Psyche of the Lost Cat

Hi my name is Penquin.  As a formerly “lost cat” I am wrapping up this Second Chance Humane Society Pet Column series on tips to find your lost pet. I am following up last’s weeks Psyche of the Lost Dog with a little Freudian (or would it be Skinner?) look at how understanding cat behavior will help you to find a lost cat. 

Like dogs, lost cats also demonstrate distinct patterns of behavior, often different from our normal behaviors, making it harder for our people to find us. A cat’s behavior when lost will often depend on the lifestyle they lead.  For instance, an indoor only cat will behave quite differently from an outdoor cat when lost. 

As such, indoor-only cats are likely to be found very close to home; in fact, sometimes they are stuck or hiding inside the home. They are most often found in a good hiding place around the home: in the bushes, under the house, in a shed, under a deck, etc.

When they get out, indoor cats tend to be quiet and fearful, and hunker down not even willing to emerge at the sound of their owner’s voice. Many cat parents have reported calling and shaking the food bag right next to where the cat was hiding, but there was no response from the cat.  It was not until they got low and physically looked in cat spaces that they found their cat laying a foot away from them.

Outdoor-access cats are also typically found close to home, but farther than the indoor cat. The reason for an outdoor-access cat’s disappearance is usually that he is ill or injured, stuck, or has been displaced (chased by people, another pet, or a wild animal). “Curiosity killed the cat” is an unfortunately true adage that leads cats to explore in places like inside a vehicle, in a tool shed or other building.

Sometimes outdoor-access cats, especially those who have been missing a long time, will turn up at other people’s homes or in colonies of free-roaming cats. They naturally look for things familiar and comforting to them like food, water, shelter, and other cats. This is why it is important for people who notice a new cat to ask around and check lost reports at their local shelter and not make an assumption that the cat was abandoned.  

Some shy cats will hide for days or even weeks, so it is good to not give up your search if your cat is naturally shy as they can hide and avoid people for very long periods of time.

The outgoing cat may be vocal and approach people, even following them home. Because of this, he may travel away from his own home and become disoriented and unable to find his way back. Such outgoing cats are in danger of being taken in and kept by finders who mean well but assume the cat has been abandoned so make sure you put effort into reporting and posting your lost pet everywhere (following the steps laid out at the beginning of this three-part Pet Column series on how to find your lost pet).

It feels great not to be lost anymore. Particularly since I was very pregnant when I was brought to Second Chance with my sister (who is also a young momma). I am about a year and a half young with a lovely tuxedo coat (no I don’t walk like a penquin). My three babes are ready for homes of their own and so am I. Life is too short to be homeless – come meet me today.

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View our shelter pets and services online:

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops service San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 970-626-2273 to report a lost pet or to learn about adopting a homeless pet and the SCHS spay/neuter, volunteer, feral cat or other programs. View our shelter pets and services at

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