It’s the worst nightmare for many pet owners. What do you do if your little furry friend somehow slips away and gets lost? Finding them can feel impossible, no matter how much you comb the streets, put up posters, and call on neighbors. Even if you think you’ve taken every precaution not to lose your pet, accidents can happen. You might find yourself in this situation.
Pets often get lost when something spooks them, and they run out of their familiar territory. This can happen at any time, especially if your pet is naturally a bit nervous. Make sure you are aware of the issue and take as many steps to prevent it as you can. Here are a few things to do to help you avoid losing your pet, and increase your chances of getting it back.
The first and perhaps most obvious on the list is microchipping. It’s become an inexpensive way of ensuring your cat or dog is tagged with your information wherever they go, and it’s not dependent on them having a collar on. This is particularly important for cats, which often lose their collars and any phone numbers or other identification with them.
Having your pet microchipped means that whoever finds them can get them back to you. Any veterinary practice should be able to scan a chip and bring up your details so they can contact you. This is probably the fastest and most reliable way of ensuring your pet is returned to you if they stray. Keep all your chip information up to date with current phone numbers and addresses, or you will render it useless.
A microchip also proves ownership of your animal on the off-chance that there is any dispute or confusion. If your pet got handed into a sanctuary without being scanned for some reason and somebody else tried to claim it, you would be able to prove it was yours.
2) Secure Your Garden
Prevention is better than cure. If you can avoid your pet getting lost in the first place, it will save you and your pet a huge amount of stress. Scan your garden’s perimeter for weak spots, and find ways to fix them.
If you have a cat, it may be difficult to stop them from escaping. Do what you can, especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors. For dogs unattended in your garden, you should make every effort to check fences or hedges. Don’t offer tempting escape routes, and remember that even a reliable dog can easily get distracted chasing something.
If you’ve recently moved, make sure you explore the area with your pet. Get them familiar with their new home territory. Letting them establish their boundaries and identify their safe zone by sight and scent will make it easier for them to get back if they do get lost, and they will feel less threatened – and so less likely to run in a panic – once they are familiar with your garden.
“If you have cats that are kept indoors, remember that it’s still important to let them explore the garden (unless there are health reasons not to) so that if they ever do get out, they have some sense of where they should return to. Make sure windows can’t accidentally get left open, and your cat can’t slip through the front door if you have unexpected visitors” says Lois Garibay, a Pet blogger at Uktopwriters and Bigassignments.
3) Train Thoroughly
This obviously applies more to dogs than cats, and it’s far from foolproof, but work on training your dog to come when you call and find ways to get through to them even when they are distracted. If your dog is unreliable, take extra precautions with them, and try different training methods – or even hiring a professional – to try and increase their willingness to return to you. This makes them less likely to get lost because you’ll be able to recall them if they start chasing something.
Cats can also be trained to come when you call, at least to an extent. As with dogs, they are often motivated by treats or food, so rattling a packet of biscuits or using a whistle they are familiar with can be good ways of encouraging them back home if they’ve gone astray.
4) Use Collar Tags
Your pet should have a name and phone number, as well as an address if there’s room, on their collar. It’s best to provide two numbers if you can so somebody can reach you at all times if your pet has gone missing.
Regularly check that your pet’s collar is fitted well, neither too tight nor too loose. If the tag has come off, replace it, and if you’re concerned about the collar’s condition, consider replacing that too.
Having a tag with your number on the collar works as a back-up for the microchip, just in case it won’t scan for some reason, and can also be really useful if your pet is nervous. They might not let a stranger catch them and transport them to a vet, but if somebody can get close enough to read the number on the collar, they may be able to alert you to the whereabouts of your pet. Remember that even a friendly pet may become nervous if in an unfamiliar setting, but they will probably come to you regardless so this information could be invaluable in recovering them.
As well as the tag, it’s worth adding your phone number to the collar itself if you can write on it. Unlike a tag, this can’t get lost, and you can probably write bigger, so it’s clear even from a distance.
5) Proper Restraints
Your pet is most likely to be lost when you’re away from home, on a walk, or on a trip to the veterinary. Pets can get stressed by going to the vet, and may deliberately attempt to break loose. If you haven’t got the appropriate leash or carrier, your chances of losing your pet vastly increase, and if they’re in an unfamiliar area, you may struggle to recover them.
Use sturdy, reliable carriers for animals like cats or small dogs, and use a leash and collar for larger dogs. Keeping your dog on a short leash if they’re in unfamiliar territory or around other dogs, can keep them under control and can make them feel safer because they’ll be close to you. Ensure the collar and leash are both fitted well so your dog can’t slip free by mistake, and check carriers are properly closed so cats and small dogs can’t escape.
This might sound like a precaution against puppies and kittens, but it also helps prevent your pet from getting lost. Your pet is less likely to wander off in search of a mate if they have been spayed or neutered. They’re also often more placid and predictable. “You’ll find animals which haven’t been spayed or neutered attempt to escape to find a mate or to squabble with other animals in your area, and their behavior may vary depending on their hormones, making it difficult to know when you need to be particularly vigilant” comments Catherine McGhee, a pet writer at Revieweal and Stateofwriting.
7) Organize Your Papers
Remember, if your pet ever gets lost, you will need to show proof of ownership before you can recover them. You should ensure that all your pet’s paperwork is in order, including their medical information and vaccination records. Try to keep a relatively recent and clear picture of your pet. With any distinctive visible markings, you can put up posters if they go missing. Also, keep a record of nearby shelter numbers/contact details so you can get in touch quickly if your pet goes missing. Leave your number with them and request an immediate call if a pet similar to yours is found.
Getting your pet home quickly is essential for minimizing the stress you both go through. Make it as easy as possible for yourself by ensuring you have the relevant paperwork to hand.
Pets can get lost very easily, even if you think it’s unlikely to happen to you. Make sure you take all the precautions you can and don’t take unnecessary risks. Pay attention to your pet, watching their responses, and be particularly vigilant if anything alarms them. Distressed pets can be unpredictable, and if they run outside of their territory, they may not return. Protect both yourself and your furry friend by doing everything you can to avoid losing them. Ensure they will be returned to you quickly if something does happen.
Nora Mork is a lifestyle journalist at Academized and Dissertation writing service in the UK. She enjoys doing yoga, attending cultural events, and writing posts for blogs and magazines, such as Paper Fellows.