Losing a pet can be stressful, overwhelming, and emotional for everyone involved but sometimes, it does happen. And it can happen for so many reasons: loud noises like fireworks can scare your pet, someone left a door open, part of a fence could be broken, or a gate could have been open. Whatever the reason, trying to find your beloved pet again can be overwhelming.
Having a lost pet can be overwhelming and frightening for both you and your pet. We can’t always predict when a pet might go missing but there are ways to minimize the risk and help them find their way home. If you move to a new area, keep dogs on a leash until you both get acquainted with your new home and keep cats inside for a little bit. Plus, having identification on their collars or a microchip with current phone numbers can help people who might find your pet contact you. Even strictly indoor cats should be microchipped just in case!
Search your home, yard, and neighborhood
If your pet does go missing, the first step would be to search your home, yard, and neighborhood. Maybe your cat found its way into a new hidey hole in the house or your dog found a very interesting smell down the street. Milo has, on occasion, ventured down the street unsupervised on trash days because there are just so many smells and he just can’t help himself! However, if they’re not at home or down the street, it’ll be important to expand your search.
Contact neighbors, friends, family
The good news is that there are often resources to help you aid in your search and odds are that you won’t have to do this alone. Enlisting help from friends, family, and/or neighbors can expediate this first step, as having more people looking can cover more area in a faster period of time. And sometimes, your pet might be in a neighbor’s yard or garage!
If possible, make sure that everyone involved has a good photo of the missing pet to share with others that they may come across. It can also help to make sure people have some information about your pet (their name obviously plus age, breed, etc), leashes (if possible), and favorite treats!
Social Media and Phone Calls
If you’re already on social media sites, you can post about the missing pet and updates on your own pages. Plus, there are Facebook groups and other social media platforms that just focus on lost and found pets in specific areas. Posting a photo of your pet and details of when and where they went missing can help others you may not even know keep an eye out for your pet.
Additionally, local rescue organizations, humane societies, animal control groups, and veterinary hospitals are all great places to contact and keep in touch with, as folks might find your pet and take them to one of these places.
Having a flier to put around your neighborhood and city can also help expand the search. Putting a photo of the missing pet, your contact information, when and where they went missing, and any other relevant info is important. Having a big, bold headline that people can see from a distance can help bring attention to the flier as well.
While out looking, it can be good to put these up in local businesses (like pet stores, cafes, other stores) and on community spaces where there are other fliers. Plus, some dog off leash parks also have a community cork boards!
If you do see a lost pet (yours or someone else’s)
Being lost can be just a stressful for animals as it is for us and because of this, running after them isn’t the best way to approach them. For dogs that have a skittish temperament, there’s a good chance that they’re in a ‘fight or flight’ mode when lost and scared. Even dogs with generally calm temperaments can be dealing with a whole lot of stress. This means that chasing after them might cause them to run further away or get aggressive. It’s also very important to keep calm in this situation, as any sort of panic might freak them out more
If or when you come across a lost or stray dog, here are some important things to do:
- The first is to look for any people around. There’s a chance that the dog might just be off leash.
- Avoid prolonged eye contact
- Approach very slowly, using a calm, soothing voice to get their attention
- Once you’re fairly close to the animal, allow them to come to you if they want.
- Hold out your hand with the palm down so they can sniff you if they want.
- Be aware of any body language, as the animal might react aggressively out of fear.
Plus, having smelly treats can also help immensely in these situations.
Honestly (and sadly), I can’t really say that there’s really no way to 100% guarantee that your pet won’t get lost or go on their own adventure. But there are ways to help decrease the likelihood and there are ways that can help them find their way home (in a way). One is that if you have a yard, make sure that your yard is fully fenced and on occasion, check the fence to make sure there are no holes, gaps, or easy ways out. Another is to keep an eye on your pets during stressful or loud situations, like moving, large parties, or fireworks. Loud noises can be stressful for many animals and moving to a new place can be overwhelming. If you are moving with your pet, do some reading about the best ways to acclimate them to the new home.
Keeping your pet entertained can also help! There are many dogs who might run away out of boredom and it’ll be important to keep them engaged. I’ve written about how enrichment can help keep cats, dogs, and many other animals happy and healthy but doing so might help keep your dog from running off! Going on regular walks and giving all your pets toys and puzzles can all help.
It can also be incredibly helpful to have identification on your pets just in case they do get out. This can be as easy as having a collar with a tag that has contact information. It can also mean having a microchip! If your pet does get away and is brought to a vet or rescue organization, having a microchip can help those folks find you, especially if they lost their collar somehow. Make sure to keep both of these identifications updated!
Not being able to find your pet can be an overwhelming and stressful time! But there are steps you can take while looking for your pet and there are many others who can help. Always makes sure that your pets have proper identification and if they do get lost, make sure to talk to friends and neighbors and regularly check in with local animal control groups and rescues (among the many other things I mentioned).
I of course hope that no one ever has to deal with trying to find a lost pet! But if it does happen, I hope you are soon reunited!