If your pet goes missing: How to find your lost dog or cat

Rens Hageman
Rens Hageman

It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare... Your cat or dog runs off or simply doesn’t come home one day.

You search high and low, rope in some help and start fearing the worst- and it occurs to you that you don’t really know what else you can do to give yourself the best chances of finding your pet. If you’re unclear about what to do if your pet goes missing, or simply want to make sure you’re covering all of the bases should it occur, then read on to find out more.


In order to give your pet the best possible chance of being returned to you if lost, make sure that other pet owners who might stumble upon your missing pet will have a fighting chance of getting them back to you promptly. This means micro-chipping as standard- and making sure that your correct phone number and address are updated with the micro-chipping firm any time you change them - and keeping an identification tag on your dog (and cat, if they are collared) that shows your phone number and other important information. Make sure you have some good, clear pictures of your pet which you could use to show people what they look like if they get lost.

Who to call first

Upon realising that your pet is missing, there are several organisations you will need to call, who can help you to circulate your pet’s details and help with the search.

• First of all, call all of the local vets to see if anyone has brought your pet in for treatment, or to check for a microchip.

• Call the police if you have any reason to suspect your pet has been stolen, particularly if they are a pedigree breed.

• Call the micro-chipping company and alert them of your pet’s loss.

• Contact any local pet welfare organisations or shelters, the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust or Cats Protection.

There are other organisations which you will also need to contact if you and your pet are not reunited within a couple of days, but this list is a good start.

Tips for effective searching

In the immediate aftermath of discovering your pet is missing, you’ll need to get searching, checking out the local area and the region in which your pet went missing.

It’s important to conduct your search in the right way in case your pet is still around, rather than approaching things haphazardly and hoping for the best, which can be counter productive.

• The first thing to do is make sure that if your pet comes home of their own volition, they can get back in. If your pet cannot get back into the house on their own, make sure someone is there to keep a lookout for them. Return home or check in regularly to make sure your pet has not returned.

• Be prepared for your search- if you do find your pet, are you equipped to take them home? Do you have a lead, carrying box or transport cage?

• Don’t involve too many people in the search if your pet is nervous. If your pet is wary of strangers or actively avoids contact with people they don’t know, having a group of strangers crashing about calling their name is likely to frighten them off rather than encourage them out. If you do have people to help, ask them to keep noise to a minimum and be on the lookout for potential signs of your pet’s presence in order to alert you, rather than trying to catch your pet yourself.

• Knock on doors and ask people if you (or they, if they are more comfortable this way) can check their sheds, outbuildings and garages-any areas which your pet might have wandered into and inadvertently become trapped within.

• Call to your pet regularly- and vitally, give them the chance to respond. Stop and listen keenly for any reply from your pet before moving on. Constantly calling their name will drown out any sounds they might be making in reply! Shake a box of their favourite food or treats.

• Have a plan. Work out the areas you wish to cover, and a logical pattern for covering them. If searching by vehicle, remember to stop regularly, get out and look and listen.

Who to call next

Getting help if your pet is gone for more than a couple of days. If your pet does not return home or you do not find them within a couple of days, you will need to widen your search.

As well as physically searching for your pet on a daily basis (at different times of day if possible) try the following:

• Follow up again with all of the organisations you called in the first instance- such as the vet and the RSPCA.

• If your pet is insured, contact your insurance company. They can often offer practical and financial support with finding your pet.

• Get posters printed out and post them liberally in any area you suspect your pet might be, and pass them out to other pet owners that you see.

• Check out organisations such as The National Pet Register which provide large, free to use databases for pet owners who have lost or found a pet.

• Have you moved house recently, or even not so recently? Some pets seem to have a peculiar homing instinct for their previous address, even after apparently settling well and some time going by. Check out your old address (and keep checking) and ask your old neighbours to keep an eye out.

• Follow up. Making one initial call to the RSPCA, veterinary surgeries etc. may not be enough. Follow up regularly, ask for more information, keep your pet at the forefront of people’s attention.

Don’t panic!

While a proportion of lost and missing pets sadly never make it home, the statistics are in your favour.

It’s estimated that a third of all pets will go missing at some point in their lives, and over 90% of pets with I.D. make it back home.

(Article source: Pets 4 Homes)

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