Unless your cat is an outdoor cat that knows the area it's missing in, it is unlikely to find its own way home. If you lose your cat away from home, or your indoor cat escapes, there is a lot you can do to raise the odds of finding it.
Unfortunately, there are a number of myths about cat behaviour that can get in the way of a happy reunion. It's important to know that:
1. Cats don't have innate navigating senses to know which way is home. Except in very lucky cases, you're going to have to go and find your cat to bring it home.
2. Cats in unfamiliar surrounds don't go into hiding because they are unwell. They scurry and go into hiding because they are frightened. They might be outside their usual territory or spooked by something. Again, taking action to find your cat will boost the odds of getting it home.
3. Waiting for a cat to find its way will only make things worse. Cats can be spooked from their initial hiding spot and can continue to seek shelter in any random direction. The sooner you search for your cat, the better.
Tips for the search party:
- You will need to conduct a thorough search, checking in every cat-sized hiding place you can find, starting with where the cat went missing. Allow sufficient time.
- Pet cats gravitate to hiding in and under man made structures like houses and sheds, and very occasionally up in trees, rather than in shrubs.
- Consider viewing Google maps satellite view, and identify the 4-5 buildings in all directions from where the cat went missing. Plan to search these properties, rather than following streets (which have a sequence that's meaningless to cats).
- Searching is most effective between 11pm and 6am when there are fewer loud noises and cats are naturally more confident. Naturally you'll need prior permission to check out neighbour's land, and you shouldn't be searching on your own for safety reasons.
- Take a good torch to illuminate hidden nooks such as building foundations.
- Take smelly (delicious) food with you, and call out to your cat, pausing and listening for a reply. A hungry cat may call back faintly.
- Avoid fast movements - your cat will be in such a state of fear that it will be easily spooked.
- It is worth putting up posters to seek the help of people in the area. Do notify all surrounding vets and animal shelters of the circumstances so that they are ready to help in the event that your cat is brought in (equally, let the same people know if you find your cat). Even if your cat is microchipped (check that the associated phone number is current), a shelter may not have located the chip or run the scan, so it's best to phone shelters or visit in person.
Odds are that your cat needs you to find it. Don't give up after just a few days of searching.
For more information on what to do if your cat is lost, see: