What to Do If Your Pet Is Lost or Missing

What to Do If Your Pet Is Lost or Missing

Losing your beloved pet and knowing they are missing, far from home and in an unfamiliar, perhaps dangerous place can be a stressful and frightening experience. Quick, authoritative actions, however, can help you more easily locate your pet for a happy reunion.

Why Pets Get Lost

Most pets are very loyal and comfortable in familiar surroundings. There are different reasons why a pet might get lost, however, including…

  • Getting scared or disoriented by loud noises, like thunder, fireworks, or construction equipment
  • Moving to a new home that lacks any familiar sights, sounds, or scent markers
  • Chasing an intruder or prey, such as wildlife or another animal, and leaving familiar territory
  • Loss of outdoor scent markers through rain or heavy snow so the pet can no longer orient itself
  • Escaping outside in an unusual area, such as when traveling or visiting a new place
  • Loss of senses as the animal ages, such as gradual blindness or deafness

If Your Pet Is Lost or Missing

Regardless of why or how a pet may become lost, the ways to find and reunite with the pet are the same.

  1. Act Quickly
    The faster you take steps to find a lost pet, the faster you may be reunited. As soon as you discover the pet is missing, start searching: this is when the pet will still be closest to home and easiest to locate. Do not wait for the pet to return on its own, as a disoriented pet may wander even further away and get into more dangerous situations the longer it is missing.

  2. Search the Home and Yard
    Thoroughly check nearby spaces, including inside the house and in the yard. An exploring pet might get stuck in a closet, underneath furniture, behind a garage, under a deck, or in another nearby space that can be just as confusing as if the animal was far from home. If the pet is stuck in tight places, it might not be able to easily get out without help.

  3. Call for the Pet
    A lost pet that is still nearby may respond to calling, whistles, or other sounds that mean home and safety. Call the pet’s name or commands the animal knows, such as “come” or “home” to help them find their way back, and listen for a bark or meow response. Squeaking toys, shaking a box of treats, or other familiar noises can also help a pet orient itself to come home.

  4. Search the Neighborhood
    If a search of the house and yard doesn’t find the pet, branch out into the neighborhood, looking for likely pathways or routes the pet might have taken. Ask neighbors if they have seen the pet. If you take walks with the pet, follow the walking route to see if the pet may have been following familiar landmarks along the way.

  5. Check Local Shelters
    If you haven’t been able to locate your pet after a thorough neighborhood search, visit local shelters to see if the animal has been turned in. Visiting in person is critical, as a verbal description may be inadequate to know if any of the unclaimed animals may be your pet, and you want to be reunited as soon as possible if your pet is found.

  6. Call Animal Control
    Another agency to contact when your pet is lost or missing is the local animal control office. They may have received reports of a loose animal, or you can let them know to be on the lookout for your pet. Let them know your address, as well as the pet’s description and any distinctive markings, collar, or other information as needed.

  7. Use Social Media
    Social media can be a great resource to quickly spread the word about a missing pet and hopefully locate the animal right away. Consider posting your pet’s photo and your best contact information in a local group or missing pets page on Facebook, Nextdoor, or other networks, and be sure your friends know to be watching for your pet’s appearance.

  8. Put Up Neighborhood Signs
    If your pet is not found or returned quickly, putting up signs throughout the neighborhood can be effective to remind everyone to keep watching and contact you if the animal is sighted. Post flyers in local public areas if possible, such as a library, grocery store, other anywhere else a community bulletin board is available.

  9. Use Local Media
    If it is necessary to expand the search to a wider area after a few days, reaching out to local radio stations, newspapers, and television stations can be helpful. Many media outlets will run lost pet stories and photos at low cost or free of charge, and will help keep the community alert to your missing pet and how to reunite you with your lost family member.

With good fortune and dedicated effort, you can be reunited with a lost pet quickly and easily.

Before a Pet Is Lost

There are many steps pet owners can take to protect their pets and minimize the risk of the animal going lost or missing. Consider…

  • Keeping pet identification tags and microchips updated at all times
  • Having a recent picture of your pet available, especially showing distinctive markings
  • Training your pet to come, stay, and stop on command to help them return if they escape
  • Using gates and barriers to prevent escapes, and keeping fences in good repair
  • Checking your pet’s collar, leash, and harness regularly to be sure they fit properly
  • Taking frequent neighborhood walks and introduce your pet to the neighbors
  • Spaying or neutering your pet to minimize the “wandering urge” for finding a mate
  • Staying alert to your pet’s behavior at all times, especially on walks or when outside
  • Keeping ownership documentation available in case you need to reclaim your pet

It can be devastating when a pet is lost or missing, but by knowing what to do and how to respond quickly, you can be reunited as soon as possible.

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