10 Steps to Finding a Lost Pet

If your dog or cat disappears, there are steps you can take to find it again.


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As a loving pet owner, there's nothing worse than having your cat or dog disappear without a trace. But, if you act fast, chances are you can find your pet and bring it back home safely. Here's a checklist of 10 things you should do if Fido or Fluffy go missing.

  1. Comb the neighborhood. Do a door-to-door search, being sure to ask your neighbors to check their garages, sheds, and basement window wells. Cats, in particular, are curious about dark places and will often retreat to the safety of a building or basement if they get scared being on their own. One cat I know was found 10 days after he was discovered missing. He had gone into the lower level of a barn about a half-mile from home and the door had blown shut and locked him in. Be sure to bring a flashlight for your search so you can see under porches and into dark corners. And don't forget that cats like to climb, so look up; you might see your feline stranded on the neighbor's roof.
  2. Post flyers. Your pet might never get lost, but just in case, always have a good, clear photograph available to put on a poster. Make sure the poster includes a thorough description of the animal as well as your cell phone or home phone number with an answering machine. Also, hand the flyers out to every animal control organization, rescue group, and veterinarian's office within at least a 10 mile radius.
  3. Visit animal shelters. Just calling an animal shelter to report your pet missing is not enough. Many shelters are overwhelmed with pets and your description might not match the pet they've found. For example, if you say your cat is a "yellow tiger" they might not recognize him if the intake person at the shelter calls him a "cream tiger." That's why you should visit each shelter in person every other day.
  4. Don't assume your pet is close. It's very possible that a Good Samaritan might have spotted your pet on a busy highway, picked him up, and taken him to a shelter near his or her home. This means that your pet could end up far from home, so expand your search to at least a 20-mile radius. And, if you live in a rural area with a local radio station, see if they would do a broadcast listing your missing pet.
  5. Engage social media. As soon as possible, put a "lost" ad on Craigslist and post the information about your pet on Facebook, asking people to share it with their friends. Keep updating your posting so everyone will know you are still looking for your furry family member. Be sure to list every detail about your pet including any identifying marks or scars.
  6. Call the highway department. Sadly, if your pet has been hit by a car, it's likely your local highway department will pick up the body. It's also wise to drive up and down busy streets near your home to see if you can spot your friend.
  7. Make sure your pet has ID. Before tragedy strikes, be sure your pet carries identification. First, microchip your pet so it carries permanent identification. These days, veterinarian's offices and animal shelters scan stray pets to look for an embedded chip to facilitate an owner match. Also, make sure your animal is wearing tags on its collar with your name and cell phone number. You can also buy collars with your phone number stitched right into the collar's fabric.
  8. Check with breed rescue groups. Almost every purebred dog has a rescue group devoted to that breed. So, if your pooch is a purebred, check with all the rescue groups in the region to see if it's been turned in to them.
  9. Talk to dog people. No one understands the stomach turning feeling you get when you lose a pet better than another pet owner. Go to the local dog park and hand out flyers. Talk to everyone you meet. Engage them in the search because it's entirely possible your dog could come out of hiding if they see a familiar canine friend walk by.
  10. Never give up. Just because your cat or dog has been gone a week doesn't mean it has been stolen or is dead on the side of the road. It could still be wandering around trying to find its way home. Keep posting flyers, visiting shelters, talking to veterinarians, and using social media, and you'll probably be rewarded with a furry reunion very soon.
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