for the cat to come home.

    Though some people will swear that they put their cat’s litter box outside and the cat magically came home, it is likely due to other factors, such as calling the cat’s name, putting out food and water, getting the word out (so that people check their sheds and garages, and maybe your cat who got trapped in their shed runs out and comes home) or the fact that the cat was never lost in the first place but was just hiding under the porch, and finally got hungry enough to break cover. If the cat does come home, he or she likely comes home in spite of the litter box, not because of it.

    And as for indoor-outdoor cats, your yard is already permeated with their scent. You are constantly leaving your own scent, every time you walk in your yard. So it is not necessary to “add scent” in an effort to bring your outdoor-access cat home.

    Scent items

    However, there are certain circumstances in which it probably couldn’t hurt to use scent items (not the litter box or bits of scattered litter) such as your cat’s bedding or your own recently worn clothing.  Will it work? We don’t know. We do know of at least one study in which cats in a stressful situation were NOT more likely to go toward items with familiar scents. 

    But it may be worth a try in the following situations:

    1. Your cat is lost in an unfamiliar area, such as the vet’s parking lot, or the cat has escaped from your car at a highway rest stop. Your cat is in an unfamiliar world, suddenly–nothing smells familiar, and your cat may have no idea which direction home is, so possibly, a familiar scent might help.  In this case, the main tactic would be a humane trap with food in it, but it might also help to line the trap, or cover the trap, with something that smells like your cat or you.
    2. Following a big snowstorm or hurricane or other very large windstorm that might temporarily cover or blow away much of your cat’s scent and yours (a regular rainstorm is okay and will even make scent stronger). Remember that we are constantly leaving scent behind, so this might not be necessary. But it couldn’t hurt, as long as it is not the only thing you do to try and find your missing cat.

    There are so many, many things you have to do when your cat is lost, it is probably better to focus on the time-proven strategies, such as putting up posters, setting humane traps (monitored at all times) or luring your cat with food and water, doing a thorough physical search, filling out the lost cat form at local shelters, posting online, etc.

    For more information about why putting out a litter box is not helpful, please read the following article by Lovy Myers:

    We ask that everyone who visits Cat Finders’ web site will watch for all of the cats who are missing in their town or area. 


    Running Bear (Lost since August 31st, 2006)

    2. Time of day to search

    The best time to search is the time of day or night when your cat is usually the most active. For most cats, the active times are just before dawn and just after dusk. Cats are less likely to be out and about in the noonday sun; but if you look during the day, be sure to check underneath parked cars, which provide shade in summer, and are a source of warmth in the winter. If you search at night, use your car’s headlights or a large flashlight to catch the glow of cats’ eyes. But be cautious when approaching a pair of glowing golden eyes in the dark, as they may belong to a skunk, raccoon, or other wild animal.

    Daytime, obviously, is the best time to find your neighbors out and about, doing yard work, etc., and therefore a great opportunity to find out if neighbors have seen your cat wandering nearby. Be sure to bring handouts with a picture of your cat and your phone number to leave with anyone who offers to keep an eye open for your cat.

    Mary B. from Hinsdale writes: Another piece of advice you might want to share with others is that early in the morning or at dusk is when you’ll usually find the regular walkers, joggers, etc., who may provide consistent, routine watchfulness for those times of the day.

    3.Where to look
    Unless your cat has been chased by an animal or carried away in a vehicle, he or she is likely to be very close to home. This is particularly true of  indoor-only cats. Look everywhere in your house, your yard, your shed or barn, etc., and ask your neighbors if you can search their outdoor areas. It may feel a little uncomfortable to make this request, but it might save your cat’s life. Besides, most people would rather have you search their shed or garage than to have your cat trapped on their property. If they have an open window in their basement, also ask them if they would mind searching their basement for you. This may seem like an imposition, but if your cat is ill or injured, she/he might not be able to get out the same way she/he got in, yet may be urgently in need of help.

    Please be aware of this important fact: A frightened or injured cat may hide in silence, even from you. Read the Missing Pet Partnership’s description of  the Silence Factor  for more information.  It applies especially to indoor-only cats, or cats lost in an unfamiliar area, but can also apply to any cat in unusual situations.

    Call your pet frequently, and try not to be discouraged if he/she does not respond. It may take a while for the cat to be able to find the courage to leave a hiding spot, or the cat may be following the sound of your voice from a distance. Physically search all the nooks and crannies in your yard, and then expand to next door and across the street. Then expand to a two house radius of home, and so on. Bring a flashlight with you even during the day–when you shine the flashlight into dark areas, such as under a porch, the flashlight will pick up your cat’s eyeshine.

    Vacant houses or houses under construction can be a very dangerous trap for cats, especially if there is an open window to the basement–your cat may be able to get in that way, but not get out again, as the window may be too high, or your cat may be injured. Cats and wildlife have also been known to get stuck in unused areas of barns and sheds. If there are vacant homes in your neighborhood, it is a good idea to check them if you can, by calling the real estate agent in charge, or by obtaining police assistance if necessary to gain entry.

