Going Through the Grieving Process: How to Cope With A Lost Cat
Sat, April 10, 2021

Going Through the Grieving Process: How to Cope With A Lost Cat



No matter how much you shield them from the outside world, your pet can escape through a cracked door or go over the dog fence in your garden, said Cynthia L. Olson of Pet Life Today, a website that offers expert advice on pets. It can be a traumatizing experience, and more often than not, your cat might have embarked on a perilous journey rather than an adventure into the unknown.


Survey Illustrates Locating Missing Cats and Acquision Methods (2018)

Liyan Huang and colleagues of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC recruited 1,210 cats from June 10 to August 17, 2016. Country of residence was specified in 686 cats, with most felines residing in the USA (59%), Australia (20%), and Canada (14%). Most adult cats aged one to seven years went missing compared to kittens (0 to 11 months; 10%) and seniors (above eight years; 24%).

The missing cats were acquired from an animal shelter or rescue (33%), a family member or friend or acquaintance (18%), other (11%), in a public location (found as a stray; 10%), or “appeared as a stray at my home” (10%). Some of the missing cats were acquired as a gift (1%), from a veterinarian (2%), or online/from the internet (3%). They were also acquired thanks to an ad in a newspaper (1%) or from a pet shop (4%).  

The types of identification present when the cats went missing were microchip (46%), a collar with ID tag (19%), and a collar but no tag (12%). 5% had an identification tattoo while 37% and 43% had no identification or no identification or only collar but no tag (43%). Dwelling locations when the cats went missing were residential— mainly apartments (11%), residential— mainly houses (73%), commercial (1%), acreage/hobby farm (4%), and rural/farmland/ranches (5%).

Six months prior to the cats going missing, most were indoor-outdoor cats (69%), with 46% of all felines being allowed to go outdoors unsupervised. 28% said their cat was strictly kept indoors and never allowed outdoor access. Of these, 42% of cats “experience more than 6 months previously of the outdoors.”

Meanwhile, dwelling types included house/townhouse/condominium with a yard/garden (77%, house/townhouse/condominium without a yard/garden (3%), apartment— on the ground (1st floor only (5%), apartment— on the 2nd-5th floor (6%), trailer/caravan/mobile home/camper (2%), and farm/acreage (7%). 88% and 89% of respondents strongly agreed with the statements, “I am very attached to my cat” and “I regard my cat as a family member,” respectively. 59% of cats were found alive where a physical search was conducted.

Similar percentages were found in the categories “searched indoors” (58%), “searched my yard or the immediate area” (59%), and “spoke with neighbors and asked them to look or assist in the search for my cat” (57%).  Of the felines that were found alive, 83% were found outside, inside someone else’s house (11%), inside the house where they lived (4%), and inside a public building (2%).



Coping With A Lost Pet

Grief is associated with death, but it can also be felt when your pet goes missing, noted Adam Clark LCSW, AASW, of Psychology Today, a magazine in the US. When grieving about your missing your pet, you feel a maelstrom of emotions and blame yourself or other people.

You start to wonder whether your cat will return home safe and sound. You might also conjure “what if” scenarios in your mind. It is healthy and normal to grieve but it is advisable to engage in self-care to take care of ourselves and our family. Everyone makes mistakes and do you think you are coping with grief when you continue to blame ourselves and others?

Questions like "How long do we hold out and hope for their return?" and "How long do we wait?" are not easy to answer. To Clark, being productive in our grief entails engaging with our neighbors and community members, sending emails, and making signs to find your lost cat.  What if days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months? It is hard to keep latching onto the unknown or the hope that your beloved pet will return. No one wants to feel like they are abandoning their cat. In fact, it’s normal not to give up in your search or admit that your cat may never return.

However, you must continue to process your emotions and accept the reality. It does not mean that you are giving up or admitting defeat. Who knows? Maybe a kind stranger will send an email or text or call you that your cat has been found. Or maybe not. In that case, the closure process may end in “goodbye” or “see you later,” allowing you to express your gratitude about how your pet has been a significant part of your life.



Too Early to Give Up: How to Find A Lost Cat

Contact every shelter in your area (at least within a 60-mile radius of your home) and visit them every day if you can, suggested the Humane Society of the United States, an animal protection organization. You can also contact your local police department if there are no animal shelters near you. Be sure to provide these agencies with a recent picture of your cat.  Ask your neighbors or letter carriers and delivery people if they have seen your pet. Provide them with a photo of your cat, as well as your contact information.

Place advertisements in newspapers, veterinary offices, community centers, etc. Don’t forget to include your cat’s age, sex, weight, breed, color, and any special markings. You can also post ads on the internet. if your pet has been found. Leave out one identifying characteristic when describing your pet to a person. Let the individual describe your cat’s appearance.

Be careful of pet recovery scams. If a stranger claims to have found your cat, ask them to describe your pet in detail before offering any information. If the stranger does not include the identifying characteristic you omitted in the ad, maybe the person does not have your pet. People who insist that you give or send money in exchange for your pet is a sign of a pet-recovery scam.


Don’t give up on your search. It may take weeks or months before your cat is found. However, the chances of your pet being returned are higher when it is microchipped or wears an ID tag. Sadly, there is also the possibility of your cat not returning. In that case, take your time processing your emotions and seeking closure.