How do I find a missing cat and how do I keep my cat safe?

15th May, 2023

Written by Anneke Malan – Chairperson National Cat Action Taskforce (NCat), Spokesperson Cats of South Africa (CoSA)

Your cat didn’t come home last night, and worry kept you awake for hours. This morning she’s still not back, and your heart is gripped by fear. What on earth do you do?

How do I find a missing cat?

This is one of your and my greatest fears. If our pets go missing, despite the precaution of a microchip and perhaps even a tagged collar, there are, fortunately, a number of things we can do. This will ensure that they’re one of the lucky ones that are reunited with their owners each year.

The guidelines below on finding a missing pet have been based partly on a document obtained from the Waltloo SPCA. I’m confident that they’ll help you to bring your beloved feline home.

  • Ask around the neighbourhood and post on social groups in case someone has accidentally locked your pet into their garage or tool shed.

  • If your cat’s still missing after a day or two, place leaflets in post boxes, at shops and at vets around the neighbourhood. Provide a picture of your cat on the leaflet if you can, as well as a description, and of course your address and/or telephone numbers. Also offer a reward (you don’t need to mention a specific amount – you can decide on an amount once your cat’s returned to you, depending on the circumstances). Make sure to mention that your family is heartbroken – this may help if someone is considering keeping your cat.

  • Call your local SPCA, veterinary practices, and shelters to enquire whether someone has brought your pet in. Put up posters in all the vets’ waiting rooms. If possible, visit shelters yourself every few days, since a description over the telephone isn’t always sufficient. (If your pet’s been microchipped, there’s a very good chance that the shelter will call you even before you’ve realised that your pet’s gone missing!)

  • Place ads in the local papers, and keep it up for at least a month if necessary.

  • Keep up to date with the information in the “Found” columns of your local papers – some kind person might advertise if they’ve found your pet.

  • Contact schools in your area. Some schools are prepared to make announcements about missing animals at assemblies.

  • Register your cat’s details with all the lost pet websites and check your local SPCA’s website. (Add a pic!) Also see the Facebook pages for Missing Pets SA and for Barking Mad. And you’re most welcome to advertise on the NCat and Cats of South Africa Facebook pages. Most other cat pages will also allow you to post.

  • Remember to update all the places where you searched and posted fliers once your pet has returned!

  • If you wish to contact an animal communicator, don’t hesitate to do so. Some of these remarkable people have amazing results!

Musts to include in social media posts, adverts, posters and leaflets

  • Type of animal.

  • Date your pet went missing and area they went missing from.

  • Breed, if applicable (e.g. Persian).

  • Description of your cat, e.g. gender, coat type, tail type, colour, any special markings, and whether they have collars or microchips.

  • A clearly visible photo and CONTACT DETAILS.

How do I keep my cat safe?

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, so investigate what you can do to ensure your cat can’t go missing in the first place!

Confining a cat or not

Like me, you’ve probably been thinking about whether or not you should somehow be confining your cat – especially if he or she has gone missing before or is an avid adventurer. You worry about all the dangers “out there”, and heave a sigh of relief when your cat turns up after a longer than usual absence.

While I have no definitive answer about confining a cat or not either, I thought I could present you with some thoughts and some useful info.


A catio is an enclosed outside space attached to the house (like a patio but fenced in) which allows your cat to spend time outside in the fresh air, without being able to leave. Catios are usually furnished with cat-safe plants, scratch posts, and various other cat enrichment toys and furniture. Many people also include a place for you to sit and relax with your feline friend.

Some cite the following cons regarding the use of catios:

  • Many cat lovers feel strongly that their cats should have complete freedom to live as nature intended them to live.

  • They also worry that their cats will become bored in confinement, and may even acquire one of the disorders that understimulated cats can develop.

  • Some of us can’t afford the cost of having a catio built or a cat-proof fence erected.

  • Apartment dwellers may feel that they simply don’t have the required space.

However, according to Alan Breslauer from Los Angeles, also known as The Catio Guy, there are even more pros than there may be cons:

  • The health and safety of the cats, which are probably self-evident. Cats that are confined are not exposed to cars, dogs, cat fights, irate humans or poison. Breslauer cites Jackson Galaxy in referring to catios as “the great compromise”, allowing cats “to have access to fresh air and sunshine, to see birds and bugs, and to experience a little bit of what comes with outdoor living”.

  • Breslauer also mentions the fact that human cat companions tend to sleep better when their furballs have access to the outdoors at dawn.

  • In addition, litter boxes can be moved outdoors, which cats seem to prefer in any event.

  • And then a biggie: protecting wildlife. Estimates of the number of birds and small mammals killed by cats tend to be wildly exaggerated. However, it stands to reason that cats that can only watch wildlife from a safe distance cannot add to the number of prey.


I can’t really think of any cons around fencing. I think most of us would prefer to keep our cats on our premises, especially if we have ample space. Cat guardians the world over make use of a number of different methods to achieve this.

  • Consider roller-type fencing such as the Australian Oscillot. If you live in Gauteng, Morné from Pet Safety Solutions ( ) will be able to install this – and any other safety system – for you.

  • Install something like the Pet Stop solar-powered kit along your existing fence to discourage pets from straying.

  • Another option is unobtrusive netting, which works especially well for a smaller property. This kind of netting is also available from Pet Safety Solutions.

  • Non-electrified fencing bent inwards, wires closely spaced, also keeps cats inside a property. Using a greater inward angle will make it more difficult for cats to negotiate.

  • A particularly clever (and cost-effective) trick to keep cats from escaping from your property by climbing trees is wrapping plastic bottles that have been cut open around the trees.

So, in conclusion, what are your thoughts about confining your cat – yes or no? I’m beginning to lean towards yes.

(First published at

And remember, “The memories and paw prints of a beloved cat remain in our heart and soul forever”.

(Source unknown)

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