    Remember to look up! Cats do climb trees when frightened, and many are unable to come down without assistance. (Cats’ claws curve inward; wonderful for climbing up, not so great for climbing down head first. It takes practice for the cat to learn how to turn around, and climb down tail first.)

    4. Attitudes and beliefs that can prevent you from being reunited with your cat  

    Belief that it is not possible to find your cat.
    Many people will tell you that your cat cannot survive outdoors; that she or he has probably been eaten by predators or met some other sad end. While it is possible that your cat really is gone forever, it is also possible that she or he is waiting for you to come find her/him. (See our Happy Endings page for real-life examples of this).  While Cat Finders does not want to encourage false hope, it is not a matter of false hope to consider all logical possibilities rather than focusing only on the worst case scenario.

    Imagine grieving for weeks, months, or years for  your cat, when all along the cat might be perhaps a half mile from home, living with another family as an indoor cat!

    Don’t give up too soon. If your cat is unable to get home and you give up right away, you might never see each other again. If you keep searching, despite discouraging (though well-meaning) words from friends, family, or neighbors, you have a much better chance of reuniting with your cat.

    Beliefs of Other People in the Community

    “Dumped” Cats

    When we find a hungry cat at our doorstep, many of us assume that the cat is unwanted, that someone has “dumped” their cat out on the street. This assumption allows us to feel justified in “adopting” the cat, since the cat’s previous people were possibly callous, irresponsible, etc. and don’t want their cat back anyway. And this does happen sometimes no doubt, but not nearly as often as we used to think. We have only to look at the Cat Finders’ “Lost Cat” listings or the lost cat ads on craigslist or Facebook to realize that many people are looking for many lost cats, and it is therefore wrong to assume that any cat has been dumped.

    Even if the cat looks scruffy or ill, we cannot know how long the cat may have been lost, or what health conditions he or she might have been getting treatment for prior to disappearing. Even if we have not seen signs around the neighborhood for this cat, well, the cat may have wandered miles from home, and there are signs all up and down his little cul de sac, but we can’t see those. Or he may have been wandering for two years . . . the family may have long ago given up hope and stopped searching, but would still dearly love to welcome their long lost friend home again. It is usually more accurate to assume a stray cat is lost, and much kinder to try to reunite the cat with his or her family before deciding to make the cat part of our own family or re-homing the cat.

    We can all help our communities become more aware that not every “stray” cat has been abandoned, dumped, or neglected. By our own search efforts, we can help educate others that many strays are actually well-loved cats who broke out through a window screen one day, escaped from their cat carrier on the way to the vet’s office, got chased from their yard by a dog, took a little ride on a delivery truck, or ran in panic at the sound of a neighbor’s fireworks.

    People you speak to may have attitudes about cat-rearing that differ from yours, and they may have no qualms about letting you know this. Don’t let it discourage you. Whether you believe in indoor-only cats or indoor/outdoor/barn cats, holistic pet food or commercial pet food, immunizing vs. non-immunizing, neutered or intact, one cat per household vs. multiple cats, etc. there will always be people who take the other side and feel vehemently about it. We are all entitled to our feelings and beliefs, which usually reflect our love of cats.

    Cat Protectiveness
    One attitude that you may come across is Cat Over-Protectiveness, usually held by well-meaning cat lovers. Certain cat lovers may feel that anyone who lets a cat go outside is irresponsible or neglectful, particularly if the cat is (or has become) hurt, ill, pregnant, elderly, etc. Some people can be so overly cat-protective that they are quick to think the worst of us. (Before we think the worst of them, let’s remember that many of us have been guilty of the same or similar overly zealous cat-protective attitudes at one time or another.)  These cat-protective neighbors may feel justified in taking any hungry, passing cat into their house, and keeping him/her without trying to find us, because they feel they will give the cat a better home by acting in a more responsible manner than we have.

    The problem with this, often, is that they have jumped to an incorrect conclusion about us, and are taking away a member of our family based on a very wrong assumption. Their “protection” of our cat is actually causing grievous harm to the cat and his/her family. If you come across this admittedly well-meaning attitude while searching for your cat, perhaps the best you can do may be to let the person see how much you love your cat, gently making it clear that you do provide a very safe home for him/her–the disappearance is an aberration, not the normal situation. The more that people become aware of lost, dearly loved cats, the less likely they are to take a cat who is not up for adoption. Let the cat lover in you (your best self) speak to the cat lover in them (their best selves). Of course, if you are positive that somebody has taken your cat and will not give him/her back to you, you should contact the police.

