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How to find a missing pet

Your dog is playing outside and all of a sudden can’t be found. You’re moving house with your cat and she bolts out through the front door. Or someone opens the door to let him/her out at your vacation spot. 

There are so many scenarios that result in a lost pet, and what’s one thing they all have in common? 

It usually happens when you least expected it.

You probably thought (or think) that you are very careful, you’re always aware of your environment, or your pet is too well-behaved.  

Take a walk to any animal shelter and you’ll instantly realize how wrong you are. It can happen to you or anyone, so best be prepared and act fast if you cannot find your pet.

11 things to do when your pet goes missing.

how to find a missing pet
Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay 

To be sincere, finding your missing pet is not going to be easy. However, the actions that you take immediately you notice that your pet is gone will determine how soon you find your pet – or if you ever will. Here’s what you need to do when your pet can’t be found.

1. Keep calm and make a plan.

Losing a beloved pet can trigger a lot of strong emotions. However, you have a better chance of finding your pet if you remain calm, make a plan, and check every item off. 

A plan will help you stay focused on the next step instead of worrying about what you might have missed. 

How do you make a plan that’ll help you find your pet? 

Jot all the steps outlined in this article, starting from the next one and cross items off as you complete them. 

2. Double-check your home.

This is a very important step. You need to be certain that your pet is not in your house or on the property.

You don’t want to spend effort looking for a pet that simply decided to nap in a different location.

Check your yard, basement, the garage, and other locations your pet might be trapped in. Remember a scared or injured dog will not be able to respond well to your calls. 

3. Contact the microchip company. 

If your pet is chipped, call the microchip company and let them know that your pet is missing. They’ll mark your pet’s chip ID on their database with a ‘missing’ tag or something similar. This way, if a good Samaritan finds your pet and gets the microchip scanned, the person will be notified. This also helps a potential new parent know that the pet (your pet) went missing and wasn’t abandoned by you.

4. Alert your neighbors while searching the neighborhood.

After checking your home and informing the chip company, the next thing you should do is talk to your neighbors.

Knock on doors and ask your neighbors if they’ve picked up your pet, seen, or fed it in the last couple of hours. At least, one person might be able to point you in the direction your pet went.

Talk to everyone you can find: people walking their dogs, delivery persons, mail carriers, etc. Children are more observant than adults, so ask them if they’ve seen a stray animal around. 

Go outside and night with a flashlight to search places a scared animal might hide. This includes drains, sheds, under porches, or parked cars. 

Call out your pet’s name and listen for faint whimpers or meow of a stuck or wounded animal.

5. Search with treats and toys.

While searching through the neighborhood, make sure you have treats and your pet’s favorite toy with you. These two are necessary in case you need to soothe or coax a scared and anxious pet. 

Your pet knows that he/she is missing thanks to the unfamiliar environment and may act differently, so be careful. 

6. Design and share posters around town.

Though we are in the internet age and quick connection, old-fashioned posters/flyers still work. 

Your posters don’t even have to be complicated or fancy, they just need to get people’s attention. 

So what do you include in a ‘missing pet’ poster/flyer?

Include the pet’s name, where and when it was last seen, a clear colored photo, the pet’s breed, license and color info, your name, mobile number, and reward (do not specify any amount).

Put up the notice on lamp posts around your area, pet daycare, groomer’s place, the coffee shop, around the park and other areas you both frequent, and hand some to your neighbors.

Here’s a clean template I found. 

7. Leave out food and familiar items. 

Most houses look very similar and lots of household pets are not good at recognizing the exterior of their home. 

This might be what’s confusing your pet – without your help, they can’t recognize which home they belong to. 

To help them, gather some of your pet’s toys, food, water bowl, and some of your old socks or shoes. Place these outside the door or on the porch where your returning pet can identify familiar scent on the items. 

Use a video doorbell to monitor what’s going on with the items you left outside! 

8. Calls! Calls!! and more Calls!!! 

Now isn’t the time to leave an email or a comment on their social media page. You have to make lots of calls. Start with the…

Animal control and shelters.

Call your local animal shelters and control centers ASAP. Check-in with them every morning and evening over the next couple of days. You’ll have a better chance of people recognizing you and your missing pet if you go in personally with your flyer/poster.   

Local police.

The police’s job isn’t just to maintain law and order by arresting offenders. They also pick up stray pets that they come across while performing their duties. So, contact your local police and sheriff department to find out if they’ve spotted any stray animal that matches your pet’s description. 

Local vets.

Not everyone that finds a stray animal knows what to do or how to help them get back to their owners. Many people turn stray animals in at the nearest vet or emergency clinic. And it likely won’t be the one that’s closest to you. 

This is why you have to visit as many clinics and shelters as possible to drop your contact in case your pet is found. 

