This myth has taken on a life of its own thanks to the internet and social media. There is no evidence to suggest that placing a dirty litter box outside the home will magically bring the cat back, yet people continue to believe in this method because it is an easy answer. There have been cases where the smelly box attracted other cats or wild animals, both of which can pose a danger to the cat the owner is trying to recover.
This is false. Animals do not have a concept of life and death like humans. What really happens in these cases is that cats, often old and feeble, hunker down somewhere because they don't feel well. They don't return home because they are frightened or too weak to walk, and they will indeed die if not found and given medical attention.
While wild animals do sometimes kill pets, it is much less common than popularly believed. In many areas, pets and predators exist side by side with no negative interactions. The danger in this belief is that it will cause an owner to stop searching, when their pet might be stuck somewhere, ill or injured, or waiting to be reclaimed in an animal shelter.
Desperate owners will try anything to get their beloved pet back, including calling psychics. We cannot prove or disprove the effectiveness of psychic messages from a missing pet, but the danger is that we see owners fixate on what the psychic tells them instead of pursuing other options. Also, these services cost $$ that could have been used to fund proven effective techniques or to hire a reputable Missing Pet Consultant.
There are heartless people who will prey on distraught pet owners by claiming they have the pet and will return it for a price. These are scams and should be reported to the police. If someone calls claiming they have a missing pet, the owner should ask for photos. Today, everyone has a smart phone and can easily take and text a picture in seconds. If they say they can’t, chances are they have never seen the pet and they are just looking for money.