Despite our best efforts, all manner of pets can get out of the safety of your home or garden. Having them go missing is stressful, and it can be hard to know exactly where to turn or what to do for the best.
So getting prepared in case it does happen is a really good idea for any pet owner. Your focus will be on finding them, so having the knowledge of what to do in the back of your head is beneficial, even if you think it is unlikely that your pet will ever escape.
Of course, every animal is slightly different. Trying to find a speedy running dog who has escaped through a gap in the fence is different from finding a rabbit who has got out of its hutch, so planning for your exact animal is important too.
If your cat does seem to wander, or your dog has a pretty big garden to explore, it may be worth getting a dedicated pet tracker to be notified ASAP, and give you a clue as to where they are.
How To Search For Missing Pets
Check places they are familiar with
If you have a dog or cat who does usually go for walks or explore of their own accord, try tracing their usual walking route or going to the local park/woods if you usually take them there.
It is always a good idea to be aware of where your cat goes when they are out, so you can frequent their usual areas and check they are not stuck in outbuildings, sheds or indeed other people’s houses. This may require a bit of a James-Bond style operation, but knowing how far they go is helpful.
Pop some of their favourite treats outside their door or something like their blanket or litter tray so they can find their way back with scent and familiarity. Shake the food boxes and call their name. They could even be hiding around the corner unaware they are causing such stress!
Your neighbour may have seen your pet recently, if they have gone in a certain direction or if they have been hanging around. Letting them know that a local pet is missing could encourage them to search under bushes and other hidey-holes if you have a small animal, or to contact you if they see it.
If they have slipped their lead when on a walk, ask other people you see in the local area or any houses nearby to both keep a lookout, or if they have seen incidents. Check in woods or around bushes in case they have got stuck.
Use social media
There are loads of groups out there on Facebook to report animals missing, and there is a good chance that there will be one specifically for your town or city on there.
Put as much information as you can on there, but while not giving too much away. Say where they went missing and be as precise as possible, and any areas which they are familiar with. Try to include a recent clear picture and let people know if they were wearing a certain colour harness or have any other notable features, such as a coat on.
Whether to put their name on there is up to you – it can help if they are good at recall but it also depends if they are a bit too trusting and you want to ensure they don’t get into the wrong hands.
This is also a great way for people to message you if they see or find your pet, without you handing out your mobile or house number. Check that you can accept messages from ‘strangers’. Also, put a post on your own feed and encourage people to share it.
Report them missing
If they are microchipped, get in touch with the microchip company and ensure all of your details are up to date. Then if they are handed into a vet or scanned by a rescue centre, they can contact you directly.
If they aren’t chipped, let local vets and rescue centres know that there could be an animal handed into them. It is not necessary to inform them if they are chipped or if your details are up to date but you can always call them for advice.
There are also missing pet websites out there, as well as groups on Twitter or other social profiles.
How To Prevent Your Animal From Escaping
If you have an animal who uses your back garden, check for damage to fences regularly. Don’t assume that a hedge, piece of trellis or temporary barrier will be enough to keep them in.
If they stay in an outbuilding such as a chicken coop or rabbit hutch, check their houses for any damage too.
Get them microchipped if possible, or look into identification tags if you have a parrot or other bird. This way, when they are found, scanners can pick up your information and reunite you much quicker. It is good for them to have a contact disc or ID tag on at all times. Look at our advice on microchipping your cat.
Keep an eye on them when they are outside, especially in bad weather. All it takes is for a gust of wind to scare them or to blow over the fence in a matter of seconds. Ideally, keep them inside during bad weather, fireworks or when dark.
It is a good idea to join Lost and Found groups on Facebook or become familiar with other social media platforms as a ‘just in case’, so you can send and respond to any posts ASAP rather than waiting to be approved.
Lost and Found Pets During Covid-19
The Coronavirus outbreak has changed the way we live in many ways, but one big issue affecting pet owners is a slight change in how to find lost pets or deal with any which you have found.
Vets and pet stores are either not open or are running on skeleton staff and following social distancing, so it is not as easy to go to these places. There may also be fewer people out and about to spot your pet, and you should probably be staying indoors too.
Lost pets during the lockdown
A lot of the above will still apply, such as ensuring they have an up-to-date microchip. Social media will be a big help here as it doesn’t require you to leave your home, too.
You can still ask neighbours, but be aware of social distancing and ensure that you are not making people feel uncomfortable by knocking on their door, especially if they can’t come outside or are shielding. It is understandable that it is a stressful time for you, but there are certain barriers to how much people can help.
Depending on where you live and where you lost your dog, there could be more or fewer people about. If more, it could work in your favour, but still be cautious of distancing if you are asking people for information.
Also be aware that you should be limiting how much time you spend outdoors to an hour, so it will help if you can gather a group to go out and search at staggered times.
If you own a dog, walk them on a lead (even if they are usually as good as gold off the lead) as you never know what can happen. Double-check fencing and outhouses.
Don’t walk your dog or let your pet outside during the Clap for Carers at 8pm on a Thursday as fireworks are being let off, pans are being banged and car horns are being blown
What to do if you find an animal during the Covid-19 lockdown
The RSPCA has reported that they are dealing with an average of 660 incidents every single day since the beginning of lockdown, which shows that cases of abandonment and abuse are not lowering just because us humans have had our movement restricted.
Charities such as the RSPCA, or any local rescue centres/charities are still a good first place to start if you have found an animal which you believe to be lost or abandoned. Be aware that most cannot accept admissions from the public, but officers can be sent out to do the rescuing.
Contact your local vet if it is a cat or dog which could be microchipped and looks as though it has got out or got lost as opposed to being abandoned, so they can scan it.
But do be aware that there are restrictions as to how close they can get to your home and to you. They are also working with fewer staff members than usual, and vets are mostly working just for emergencies so you may not be able to travel there straight away. Call them before going.
Post about the animal you have found on social media Lost and Found groups and check for anybody with a microchip scanner who could get the issue solved. This is without going through vets and rescue charities, who are stretched at the moment.
If you can keep the animal until the owner is found or an appropriate person can collect it, this would be ideal. If not, there may be somebody in the group who is willing to take them in. Ensure they are trustworthy.
Abandoned pets during the Coronavirus crisis
Still be aware of distancing rules when working with people to help lost and abandoned animals. Also, be aware that it could take a few more days than usual to reunite lost pets if people are falling ill or being taken to hospital, so don’t jump to conclusions too quickly.
Unfortunately, more pets are being abandoned during the coronavirus crisis as people believe they could carry the virus, or they can no longer afford to look after them. Do keep a lookout for any animals which you maybe have not seen locally before and if they are still around after a few days, make some enquiries.