Finding A Lost Pet

When your pet is missing, it’s important to have a plan. Here are tips from some excellent web pages, with links to even more suggestions. Visit the actual web sites for complete details!

When looking for a lost cat, it’s important to know the cat’s personality type. Indoor only cats who get out behave differently depending on whether they are shy or outgoing, fearful or bold. Read descriptions of personality types and their probable behavior, as well as the most effective plans for finding them, here:

The three most common reasons that dogs get lost are opportunity (a gate or door is left open), nature calls (intact male dogs seeking a female in heat), and panic (fireworks, auto accident, thunderstorm, or other frightening event). Factors that influence the distance a dog will roam include temperament, circumstances, weather, terrain, appearance, and population density. Read descriptions of dog behaviors and effective plans for searching here:

Start your search immediately: the sooner you start searching, the closer your pet will be. Use a flashlight and search everywhere; inside and out. Think like your pet, not like a human. Look for clues, like pet hair, footprints and poop. Put out food and water and some of your personal items with your scent. Go out at night when it’s quiet. Use a flashlight to look into dark, shadowy places.

Make flyers with a clear photo and large letters, and post them at intersections. Drivers have five seconds to read 5 words as they drive by your sign. Make the poster HUGE so people won’t miss it, and use fluorescent poster board. Make them brief, with the most important info in very large letters. Make flyers to hand out and more flyers to hang in public places. Protect posters and flyers from the weather, and hang them securely.

There are excellent instructions with examples at:

Get out your phone book and call every animal shelter and veterinarian listed. Remember that someone may have picked up your pet and transported him/her to a location outside of your immediate area. The phone calls should be made as soon as possible, and must be followed up with personal visits. Take a flyer with a good photo to each location, and ask to post it in a prominent place where the public can see it. Make sure your flyer has essential information: a clear photo, a brief description (breed, size, color), date and location last seen (include the street and city), and your phone number and email address. Return to each shelter at least once each week to look at lost and found animals. NJ law requires shelters to hold strays for 7 days, so don’t wait longer than that to recheck. Remember that your dog or cat may be very special and unique looking to you, but shelter personnel see many lost animals each day and may not have the opportunity to check every incoming animal to see if it matches the descriptions on the bulletin board.

Finding a Lost Pet

When your beloved dog or cat strays from home, it can be a traumatic experience for both of you. Here are some tips that we hope will help you find your pet.

Contact local animal shelters and animal control agencies. File a lost pet report with every shelter within a 60-mile radius of your home and visit the nearest shelters daily, if possible. To find your local shelter go to or check your phone book. If there is no shelter in your community, contact the local police department. Provide these agencies with an accurate description and a recent photograph of your pet. Notify the police if you believe your pet was stolen.

Search the neighborhood. Walk or drive through your neighborhood several times each day. Ask neighbors, letter carriers and delivery people if they have seen your pet. Hand out a recent photograph of your pet and information on how you can be reached if your pet is found.

Advertise. Post notices at grocery stores, community centers, veterinary offices, traffic intersections, online at and, at pet supply stores and other locations. Also, place advertisements in newspapers and with radio stations. Include your pet’s sex, age, weight, breed, color and any special markings. When describing your pet, leave out one identifying characteristic and ask the person who finds your pet to describe it.

Be wary of pet-recovery scams. When talking to a stranger who claims to have found your pet, ask him to describe the pet thoroughly before you offer any information. If he does not include the identifying characteristic you left out of the advertisements, he may not really have your pet. Be particularly wary of people who insist that you give or wire them money for the return of your pet.

Don’t give up your search. Animals who have been lost for months have been reunited with their owners.

A pet, even an indoor pet, has a better chance of being returned if she always wears a collar and an ID tag with your name, address, and telephone number. Ask your local animal shelter or veterinarian if permanent methods of identification (such as microchips) are available in your area.

hsus-logo-stacked-whiteReprinted by permission of The Humane Society of the United States