Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Are You Prepared if Your Pet Gets Lost?

By Linda Cole

No matter how careful you are as a pet owner, sometimes the unexpected happens. I've had my share of frantic moments racing around the house searching for a pet I feared had gotten outside and was lost. And I have also had those fears come true. Finding a lost pet can be difficult, but if you're prepared before it happens, you won't have to waste valuable time searching for what you need before you can start looking for them.

The first thing to remember is, don't panic. There's a good chance your pet will be found by someone else or wander back home on their own. However, you don't want lose valuable searching time by sitting back and waiting to see if your cat or dog can find their way home. One of the best tools you have is knowing your pet's personality. That makes a big difference in where to start your search, especially for a lost cat.

The more people friendly your cat is, the better chance they have of being found by someone else and taken to a shelter or local vet clinic. A friendly or curious personality, though, can also cause them to wander farther from home than a more fearful cat. The scared/timid feline is more likely to hole up in a place where she feels safe and that's where she will stay until hunger, thirst or another animal scares her away from the area. She may even ignore your calls and could be hiding somewhere in your yard or anywhere within a block of home.

Dogs can be gone in a flash, especially if they see a rabbit or something else that gets their prey drive in high gear, and they can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Both cats and dogs have traveled very long distances, at times, to find their way home after becoming lost, but there’s no guarantee yours can do the same.

The time to microchip your pet or attach a tag with your name and phone number is before something happens. Even inside cats that are never allowed to go outside should have a microchip or a collar with tags, just in case they slip outside unnoticed. Make sure pertinent information associated with a microchip or tag is kept up to date.

It doesn't take long to make up fliers, but you do need a recent picture of your pet. One of my dogs is a black Lab mix and his look has changed a bit as he's gotten older. Some of the black hairs on his muzzle have started to turn white. Pets don't show age like we do, but a younger picture that doesn't show his white hairs could be misleading to someone who doesn't know him and it could make them think they found the wrong dog.

Because I've spent time rescuing stray pets and feeding feral cat colonies over the years, I carry extra leashes, a small bag of CANIDAE pet food, some TidNips treats and a pet carrier in my car. That way, I have some basic items if I run across a pet that needs some help. It's handy to have them already in the car if you have to drive around looking for a lost pet. Your pet may recognize your voice when you call out, but if a pet is scared, they may not come to you without some coaxing and the treats and leash can be a big help. Everything fits neatly in a small box and can be stored in the truck or backseat. Just remember to rotate the pet food and treats to keep them fresh.

Know in advance the address of local shelters and phone numbers to area vets, rescue organizations, the police, animal control and anyone else who might be able to help you locate your lost pet. Time is critical, and the sooner you can get the word out, the sooner a lost pet can hopefully be found and returned home.

When walking your dog, take different routes around the neighborhood so he has a chance to become familiar with the area. Dogs and cats can make mental images in their mind of landmarks, smells and sounds that helps them be familiar with the area around where they live.

You never know when something could happen that gives your pet an escape route. If you're prepared with photos and phone numbers you won't have to waste valuable time searching for what you need, and having a microchip or tags can help you be reunited faster with your lost pet. Registering with Lost Pet Network can also help you find them.

Photo by Eugene Peretz

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Very good advice, Linda. Being prepared for these kinds of things is so important!

  2. Great post. Good information but I do have to say is that it really worries me for animals to have collars on while outside. I just read a story on a blog,where a cat was outside and the person called it to come in and it had hung itself in a tree with a break away collar because it got caught just right. My feeling is that a microchip is the way to do it.

  3. Great advice! Finn is micro-chipped, but what a great idea to keep some food and snacks in the car to help other animals, or even your own!

  4. Catzowey! I got my Owner chipped when I moved in. Yep, gotta keep the Staff safe fur shure

  5. You have a wonderful blog Linda. You give such good advice.
    Thank you!!!

  6. Yes very good advice, Linda. As my cat is one that goes outside (he just couldn’t be kept in) I do worry. He is chipped which is good. Happily he loves his home comforts, and apart from one time when he was terrified by fireworks, he’s always come home :)


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