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Is your pet missing? Here a some tips to help your find your pet

Flyers of cat missing pinned on a tree advice

If your pet is missing, stay calm and start making flyers.

© Shutterstock

When your beloved dog or cat is gone missing it can be a very traumatic experience, for yourself and for your pet. Try not to panic and begin a calm and consistent search.

By Nick Whittle

Published on the 02/01/2021, 18:00

Cats - especially those that roam - are more likely to get themselves into trouble. If a cat that enjoys the outdoors does not return home when it is supposed to, you may need to consider the possibility that it is lost. However, most authorities will only consider a cat or dog to be ‘lost’ if it has not returned home after 12 hours.

To know your dog or cat’s behaviour is to know when your pet is in trouble. The most important thing to remember if your pet goes missing is not to panic. Think carefully about the likelihood of your pet’s whereabouts, and begin a calm but consistent search.

What to do if a pet goes missing?

There are good reasons for most cases of cat absenteeism. In other words, there are lots of quite benign reasons why your cat might not return home. Conversely, in the case of a lost dog, an owner should be more inclined to begin a search since dogs can quickly become frightened if they think they are lost. 

Here are just a few questions to mull over if your dog or cat goes missing:

  • Is this out of character for your pet? 
  • Is your cat on heat? 
  • Is your cat usually unreliable when it comes to home time? 
  • Is your pet still in the house or garden? 
  • Does your pet enjoy hide and seek games?

If after 12 hours there is still no sign of your pet you should: 

  • Contact authorities 
  • Register the pet as missing 
  • Contact local vets with a description of the pet
  • Contact local media
  • Announce your pet’s missing on social media 
  • Post flyers around the neighbourhood

How do you find a missing dog?

In the case of a lost dog, time is of the essence. Dogs are very keen to be home, and will quickly become panicked if they think they are lost.

Here are some things you can do when looking for a missing dog

  • Check your home, garden and (if you have one) the garage. 
  • Widen your search to include local parks and property 
  • Announce your dog’s disappearance on social media 
  • Post flyers of your dog in high-traffic pedestrian areas 
  • Take a visit to some of the local dog shelters: they may have a ‘new arrival’. 

There are several lost pet websites around, and there are local groups of Facebook that will assist in the search. Be sure to load up a description and picture of your dog and your contact details.

How can I find my missing cat?

A similar process is involved when it comes to locating a missing cat, but a cat owner should bear in mind that a cat is more solitary than a dog, and able to look after itself. Many cats return to their owners after days of being absent. 

  • Inform your neighbours of your cat’s disappearance 
  • Look in the vicitiny of your home, especially garages and gardens
  • Call your local vet with details and a picture of your cat 
  • Call animal rescue centres to see if they have found any ‘new’ cats
  • Post flyers in the neighbourhood, especially in busy areas 
  • Do the leg work: search far and wide 
  • Distribute flyers door to door if necessary 

How do I advertise my missing pet?

The best ways to advertise the absence of a pet is by flyers and online. You should prepare flyers that include your pet’s name and photograph, distinguishing features and breed. You should also include your name and a contact phone number.

If you have the money, offer a reward for the return of your pet. Money is a great way to incentivize people. But remember, you do not want to be scammed: only pay out a reward when you are certain that the animal returned to you is YOURS!

Posters placed near busy pavements or in shops at tills are great to focus the efforts of the local community. If you must use social media, be sure to post only to local groups. Someone in Glasgow is not going to be able to help you to find a cat missing in Eastbourne.

Do lost pet signs work?

Lost pet signs do work quite well but only if they target a well-meaning and local. The poster should be highly visible and eye-catching. These may not be the first thing on your mind when you are desperately searching for your pet but they are necessary to gain the attention of passers-by.

How do you make a missing pet flyer?

The biggest part of a missing-pet flyer is the photograph of the missing pet. It may seem overly obvious to mention that, but the photograph is what people will need in order to make good their search.

A blurry photograph or a picture taken from a distance will not show others the distinguishing features of your pet. The photo must be large, focussed and IN COLOUR in order that others may identify your cat or dog.

Include your name and contact number at the foot of the flyer, and be sure to include any other detail such as the pet’s name, age, breed and unusual markings.

Once completed, take the poster to a printer and ask them to print it out on A3 paper. A4 is too small, and A2 is too big.

Things you can do to find your lost dog or cat

Here are some of the things you should do in order to find your lost pet:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Think of the pet’s behaviour
  3. Search the house and garden
  4. Widen the search to include other houses and gardens
  5. Check local garages and lock-ups
  6. Get your neighbours involved
  7. Notify authorities and vets
  8. Post flyers
  9. Post to social media
  10. Check dog and cat shelters

Most cases of missing animals are resolved swiftly and without too much stress. Most missing cats are likely to return home after a few days and be as right as rain. Most missing dogs are quickly picked up by well-meaning neighbours or police.

As soon as your pet is returned you should check it over for injuries or illness. Feed it, water it and make sure it is safe and well.

Dogs and cats are exceptionally resilient: even if they have been through a nasty ordeal they will quickly recover and soon settle into the rhythm of home life once more. It is we humans who have the harder job of recovery from losing our pet!

Frequently asked questions

Do cats remember where they live?

Does this mean my cat doesn’t like me?

How do I stop my cat from missing again?