If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know how horrific the experience can be. Maybe the cat ran out the front door when a guest arrived, or the dog dug under the fence and got out of the yard. No matter the circumstances, you may be unsure where to turn or what to do first. Thankfully, these days, there are more options than ever to help find lost pets.
Finding a Lost Dog or Cat
Traditional search methods are still your first line of offense. Call your local police, animal control, Humane Society, animal shelter, and veterinarians to make them aware of the situation. You can make posters with your pet's picture to paste around the neighborhood, at local pet stores, and on community bulletin boards. You can go door to door to solicit help from neighbors and friends who are willing to comb the neighborhood looking for your dog or cat, and talk to your mailman, garbage collectors, and local joggers. You can even enlist some neighborhood kids as “professional pet finders,” offering a reward to whoever finds your pet. To help spread the word, you might also consider running an ad in your local newspaper, radio, or TV station.
But now, enter technology. Social media can be a very helpful tool for sharing information about missing pets. Your community may have a local Facebook page geared toward lost pets. You can also post photos on Twitter and Instagram or advertise your lost pet on Craigslist.
Email can be useful for distributing information as well. Make a poster, email it to your family and friends, and have them forward it to everyone they know. The larger the network of people looking for your pet, the better the odds of finding him or her.
There are automated services, such as Find Toto and Lost My Doggie, that send out pet “Amber Alerts” to thousands of your local neighbors and businesses, and offer free lost pet posters to help locate your beloved family member. These are wonderful resources—as they work on touching base with local people in your area, you can hit the streets or chase down other sources.
Some pet parents are even resorting to unconventional methods to solicit help. For instance, a woman in England reunited with her missing cat by using the dating app Tinder. Of course, there are apps that specifically help owners reunite with their missing pets, but this is yet another way of reaching people and spreading awareness.
The Importance of Proper Identification
As technology advances, we can use these platforms in the best way. Not only can they help you locate your missing pet, but you can become active in the search to help others. And trust me, if you've ever had a pet go missing, you will be willing to help people who find themselves in a similar situation.
I had a Siberian Husky who ran away at least once a month, and if it weren't for the help of my friends, neighbors, local police, and the kindness of strangers, I never would have gotten him back each and every time. But his return was also dependent upon his identification. Be sure your pet is always wearing a collar with an ID tag on it, including your phone number or address. If your cat or dog won't tolerate the tag, there are collars that can be embroidered with their information.
Microchipping your pet is also so important. A collar can fall off, get caught on something, or be removed by someone. A microchip is implanted under the skin with an identification number that is then registered in an international database. If a pet is found, the local police and fire department, shelter, or veterinarian can scan it and look up the registration. Hopefully with all of these resources available, your lost pet can be returned to you as quickly as possible.
Natasha Feduik is a licensed veterinary technician with Garden City Park Animal Hospital in New York, where she has been practicing for 10 years. Natasha received her degree in veterinary technology from Purdue University. Natasha has two dogs, a cat, and three birds at home and is passionate about helping people take the best possible care of their animal companions.