    Did you know that in some other countries it is considered cruel to keep a cat locked indoors? In Great Britain, for example, 85% to 90% of pet cats are allowed outdoors, and the remaining 10% to 15% are typically pedigreed cats, kept inside for fear of theft. The British, and many Americans,  believe that it is natural for cats to enjoy the great outdoors. Read more

    Life will be better for people and cats if we all try to be tolerant of each other and each other’s cat care practices. It helps to remember that each property, each family, and each cat is unique, so there is no “one size fits all” rule for safe, happy cats. 

    Sometimes, a well meaning neighbor may find your cat and, believing the cat to be homeless, they may bring him/her to an animal shelter. It is a very good idea to bring a “stray” cat to a vet or a shelter to be scanned for a microchip or checked for a tattoo, in case this is a lost pet. And some shelters now do a wonderful job of posting lost cats on social media, and actively trying to reunite lost pets with their families. Other shelters and rescues do not. So if you have found a cat, you might want to take this into account when deciding whether to bring a cat to be scanned at a vet or at your local shelter. If you bring the cat to the shelter, they may want you to leave the cat there, which is fine if they actively try to reunite lost cats with their families. Check their Facebook page and website to see if lost or found cats are posted there. Animal shelters do a wonderful job combatting animal cruelty and finding homes for abused and unwanted animals, and re-homing animals whose person has become too ill to care for them or has passed away. But some shelters still don’t treat lost cats differently from cats who have been voluntarily surrendered. There are now some shelters, such as Manchester Animal Shelter, Franklin Animal Shelter, and Lakes Region Humane Society, for example, that will post cats (brought to them as strays) on Facebook, in an effort to find their families, so be sure to follow the Facebook pages of your local shelters. Other shelters do not post lost or found cats, though all shelters will scan cats brought to them for a microchip or will look for a tattoo. If there is no tattoo or microchip, and nobody comes to claim the cat, a shelter will usually wait about a week to ten days, and then adopt the cat out to a new family, or, if the cat is ill, injured, aggressive, or seems feral, the cat may be euthanized at some shelters, or, at best, transferred to a different facility. Once your cat has been legally adopted, you have little recourse.

    Please, if you find a lost or stray cat who seems possibly feral, do not bring him/her to an already over-burdened shelter. If you are unable to find the cat’s family, consider instead bringing him/her to a Trap/Neuter/Release facility like SAFER in Hampton, or Cats 1st in Newfields, FuRRR in Gonic, or Voice for Animals in Farmington, where they can really help feral and stray cats. They may even be able to help trap the cat for you.

    Please, if you have found a cat, make every effort to find the cat’s family. Post on social media, the HelpingLostPets website, Cat Finders, and put up posters in your area. If after making a strong effort to find the cat’s family, you are unable to, and if the cat is truly a stray, he/she may be very happy fending for him/herself, perhaps with some kindly handouts from you or your neighbors, and the shelter of your barn or shed. Cats have a right to live, even if they don’t always have a human home. Read more about cats in the wild, TNR, and Cats’ Rights at Alley Cat Allies  

    Are you considering bringing a cat you’ve found to a shelter? Read this first:   It is about lost dogs, but applies to lost cats as well.

     5. Safety Considerations

    Safety is important. Although most people in our state are kind, caring, and helpful, there are some out there who are not. So please be careful when dealing with strangers. Use common sense at all times. Your cat is counting on you to be safe so you can find him or her.

    While it is important to give out enough information (in your newspaper ad, posters, or Cat Finders listing) to make it easy for people to notice your cat and to distinguish him/her from other cats, e.g. fur color, fur length, etc., it is also a very good idea to keep one or two facts about your cat a secret: facts that only you and the person who truly has your cat will know. Maybe a prominent marking that doesn’t show up in your cat’s photograph, or better yet, an aspect of your cat’s behavior. For example, if your cat is not litter trained, or has always had a limp, anyone who claims to have your cat in their house should know this without your telling them. If they don’t, then it’s unlikely that they really have your cat. If you feel you must follow up and see the cat anyway, do not go alone, inform others of your whereabouts, and bring your cell phone, just in case.

    Check Cat Finders and our Facebook group page frequently, as new lost or found cats are added constantly. Please don’t rely on Cat Finders to notice if a cat reported as “Found” might be your lost cat, or a cat reported as lost might be the stray you have found. There are just too many cats posted for any one person to keep track of. Also, photos of the same cat can often look very different from each other. We have never met your cat, so we may not recognize the cat as yours, but you will. It is your responsibility to check the site frequently.

    If your phone number or email address changes, and your cat has not come home yet, please email: to update your information. Sometimes cats are found after a year or longer, and wouldn’t it be a shame if your cat were found and nobody knew how to reach you? It happens. Please keep us updated so that it won’t happen to you and your cat.


    Cat Finders’ suggested prayer, meditation, or wish: 
    May our lost cats be treated with kindness; may they be safe, well fed, and on their way home.

    Cat Finders
    603-659-6832 (11:00 am to 9:00 pm)         


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