No one wants to lose a pet, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of daily life, a dog or cat can slip through the front door and vanish in seconds. It is a heart-wrenching situation, but there are some steps you can take to help your pet return home quickly and safely. I’ve only lost a pet once, my cat Bella many years ago, but I learned a lot from the situation.
If you saw your pet escape, grab a leash, your cell phone, and some tasty treats then head in the last direction you saw your pet running. I know my dogs love a good game of chase, so even though it is tempting in this stressful situation, don’t run towards your pet when you see him. I’ve found that I have the most success if I sit down on the ground, get in the ‘play bow’ position, or even start running in the opposite direction. They may become curious about your behavior and come to investigate. If you run the other way they may think that you are playing a fun game of chase. Don’t scold your dog if/when they come back to you. They won’t understand that you are scolding for running away, they will think they’re being punished for coming back!
Facebook, Twitter & Pet Websites
If your immediate search is unsuccessful, it is time to start notifying shelters, rescue groups and posting on websites. I like to call the local shelters first to alert them if someone brings in or calls about a found or roaming pet. Next, I take to the web. Post on your Facebook page, Twitter account, and even PetFinder…make sure your contact info on the pages is correct. Have a recent photo available to use when posting about your lost pet. You can also contact veterinarians and emergency animal hospitals in your area to keep an eye out.
Search & Rescue
Go back out for a more thorough search of the area where your pet was lost. Before you leave the house, leave food and water, as well as some of your dirty laundry (with your scent) outside the house. Your pet’s exquisite sense of smell may help to guide him home. Grab a backpack and gather your cellphone, printed photos of your pet, a pad of paper to write contact information on, treats, a favorite squeaky toy (for dogs), flashlight, water and a leash/collar. If you have other dogs, take one of them with you as they may be able to sense each other. While you are out, ask others in the area to keep an eye out, handing out extra photos and your contact information.
If you are unsuccessful in finding your pet, start making lost posters. When you’re making posters you should only include vital information like your pet’s name, size and color/breed, your phone number and a crisp, clear photo of your pet. Make sure the text is large enough to be visible from a passing car. You can also change your voicemail recording to indicate that you are looking for a lost pet. Don’t limit your posters to your neighborhood. Many animals are found miles from home, so spread out your posters in a wide area. Take some posters to your local vet clinic or emergency hospital and local shelters and rescues. Once your pet has been found, contact the shelters and clinics to update them and remove lost posters from the streets.
If you are anything like me, you’ll go on a search and rescue mission almost every day near your home. You can also be proactive and visit local shelters to see if your pet has been turned in. Visit or call shelters far and wide because pets can travel between 10 and 30 miles per day.
First, make sure your pet has up-to-date ID tags and is wearing them. I know I am guilty of taking collars off at home and not always replacing them, but it is the first thing I look for if I encounter a stray pet. Keep updated photos of your pets in an easy access place in your home so they are ready to grab if you need them.
New technology like microchipping can also be a big help in finding a lost pet. This service can usually be done quickly at the vet’s office if your pet isn’t already chipped. Make sure that the information stored on your pet’s microchip is up to date. GPS technology is also relatively new. There are GPS devices available that attach to your pet’s collar and you can use your smartphone or a computer to track your pet’s whereabouts.
I hope that this information helps you in the event that you have to search for a lost pet. Good luck!