That moment when you realize your beloved pet is missing is horrific. It can happen to even the most diligent, responsible pet owner, and it’s beyond scary. It can be hard not to go into full-on panic mode once you realize your pet is not where they should be, but that’s Rule Number One. Staying calm and having a plan will help you find your lost pet as quickly as possible. To that end, I’ve put together a few tips on what to do if your pet goes missing.
Make sure your pet always wears his collar and tags, and that the information is current. Microchipping can be an additional and worthwhile form of identification. I’ve read countless stories of microchipped pets being reunited with their family – some after many months or even years – so it really can help.
Keep some clear, close-up photographs of your pet in an easily accessible place. It’s also a good idea to write down your pet’s unique markings and things that could help identify them – such as “small, white patch of fur underneath left front leg.” It might seem silly to do this now, but you may not be able to think clearly while distressed.
I also recommend creating a “lost pet poster” template on your computer, which will save you valuable time. All of the basic information will already be there, so updating it will be quick and easy.
1. Begin searching immediately. Time is of the essence, and the sooner you start looking for your lost pet, the greater the chance they are still nearby. So don’t wait to see if they come home on their own – begin your search the minute you know they are gone.
2. Canvas the neighborhood on foot, repeatedly calling your pet’s name. Knock on every door and tell everyone you meet that you’re looking for a lost pet. Give them a flyer with your pet’s picture and your contact information and ask them to call you right away if they see your pet. If they aren’t home, leave a flyer at their door.
If you see a mail carrier or delivery driver, give them a flyer too. Don’t be shy! The more people who know about your lost pet, the greater the chance that someone will spot him and call you.
Ask neighbors if you can check their garages, sheds and barns, etc. Your pet may have slipped in unseen and can’t get out because the door is closed, or is too afraid to come out.
Bring something to lure them out of hiding. My cats always come running when I shake a bag of their CANIDAE treats, which says “Here kitty kitty” better than I ever could. A dog might have a favorite squeaky toy, and the familiar sound might be just the reassurance they need to come out of their safe hiding spot.
Check any animal shelter within a 30 mile radius. If you don’t find your pet there, fill out a lost pet report.
Post your Lost Pet flyer anywhere that is allowed. Good places include public bulletin boards, local supermarkets, pet stores, bookstores, libraries, dog parks and veterinary clinics. Ask local businesses if you can put your flyer in their window or by the register.
Place a Lost Pet ad in your local newspaper. Most papers will run these ads free of charge.
Post online at sites such as Facebook, Craiglist and PetAmberAlert.com, and search online lost pet databases such as TheCenterForLostPets.com and fidofinder.com.
Put some water and your pet’s food outside in a secluded spot (or several). Your pet may become braver under the cover of darkness and find their way home. It’s also a good idea to place their crate or carrier outside in a quiet, sheltered area. Put your pet’s blanket inside, or an article of clothing that has your smell on it, and leave the door open so they can go into it.
The Next Day
Check the newspaper to see if anyone has placed a found pet ad that matches your dog or cat. Keep checking the online databases and networking on Facebook as well. Go back to the local shelters and dog parks, and canvas the neighborhood again.
Don’t Give Up
It’s so important not to lose hope if you cannot find your pet right away. Yes, it’s incredibly difficult to remain positive when you’re worried sick, but try your best. Think about all the things you love about your pet. Visualize their joyful homecoming. Keep searching, while affirming a happy outcome. Do things in between your searching that make you laugh, such as watching funny videos, movies or TV sitcoms.
I sincerely hope you never have to use these tips to find a lost pet, but it is much better to be prepared than to scramble and panic if it does happen.
Read more articles by Julia Williams