It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare.
You wake up in the morning, or get home from work, to an eery silence. It takes you a minute to figure out what is different; then your heart stops. Your pet is missing.
Each year, over 10 million pets go “missing” – whether that’s because they escaped or, in a miniroty of cases, were stolen. Fortunately, the odds of being reunited with your beloved pet are pretty good; the ASPCA says that on average 93% of dogs are returned to their owners after getting lost. The figure for cats isn’t quite as good; only 75% of lost cats were returned safely to their homes. The figures for smaller pets, such as cage birds or reptiles, is considerably lower for obvious reasons.
So let’s take a look at the steps that you should take in order to reduce the chances of losing your pet, and maximize the odds of finding it should the worst ever happen.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
It’s a lot easier to prevent your pet from escaping in the first place than it is to find it after the fact. Therefore the first step in tackled escaped pets is to prevent them from getting out to begin with.
Get To Know Your Pet
Every animal is different and some are far more likely than others to flee if given the opportunity. A parakeet, for example, is more likely to fly away than a dog is to run away. Within dogs, some are far more likely to run off through fear or excitement and may then struggle to find their way home.
So get to know your pet in order to make a fair assessment of them making a break for freedom given the option. The greater the odds, the more care you should take. For example a flighty dog shouldn’t be allowed off the leash when out on walks lest they fail to return in unfamiliar surroundings.
If you pet ever escapes it pays to have some decent-quality and recent quality photos to use on “lost” posters and suchlike. Too many people either have no easily accessible pictures of their pet, or these are so dated that they look little like your pet does now. For example there’s no point in trying to use a photo of your beloved cat when it was a tiny ball of fluff if it’s now a 5 year old adult cat.
So take, and keep, regular photos of your pet. In this way they’ll be readily available should you ever need them.
Microchip Your Pet
Microchipping is a relatively painless operation that enables vets and animal centres to quickly identify your pet and return them safely to you. They also serve as proof of ownership, in cases where you think your pet may have been taken.
What you may not realize is that it’s not just dogs and cats that can be microchipped; increasingly vets and pet professionals are able to microchip smaller animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, cage birds and even larger reptiles. If in doubt, ask your vet. The cost of microchipping is minimal, and in comparison to the heartache of losing your pet it seems like a worthy investment.
That said, it’s critical to maintain the records that are attached to your pets microchip. If in doubt, check in with your vet to ensure that your current address and telephone number are present on the database. After all, there’s little point in microchipping if the details don’t lead back to you.
How To Find A Lost Pet
So you’ve taken all the preventative steps possible but your pet has still somehow escaped? Don’t expect the worst just yet. Instead let’s take some action to track down your pet. Remember that the sooner we take action, the greater the odds of successfully being reunited with your pet will be.
Print Out Posters
While I think there are far more effective ways to find a lost pet, you’d be mad not to canvass your local area. Print out some simple posters with relevant details such as photo and any notable characteristics, together with when and where your pet was lost.
Depending on what your local neighbourhood is like, either consider putting up these posters in public areas such as shop windows or even posting them through local letterboxes. Appreciate, however, that a pet that hasn’t come back on its own after a day or two may well have left your neighbourhood some time ago.
Local Facebook Pages
Many local community Facebook pages exist; you just need to go looking for them. Get onto Facebook as soon as possible and leave all the same details as on your poster; namely a photo together with the date and location where your pet went missing from.
The really handy thing about Facebook is just how “viral” a post can become. It’s entirely normal in these circumstances to find other concerned locals helping out by sharing your post with their friends too, in the hope that *someone* will be able to provide some information on your pet.
Local “Lost & Found” Pages
Some local communities, as well as general community pages, also maintain a “lost and found” page. These may be found on Facebook or on a local community website. A simple search on Google should turn up such pages if they exist. Then simply contact the site owners and ask them if they will post details about your lost pet.
Possibly the most exciting thing about Twitter is that it is possible to search for tweets by location. Seeing as most conversations on Twitter are public, try searching incase somebody has mentioned finding a lost pet. In addition, check to see if there is a local community Twitter account who might be able to tweet about your lost pet.
Animal Rescue Centres & Vets
When most people find a lost pet, the most common action is to let a local vet or animal rescue centre know. After all, it is these people who can check for microchips as well as giving a lost pet a proper health check.
Therefore ringing around all your local animal shelters and veterinarians is also a very smart idea. Ask if you can email them a photo and if they will store your details just incase someone brings in your pet. Then follow up as necessary so that they don’t forget about you.
If you have your pet I’d like to wish you every success. Remember that the odds of being reunited are surprisingly good so don’t get worried just yet. Instead, take action because the faster you can act, the better your chances of success will be.