man holding happy dog

13 Things You Can Do to Find Your Lost Dog or Cat

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We hear from a lot of guardians who lose their animal companions and have no idea how to find them. Follow these steps as soon as you realize your cat, dog, or other animal companion is missing.

1. Put all prior commitments on hold.

Your everyday tasks aren’t as important as your animal’s life. Ask relatives or friends to look after your kids. Take time off work. Postpone your wedding if you have to! Do whatever it takes to make time to search for your friend.

2. Make sure you’re glued to your phone.

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It’s vitally important that the number you’re about to post everywhere be answered. As a precautionary measure, change your outgoing voice-mail message to something like this:

If you have information about my missing [cat], I need to speak with you. Please leave your name and number and repeat them. If you don’t have a callback number, this phone should be answered by a live person between [x] and [y] today. You can also reach [someone you absolutely trust] at [another number you are absolutely sure of]. If I don’t call you back, it means that I couldn’t hear your number clearly, so please try me again. Thank you!

3. Sign up with an automated service.

FindToto or Lost My Doggie will immediately call or e-mail thousands of your nearby neighbors to notify them that your animal companion is missing.

4. Make copies of the clearest photo you can find of your animal.

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Head to a store where you can print photos from your phone, print a photo off your computer, or use a copy machine if you have to. Make sure the picture is in color, accurate, and clear. Ask shelters to save the photo wherever they keep pictures of lost animals, and post it on their bulletin board.

5. Run ads in all local papers as well as on social media.

Don’t include too many details. Just write, “Lost: [Cat/Dog]. [Color]. Reward. [Phone Number].” Renew the ad before it expires (you can run a lost ad on Craigslist.org, too). Check the “Lost and Found” ads in newspapers daily.

6. Plaster telephone poles with reward posters, and make your own super-huge signs to put in front of your house.

Get some giant pieces of plywood and paint them with a simple message:

BIG REWARD

LOST [CAT/DOG]

[COLOR]

[RELIABLE PHONE NUMBER]

7. Don’t skimp on the reward.

How much could you scrounge up for an emergency surgery or a necessary car repair? You’ll have to cough it up if you want to hear from people. We’re talking about your little angel, here—this is not a time for economizing.

8. Locate all nearby shelters, rescue groups, and animal control agencies.

There may be more than you think. Call each one and ask them for other possible places to check. Do this every time you call, because different people may have different leads. Check Craigslist.org, call veterinary hospitals, stop by pet shops, and check with the Sheriff’s Office dispatch clerk.

9. Visit each animal shelter every day.

Shelters may assure you that they will notify you if your animal shows up, but don’t count on it. Shelters are very busy, and workers may not make the connection between found animals who are called in or turned in and your lost animal. Ask to see shelters’ lost and found records. Be persistent but polite, and don’t give up. Your animal companion is counting on you to step up when it truly matters.

10. Try to get local radio and TV stations to run an announcement for you.

If there is something memorable or unique about your animal that might pique their interest, mention it.

11. Search the neighborhood like you’ve never searched it before.

  • Talk to everyone: mail carriers, people walking their dogs, neighbors, and delivery people.
  • Use a flashlight to search small places where animals might hide: inside drains or sheds or under porches or parked cars.
  • Go outside at night when it’s quiet, and call your animal’s name. Listen carefully for the faint meow or whimper of an animal stuck somewhere.

12. Post fliers in veterinarians’ offices in case your animal has been injured or has become ill and was taken there by a Good Samaritan.

Also drop fliers behind businesses’ screen doors in the area. Cover a large radius, because lost animals are often found a few miles away.

13. Follow any and all leads.

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Also, be open to other suggestions. For example, consider hiring a reputable pet tracking service. Who knows what will bring your friend home? Most importantly, never, ever give up. Good luck!

To all who are missing beloved animal companions, I hope you will have them back home very soon, but many dogs and cats don’t have a warm bed to come home to. Please pledge to help end animal homelessness today!

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