Shelters and clinics are very busy. They have to deal with stray and feral cats, homeless animals, and many more.  The workers there might not make an immediate connection between found animals turned in by strangers and your missing pet, so make sure to check back often so your issue isn’t forgotten under a pile of paper. 

9. Leverage social media.

Other than sharing memes and funny videos, you can also use social media to get the word out quickly. Look for social media pages or groups of pet lovers from your city and post your lost-pet notice there.  

10. Check lost pet websites/apps.

Post an ad on Craigslist, you don’t know who might be watching. Post on other websites/apps such as Pet FBI, Fido Finder, FindShadow, Center for Lost Pets, Missing Pet Network, Lost Pet USA, TabbyTracker, etc.     

11. Expand your search.

If your pet hasn’t been found after 3 days, expand your search to shelters and vet clinics further from your home. Maybe your pet walked farther from home before being picked up. 

5 tips to increase the likelihood of being reunited with your pet.

1. Get your pet microchipped or use GPS. 

Microchips are tiny devices injected under the skin and that can easily be read with a scanner. The process is painless and doesn’t take long to complete. However, you need to keep the information on the database updated at all times.  

Another option that should be used in tandem with microchips is a GPS device. You can attach this to your pet’s collar to pinpoint the animal’s exact location. I recommend getting the Whistle Go Pet GPS. It has a replaceable battery and the range is good.

2. Update the ID 

Even if your pet is chipped or is an indoor pet, have him/her wear a collar with license and ID tags. Ensure the information on the collar is current. You can’t tell exactly when your pet will bolt out through the door and not return. 

Plus, it is much faster to contact the owner of a stray pet if there’s a contact detail on the animal’s tag/collar.  

3. Inspect barriers and enclosures. 

Periodically check your barriers for gaps and openings which your pet can squeeze through. Make sure you close all entrance doors behind you when you step in or out. Or you can install self-closing hinges on doors that open outside the house, especially those you often forget to close. 

4. Get to know your furriend’s personality. 

Is your pet the kind that gets anxious when he/she hears loud noises, such as those from thunderstorms, fireworks, etc.? Then you should be proactive and shield him from these noises. Turn on a TV or music player to drown out the loud noise or use Feliway MultiCat to calm your cats, and Thundershirt to calm nervous dogs. 

5. Do not miss any call! 

Make sure that the number you include in the poster/flyer is one that you carry around or have close by. You’re asking too much of the person that found/has info about your pet to call back after the second ring. 

A good precautionary measure is to change your voicemail message. The new voice greeting should reflect when you’d be around the phone, or tell the caller to leave a callback number.

The best option is to be close to the phone. If you’re worried about unsolicited callers, then get a burner phone. 

Things to avoid when looking for a missing pet.

1. Don’t chase! 

The excitement of spotting your missing pet can lead you to start chasing after it, but this is a wrong move. Your pet is as distressed, anxious, and scared for his/her safety as you are. 

Chasing after your pet will drive him/her farther away because, in the heat of the moment, they too are worried. 

So what works?

Crouch and cheerfully call your pet’s name. Hopefully, you came along with some food and toys to entice him/her with. If your pet is scared and on the run, the best you can do is get animal control to help you capture the animal or set a humane trap yourself. 

Remember, a frightened animal can be very unpredictable.  

2. Watch out for missing-pet scams.

There’s a lot of missing-pet scam going on out there. Some very pathetic people are willing to prey on your vulnerability to extort money from you. If you fall for these scams, you will end up feeling much worse than before.

But, how do you tell who is being sincere in your emotional state?

Tell them to describe the animal in their possession. Chances are, the scammer will only recite the details that they picked up from the advertisement you sent out and nothing more. 

Did the scammer miss the noticeable patch of pale skin under the tummy or the little scratch on the tail? Heck, most people know how to use the internet, so if you aren’t convinced, ask for a picture or short videos.

Besides that, someone that is actually in possession of your pet will be happy to turn him in and take the reward in person. Most people won’t even take the reward. 

Get professional help. 

If you haven’t had any luck locating your missing pet, try getting the help of a professional tracker. They have access to all the top-tier tools that are required to locate missing animals.

Don’t give up – yet!

Do not give up just yet, keep expanding your search, and re-visit animal shelters every day. 

Lots of people who find strays usually have no idea how to help unite the lost animals with their owners. Your pet may be somewhere in a comfy home waiting for some days before they’re turned in. 

Trust me, your pet is counting on you to step up and find them.

Even if your pet is an indoor companion and is not missing, he/she has a better chance of returning home if he/she has an up-to-date tag, is microchipped and wears a collar with a GPS tracker. 

While we hope you never have to use the information contained on this page, at least, for your pets. We believe you might be in a position to help a friend or point a neighbor in the right direction when they lose their pet companion. 

Better to be ready!