Despite many people having the ‘it can’t happen to me’ attitude, the statistics on losing pets and finding a lost pet are staggering. One in three pets will get lost at some point. Unfortunately, without proper identification only 10% will find their way home. At Nummy Tum Tum, we feel that 100% should make their way home! That’s why, we created this guide to offer suggestions and strategies for preventing your pet from getting lost, or helping them make it home if they do.
Finding a lost pet can be daunting, but we created a list to help ensure that pets make it home safely,
- First and most importantly: make sure your pet is properly identified. This means having microchips, tags, and collars with your up-to-date contact information. If you are travelling, consider getting a temporary tag to put on your pet’s collar with local contact information as well as your phone number.
- The first thing to do, is to never assume your pet won’t get out or unexpectedly leave the house. It is important to know what to do when the unexpected happens. You can take precautionary steps to help keep your pets safe. Here are a few steps that we would highly recommend.
- Keep recent and clear photos of your pet. They are crucial if your pet is lost and you need to make flyers. This is an easy one, because most pet owners do it obsessively anyway!
- If you have a fenced yard, keep note of the condition of joints and gate hinges. Make sure you also keep in mind that some dogs are diggers, so holes might be forming underneath the fence that you aren’t currently aware of!
- Be extra cautious on special holidays where fireworks are regularly used, such as 4th of July and New Years Eve. Many dogs and cats are frightened by the loud noises, and as a result many shelters are often filled on days following these holidays because of runaway pets. Extreme fear can cause pets to act out of character and often do strange things.
- Call and visit the local shelters immediately, even ones across town or further than you would expect your pet to travel. A phone call to a shelter is an obvious first step, but always follow up with a visit. Shelters often have such high volumes of animals that staff may not be aware that they have your pet, particularly if it was recently brought in. Do this consistently and if possible, daily. In the case of shelters that euthanize, your window to claim your pet is limited, so be diligent!
- When at the shelter, make sure you check all areas including the infirmary and even the list of dogs or cats that were impounded as deceased. This can be a hard step, but absolutely necessary in finding what became of your lost pet.
- Your area may also have animal rescue groups. Well-meaning people may also call a no-kill rescue group to see if they can take the pet. You can ask these groups if they’ve taken in a pet matching the description of your missing pet, or if they’ve been contacted by someone that found a missing pet.
- You can also place a lost pet ad in the classifieds section of your local paper. You should also check local classifieds for a “Found Pet” ad, as well. There are also sites that specialize in lost and found pet posts. Be sure to do some research online and utilize these services.
- Flyers should always include a photo. Unlike nearly every other circumstance, this is not an opportunity to show everyone your pet doing something adorable. Make sure the photo is clear and straightforward. Distant photos or extreme close-up photos can be confusing, so make sure the photo frames your pet in a way that makes their features stand out.
- People will typically be on the move when seeing your flyer, or seeing it at a distance. Make sure it is easy to read and as eye-catching as possible. Most people want to help your pet make it home, so making a flyer that grabs their attention and alerts them of your lost pet is the top priority.
- Keep the information simple. Include the word “LOST,” a large, clear photo, the pet’s name, the date, and your contact information. Including the date ensures that people seeing it know that it is current and should be actively looking out for your pet.
- Telephone poles and signposts are a good start, but car windshields in your neighborhood and local public bulletin boards are even better. People can easily overlook a telephone pole, but a flyer on a car windshield is always picked up.
- Go further than you would expect your pet to wander. Dogs and cats can end up further from home than you would expect, even in short periods of time.
- Bring flyers to local veterinary offices and shelters. If someone finds your pet, these establishments are often the first places that people will turn to to have a microchip scanned or checked out.
If your pet does get lost, there are a few possibilities: your pet is on the streets, your pet has been found and taken somewhere, or your pet has been stolen. The suggestions below deal with each of these circumstances to ensure your pet has a real chance of making it home again.
If your pet is still on the street, we highly recommend you take these steps:
- If you take your pet on a walk on the same route consistently, scour that route on foot for signs that your pet may have followed that route and gotten lost along the way. Be sure to bring a leash, a treat, and their favorite toy. Your pet may be hiding out of view, especially if he or she is scared! Walk slowly and alternate between calling their name and listening for a response.
- Cats often roam further than dogs when they go missing. Try leaving some food out at night, when cats are most active. Change out the food each night and take note if the food is being eaten or not. If you are unsure whether it is your pet or a wild animal that is eating the food, you can lay a little trap for them. Don’t worry! It’s harmless. Lay a mat down under the food and sprinkle some baby powder on the mat. In the morning, you’ll see the paw prints of the culprit in the powder. This should give you an indication of the size and type of animal that is visiting you each night.
If You Find A Pet:
- You should post flyers indicating that you’ve found a lost pet. Provide your contact details and an image of the pet if possible.
- Be wise about the content you include in the flyer. The idea is to include only enough information that the owner will suspect it is their pet. Be cautious of suspicious characters that may be trying to claim the pet for nefarious purposes.
- The less change for a lost and frightened pet, the better. If you can safely house the pet while you attempt to find the owner, that is the best thing to do. If not, calling a local rescue group to help you find a safe home to foster the pet for you is the next best thing. This can also lead to a happy new home for the pet if the original owner can’t be found.
- Take the pet to the local vet and have them scanned for a microchip. While you’re at the vet, be sure to leave your flyers there as well. If no one in the office recognizes the pet, one of their patients might. Ask if you can post the flyer in their waiting room.
- If you found the pet in an active neighborhood, ask the neighbors! They will often have valuable information and can be an amazing resource. Neighborhood kids often know most pets by sight as well.
- Call the local shelters to see if anyone has reported their dog missing, and post your “FOUND” flyers in all shelters.
- Believe it or not, print media isn’t dead yet! You can place a “Found Pet” ad in your local newspaper classifieds, and check for a “Lost Pet” ad. Many older pet owners will resort to the local classifieds for these ads if they’ve lost a pet.
- Don’t forget that possibly even more people go online for posting their lost pet ads, so don’t forget to also check online. There are many web services out there, so try posting a “Found Pet” ad online.
It is always so stressful to lose a pet, but with these steps you can make the matter of finding them that much easier. Better yet, you can take precautions to prevent your pet from ever being lost in the first place!