When you lose a pet, it’s hard to know what to do. Many people panic and flail around a lot, but marshalling your forces and getting the right sequence of events put into place can actually raise your chances of finding your pet by a considerable margin. If you’ve found someone else’s lost pet and want to know what to do, on the other hand, you can find that information towards the end of the article.
If you’ve lost your pet, consider running around your local area. Bringing some food or a box of treats you can shake can help, but in an ideal world you should place some smelly, high-value food near your home. This can be wet food, tuna, or even heated hot dogs. Don’t be too worried about nutritional value; the point is to find a treat or food that is so high-value to your pet that they can’t resist coming back. Warm foods or foods which are exceedingly smelly on their own are ideal as they are more likely to be detected by your wayward pet.
Knocking on doors and hanging up flyers is a good idea; your neighbours may unwittingly have locked your pet in their shed or garage, or taken him or her in under the impression of having found a stray animal in need of a home. Using a plastic sleeve for your flyer before you nail or staple it to posts and fences can help protect it; ask in local shops and businesses and see if you can hang your flyer in there, too, as these are high-traffic areas. A photo is a good idea, and a careful description will help too, but don’t make it too complex as people need to be able to take in the gist of your pet’s description at a glance; most people don’t have a lot of time to memorise every detail. Focus on things that set your pet apart.
A reward may be a good idea, as it will motivate people to check their outhouses for your pet and bring the creature back home if they had already taken him or her in. Check with your pet insurance policy as some of these in fact cover this reward. To prevent your pet’s loss in the first place, consider having him or her microchipped, and invest in a sturdy collar that contains a tag with your phone number on it. For cats, make sure you use a breakaway collar as they are likely to get into funny situations and you don’t want them to choke themselves when they get hung up on something.
If you find a lost pet, there is a variety of steps you can take. First of all, ring local veterinary offices as they may recognise the pet’s description and know who the animal belongs to. Secondly, take the pet into a vet’s office and get them scanned for a microchip which contains all the pet owner’s information and will get you in touch with the pet’s rightful owner in no time.
Obviously you can keep an eye out for lost-pet posters, but don’t hesitate to put up posters of your own – the owner may see them and know where to find his or her beloved pet. They should be keeping an eye out as they’re looking for their pet, so it’s definitely worth doing! Finally, even if you plan to keep the pet until you find a home (and potentially beyond), give local rescues a call. They may be able to help you with any veterinary care the animal needs and with any pet supplies you can’t afford on short notice.
As a general rule, if you intend to keep the pet should no owner be forthcoming, thirty days is the benchmark. However, figure out a set amount of time you’re comfortable to spend trying to locate genuine owners and stick to that.