20 Tips to Find a Lost Pet

If you have lost your cat or dog, the first thing to remember is that the odds are in favor of finding her. The other first thing to remember is that the faster you move, the better those odds get. Here are some ideas to get your search started.

General Advice

These pointers apply to both cats and dogs:

1. Make fliers with your pet’s picture, a brief description and your phone number. Make sure there is an answering machine or voicemail that will take messages if you can’t pick up a call at that number.

2. Go to all the local shelters, including the pound. Return at least every other day, because many facilities — the New York City pound, for instance — hold an animal for only 72 hours.

3. Call local veterinarian offices in case someone found your pet injured and took her in for treatment.

4. Post fliers around the area where you lost your pet. Use brightly colored poster board and paper. For details about making effective posters and fliers visit the Missing Pet Partnership.

5. Put a “lost pet” ad in local newspapers. Include your phone number, when and where the pet went missing and a good description. This is how my parents found our cat: he had followed another cat into her home about eight doors down from ours and those neighbors had taken him in. When they saw the ad they promptly returned him.

6. Check the “pet found” sections of local newspapers every day.

7. File a report with the local police if you think your pet may have been stolen. Review these risk factors for dog theft.

8. Get online. Send descriptions to all your contacts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, and ask them to send the information to their contacts. Look for “animal forums and message boards” hosted by local groups like parks and dog runs. The Best Friends Animal Society hosts a website where you can post your information. The more people looking for your pet, the better.

9. Best Friends will also send a message to its members in your area to keep an eye out for your pet. Call (435) 644-2001 x123 or email animalhelp@bestfriends.org.


10. Cats tend not to go far from home, especially indoor cats. They are usually in “a five to ten house radius” of home, although they may wander further if they aren’t neutered. Knock on all the doors within that radius and ask if they have seen your pet. Give each household a flier.

11. If someone is home in those houses, ask if they mind if you look around their yards or patios for your cat. Look under and behind bushes, under decks and in every other hidden nook. (I have done these searches even when no one was home to grant permission. It’s up to you whether you want to risk a trespassing charge.) I found my cat this way. After contractors left a window open, he jumped out. We posted fliers far and wide to no avail. After a couple days I found him hiding in a storage area under the stoop right next door.

12. When looking outside, it is best to do it late at night or early in the morning when it is quiet. Bring your pet’s favorite food and a flashlight.

13. Walk around the area calling for your pet. Make other noises that usually bring your pet running, like shaking a container of treats. Remember that your pet may be trapped somewhere. Pause and listen carefully for her voice because she may not be able to come to you. Remember also that if your cat is scared and hiding, her instinct will be to stay quiet so she doesn’t attract predators.

14. Look in every nook and cranny in your own house, inside and out. One of my cats once climbed into a hole in the wall of an apartment we had moved into the day before. We may not have found him if our other cat hadn’t woken us up to show us! The same adventurous kitty crawled into a storage shed under the building that a gardener left open. We found him by following his meows.

15. Put the kind of smelly things your pet would like outside your house: clothes you have worn, bedding, even other family pets (in crates or on leashes, and supervised). Cats and dogs use scent to navigate and that will help them find their way home.

16. Put out your pet’s food every night at the same time. She will feel safer coming out of a hiding spot to eat when it is dark.


17. Dogs can run a long way from home. In the first few days, they are likely to be within a five-mile radius of your home. After a few weeks, that radius can increase to over 100 miles.

18. If you spot your dog, don’t chase her because she may well run. Learn how to approach a shy or fearful dog.

19. Scour the neighborhood calling for your dog. Bring a collar, leash, treats and squeaky toys if your dog likes them. Bring your dog’s canine playmate; she may respond to a friend’s bark. Call for your dog and wait for an answering sound.

Based on your dog’s personality, consider whether the tips in the Cats section may help.

For a list of more resources, visit About.com Dogs.

Beware of Scam Artists

20. Some people may take advantage of your plight, especially if you offer a reward. To protect yourself, don’t put the amount of the reward or your name or address on fliers or give that information to strangers. If you go to pick up your pet from a stranger, bring someone with you.

Be persistent. You never know where it will happen or how long it will take, but you have a good chance of being reunited with your missing pet.

Related Stories:

5 Ways Thieves Could Steal Your Dog

Woman Grieving Over Cocker Spaniel Amazingly Reunited With Lost Dog

Did a Lost Cat Walk 200 Miles To Get Back Home?

Photo credit: F1online


Fi T.
Past Member about a year ago

Never leave our family behind

Karin de Vos
Karin de Vos4 years ago

Thanks for sharing this important tips on finding one's lost pet, Piper.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Waheeda S.
Waheeda S4 years ago

Great tips. I agree...microchipping is also a great tool in helping locate lost pets!

stacey t.
Stacey Toda4 years ago

Tag and/or chip your pets. This will give you a better chance at finding them.

Heather M
Heather Marvin4 years ago

It pays to have a disc, I prefer metal because it lasts longer, on your pets collar, containing your address, phone number. The cost is well worth it.
A good article.

Gabriela Baldaia
Gabriela B4 years ago

Thank you for this interesting article. It can be crucial to act quickly !!

Sheri D.
Sheri D4 years ago

Thanks for the great tips. This is a very important article.

Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago

Thanks, sharing.

Arild Warud
Arild Warud4 years ago