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Jabie, shortly after her return, lost 1/3 her body weight and a tooth. She also had puncture wounds and a cracked rib.

10 ways to find a missing cat

Welcome to OnMeowaukee Cat Week, a meowsome bunch of articles, photos, videos and an Instagram contest celebrating all aspects of Milwaukee cats. Sponsored by Bark N' Scratch Outpost, these seven days are dedicated to those creatures with nine lives who make our lives more paw-sitive.

Just about a year ago, our little black cat, Jabie, disappeared from our house. You might remember this story, because I used every tool available to get the word out. An incredible 25 days later, a neighbor about four blocks away, found her, and we got her back. She was skinny, missing a front tooth, and had puncture wounds on her back and a broken rib.

A year later, she's totally back to normal. Our family is very, very lucky, and every time time I look at Jabie I am amazed she's alive and well, although she certainly used up most of her nine lives during her journey.

Many people ask for me for tips on how to get their cat back when it goes missing. I touched on our methods in this blog post right after Jabie came home, but I've had the added perspective of time to think about it. Here's what I learned about how to find a lost cat:

1. Put a collar on the cat

This is a proactive one, but maybe the most important. I assumed that Jabie would never tolerate a collar, but now that she's back, she wears one and she's fine. In fact, I bought one that glows in the dark and has a glow-in-the-dark tag that says "INSIDE CAT" in all caps. As I wandered day after day through my neighborhood searching for her, I found a ton of collarless black cats. We received many false leads because she wasn't wearing a collar. It might be hard to get your older cat to wear a collar (although in our case, it wasn't) but if you start them young, this might be the single easiest way to get your lost cat back if it ever goes missing.

2. Check MADACC daily

While visiting their website, calling and visiting daily led to many disappointments, it was a necessary step to see if Jabie had been turned in. It could have definitely happened, and once you are aware of how many stray cats are out there in Milwaukee, you'll gain a new appreciation for animal welfare efforts. We made a donation when finally got Jabie back, and you should, too.

3. Walk the neighborhood

On most days during her journey, it felt like a waste of time to walk the neighborhood, but we did it for hours every day, before and after work. We went out at dawn and in the middle of the night when it was quiet. We shook treats and called her name. Only after the fact did I find out that she was hiding just a few houses away from the perimeter we established. Only on the day before we found her did we hear her meow. While wandering incessantly didn't ultimately find Jabie, it did raise awareness and help me squash false leads of Jabie imposters.

4. Print lots of flyers

We spent well over $400 on thousands of flyers with clear photos. You'll have to decide how much is too much, of course, but we kept going. We started with 50 color flyers, but they were gone in a day. Ultimately, I believe our most successful results came from printing quarter-page leaflets, stuffing them in mailboxes and giving them out to trick-or-treaters. The woman who ultimately found Jabie never even saw one of the flyers … but her neighbor did.

5. Talk to people

A stray cat that wasn't Jabie.

While walking the streets and alleys, I talked to a lot of strangers. Most were extremely helpful and kind. They took our phone numbers and volunteered to look, too. I'm sure people got sick of seeing me rummaging through their bushes, but for the most part, the neighborhood really rose to the occasion. You'll see a lot of humanity when your cat goes missing.

6. Use social media

We used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with great results, posting on lost animal neighborhood pages, and people were really wonderful. I actually made new friends in the process, and people offered us a ton of moral support. That really helps during this scary time, because having a missing pet is very emotionally draining.

7. Advertise on Facebook and Twitter

Here's a secret weapon: pay to promote your posts to your ZIP code. It's very cost-effective and will reach far more people than your personal network of friends. It's all very self-service, and it will get the message out in ways you have to see to believe. $50 goes a long way.

8. Skip the psychics

After a few weeks, we definitely got desperate. We reached out to two recommended pet psychics and came back with specific, but ultimately incorrect news that only made my wife cry. I didn't believe in astrology before Jabie disappeared, and I certainly don't believe in after paying for it.

9. Don't bother with GPS trackers

After we got Jabie back, I dropped hundreds of dollars are several GPS-enabled devices in case Jabie ever got lost again. Unfortunately, they don't really work and are too heavy, bulky for the average cat. I won't go into specifics, but having used them, I'll tell you they're not where they need to be yet. Better to invest in a little bell for their collar.

10. Don't give up

I really thought we'd find Jabie within a few days. When we didn't, I began to lose hope. By the third week, I came to grips that she was gone forever. I hoped that at least some elderly neighbor, not on Facebook, took her in. That last push of flyers during trick-or-treat, some three weeks after we lost Jabie, felt like a waste of time. But somehow, we found this shy, black kitty, and she lived to tell. You can get your pet back. Don't give up.


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