By Claire Hume

We’d gotten into a great routine with our fluffy, orange, 10-month-old cat Pistol Pete. He’d wake us up around 6am (often by knocking books off the bedside table – no one’s perfect), we’d slip him into his anti-bird-hunting collar, and let him outside where he’d catch bugs in the yard and watch the dogs walk by. An hour or so later he’d saunter in through his cat door looking for breakfast and would spend the day inside while we were at work. In the evening he’d go out again until we whistled for dinner when he’d come racing up the garden path.

On the morning of Thursday May 19, Pete went out like normal, but didn’t come home (not yet, anyway). Over the last few months we have reluctantly learned a lot about how one should look for a missing cat, and how to best assist a neighbour who has lost one.

When you notice your cat is missing, start by checking your house, top to bottom, outside and in. Most of the time they are close by, and if they’ve been scared, they’ll hide and be unhelpfully quiet. If you come up empty, re-check the deepest, darkest corners of your basement/shed/attic/cupboards/overturned canoe. Next, put a worn piece of clothing and their litterbox outside your door to help them smell their way home. Ask your neighbours if they’ve seen your cat, and if you could please check their backyard to see if it’s hiding somewhere on their side of the fence. Our neighbours were incredibly understanding and helped us take a look for our cat in their yards – except one suspicious fellow who thought it was a ploy to get his tree cut down. Not so, it’s a lovely tree.

At this point, I’d recommend going all out. Contact local pet-finding groups on Facebook – FLEC (Finding Lost and Escaped Cats) and ROAM (Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing) are two wonderful Victoria based organizations. FLEC had 69 cats reported as missing in the month of May and their volunteers have gone to great lengths to reunite the animals with their families. If you send them a photo and description of your pet they’ll help you draft a poster and get the word out to their networks. 

Print a hundred posters and put them up within a kilometer or two radius from the cat’s home and/or where it got lost. It may seem like a lot, but it’s better to get ahead of where your pet may be. Taking a victory lap to take them down won’t seem like such a hardship once your cat has been found safe. Print another 50 fliers and put them in mailboxes up and down your street. Include a photo of your pet, your phone number, and ask if they could kindly check their garages and sheds. Staff at the Victoria Animal Control Centre say the flyers are more effective than posters. I say do both to cover all your bases.

All lost and found pets in Victoria get referred to Victoria Animal Control Services. The staff is great at updating their website with photos of impounded animals, but you can also phone to check if they’ve seen your pet. Send a photo and description of your cat to Animal Control, the SPCA, and the Humane Society in case the cat gets dropped off, though if your cat is tattooed or micro-chipped they’ll be able to scan it to get your information. Post to the “lost pet” section of Craigslist,, Kijiji, and your own social media networks. 

Walk around calmly calling for your pet, especially early in the morning and late in the evening when it’s quiet. Take a poster with you so you can ask the people you pass if they’ve seen your pet, and prepare yourself for a lot of anecdotal advice, most of it well meaning. 

On the flip side, when you see lost pet posters go up in your neighbourhood take a moment to read them. You could take a photo of it on your phone for future reference too. Check your yard and keep an eye out for animals that match the missing pet’s description. If you think you’ve seen someone’s lost pet take a picture if possible and note any defining features, the day, time, and location. Any information is better than nothing and we so appreciate people trying to help, but we got a lot vague of calls that weren’t entirely useful. “I saw your cat lying next to a car. It was probably stolen, but I don’t remember what the car looked like or what day it was,” for example, spiked stress levels without giving us much to work with. If someone approaches you asking about a lost animal that you haven’t seen and you don’t fancy yourself much of a pet person, no problem. A simple “good luck” or “hope you find your pet” is a great response, no need to speculate further. “Each eagle eats literally dozens of cats,” was neither helpful nor correct.

When we get an enthusiastic “I found your cat!” call, we drop everything and run to wherever they are. Each time, at least so far, we’ve been met with a kind stranger holding someone else’s grumpy orange cat. Best to save absolutes for times when you have a collar or tattoo confirmation. 

Lastly, if you go through all of the above and still haven’t found your cat, you could try writing an article about it and hope your experience will help other wayward cats get home safely.

(If anyone knows where Pistol Pete is email me,