How to Handle a Lost Pet


Author: Natalie Thompson

One of the scariest moments a pet owner can face is the moment they realize their pet is loose. These moments cause absolute panic, and it can be hard to know what to do. There are also so many scenarios in which you may be separated from your pet, that it can be hard to know how to act. The key to reuniting with your pet is to act calmly and quickly.

Scenario One: your dog slips off its leash while you are walking it.

Keep in mind “Lure, don’t chase”, the bigger a deal this seems, the more enticing it can be for your pet to keep running. As tempting as it is to chase them, this can make them believe that they are playing a game and might run further away. Trying to lure your pet to a safe, familiar spot (yard, house, car) usually works well if your pet is not too spooked. When walking your pet, always keep delicious treats on hand to use to lure your pet. Speaking high pitched, avoiding any assertive body language or harsh tones, and making sure that your pet does not think they are in trouble can really help to entice them to come towards you. Working on training a recall is great practice, so that if the time comes, your pet will want to run towards you.

Scenario Two: Your cat bolts past the door when you open it, running out.

Many indoor cats tend to freeze once they run outside, especially if they are not used to being outdoors. Use that moment of them freezing to your advantage and grab them as quickly as you can. If they keep running, follow them at a decent pace, but avoid full blown chasing, as this can spark them to behave unpredictably and even try to climb high out of reach. Shaking treats, bringing out canned tuna or another smelly treat, and coaxing them gently and calmly can help to bring your cat back to you. Having a towel on hand can be useful to throw over your cat if needed.

Scenario three: You come home to realize your dog has gotten out of the house or yard.

This is such a scary scenario, as there is no way to know how long they have been gone. Scan your yard (or house) for any clues as to how they got out, and which way they went. Having multiple people help can really be an asset to delegate tasks. Calling your pet’s name, starting a grill for a meaty smell, and canvassing the neighborhood are good starts. Posting online in as many groups as possible and asking people to share it can really help get the word out about your pet, as well as calling animal control to report your pet missing. Make sure you can share in as many ways as possible (online, posters, word of mouth) that your dog has gotten out. Many local shelters will post daily animals that were brought in, make sure you are checking your county and neighboring counties in case someone picked up your pet and took it to another shelter. There are also various tracking services for hire that can help track down pets. Make sure your gate is open if that is where your pet got out at, as they may return. Make sure to leave out food, treats, their bed, and other items they may be seeking out. Some shelters, vets, and rescues may have a live trap that can be borrowed to help trap your pet so asking around to see if there is one you can use can be a huge asset. Having identification on your pet and a registered microchip can drastically speed up the time it takes to get your dog back.

Scenario four: You come home to realize that your cat has gotten out.

Cats are creatures of habit, and often don’t wander too far away when they get out. Putting food, tuna, treats, and even their litterbox outside can really help lure them in. If you are comfortable with it, you can also leave your door cracked in hopes they will return on their own. Look around for any clues as to where they could have gone, walk around canvassing the area, check found pet pages often, and share that your cat was lost as far and wide as you can. Some shelters, vets, and rescues may have a live cage that can be borrowed to help trap your pet so asking around to see if there is one you can use can be a huge asset. There are also tracker services available to help find lost cats, and ensure your pet has a registered and updated microchip.

Remember, ten million pets go missing every year, but many are successfully reunited with their families. An ounce of prevention is so valuable and having updated tags on your pet, a microchip, and working on a recall with your dogs can really help limit how much time they are away. Stay calm, act quickly, and use the tips above to bring your furry friend home safe and sound.