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Looking for a lost pet can be an incredibly stressful experience. Not too long ago, lost pet posters and helpful neighbors might have been your only hope for a reunion. These days, advances in technology have made finding your lost pet easier than ever.

While it can be hard, stay calm. Do your best to act quickly, and spread the word far and wide about your lost pet. The more people in your community who know you’re looking for a lost animal, the better. You may be surprised at the support that rolls in if you ask for help.

Have A Lost Pet? Here Is What To Do If Your Beloved Animal Goes Missing

If you’re looking for a lost pet, there are a variety of strategies you can try. The most important thing is to start your search right away. Don’t assume your pet will return on their own. Don’t wait a few hours to see what happens. If you can enlist friends and family to help, even better. You can divide up the items on this list and try several at once.1

Check Your House

cat hiding in dresser drawerIf you can’t find your pet, you may want to start with a quick scan of your house. Is there a dark corner where your cat loves to curl up? Is it possible that your dog got into the backyard, but then couldn’t get back inside? Check inside closets, basements, garages, and under large pieces of furniture.

Bring out a few strong-smelling treats, and call your pet’s name to help with the search.

If Your Pet Has A Microchip, Contact The Microchip Company

What Is A Microchip?

vet scanning a microchipped dogA microchip is a small transponder that is injected under the loose skin between your pet’s shoulder blades. This device is about the same size as a grain of rice. Implanting the chip only takes a few seconds and is no more invasive than a vaccination.2

How Do Microchips Work?

Microchips can be scanned by a vet or at an animal shelter. If someone finds your pet, microchips make it easy for them to contact you. According to AKC Reunite, “pets with microchips are up to 20 times more likely to be reunited with their owners.”3

If your dog or cat has a microchip, this is a great place to start. Call the microchip company to report your lost pet. If you’re not sure if your pet has a microchip, call your vet. They should be able to check their veterinary records and see whether you ever had one put in (more on microchips later).

Canvas Your Neighborhood

A key part of your lost pet recovery efforts is to get outside and search the area surrounding your house. Walk or drive through your neighborhood several times a day. If you have multiple people helping, divide up so you can cover more ground.

If you’ve already created a flyer, bring this with you and hand one to everyone. If you don’t have a flyer yet, you may want to print off several copies of your phone number and address to hand out.

The more people who know about your lost pet, the more likely you will get a call. When you’re canvassing, stop and speak with every person you encounter. Here are some ideas.

  • Mail carriers, people walking their dogs, neighbors who are often outside, and delivery people can be helpful.
  • Ask children; they may notice more than adults.
  • Use a flashlight to check where animals might hide: inside drains, sheds, parked cars, or under porches.
  • Go outside at dawn and at night when it’s quiet and call your animal’s name.4

Call Your Neighbors

Man talking to neighborIf you can, call your neighbors personally to let them know you’re looking for your pet. If you don’t have their numbers, try contacting them through social media or email. The more eyes you have scanning for your pet, the better. It’s also possible that your neighbors will offer to help in your search, which can help you cover more ground.

Call Animal Control And Your Local Animal Shelter To See If Your Lost Pet Has Been Picked Up

Contact local animal shelters and the Humane Society to see if a pet has been picked up. Give a description of your pet and a recent photograph. You may want to visit nearby shelters in person. Shelters are very busy, and some pets can be hard to describe over the phone.5

File A Lost Report With Local Shelters And Animal Control Agencies

Call every shelter and animal control agency within a 60-mile radius of your home to report your lost pet. You’ll want to provide these agencies with a physical description of your pet and a recent photograph. This way, if someone calls to report a found pet, you will be top of mind.

If you believe your pet was stolen, notify the local authorities so there is a record of a missing pet.6

Create A Lost Pet Poster Or Flyer

A lost pet poster or flyer can help you spread the word out to many people beyond word of mouth. Consider creating one in two sizes: smaller flyers that you can hand out to neighbors and larger posters that you can hang up. Keep the information brief, useful and to the point. Here’s what you should include:

  • The words “Lost Dog” or “Lost Cat” – or whatever type of animal you are looking for
  • A brief description (breed, color, sex, any easily definable characteristics)
  • A large, recent photo of your pet
  • Your contact information
  • Optional: the promise of a reward. If you choose to do this, you may want to simply write “Reward” and leave off the dollar amount.7

Where To Hang Your Lost Pet Posters

In general, focus on a 1-3 mile radius for dogs and a few block radius for cats. If you believe your animal is likely to run further, adjust accordingly. Post your flyers:

  • At all major intersections near your house or the escape point
  • In front of your own house
  • At popular coffee shops or meeting places in your neighborhood
  • In addition to hanging posters, you may also want to try an “intersection alert” where you have a group of people wave and call attention to the poster.8

lost dog poster

Using The Internet for Lost Pet Recovery: Finding Your Pet Online

There are many different lost pet resources on the internet that can help you. Here are some ideas:

  • Post details of your lost dog/cat on your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Ask friends to share to their pages too.
  • Post your lost pet alert on other people’s social media pages, like local shelters, radio stations, or groups that help find lost pets.
  • Sign up with an automated alert service like Lost My Doggie that will automatically call or email your neighbors.9
  • Find databases online that help connect people with lost pets, like The Center For Lost Pets.10
  • Try a facial recognition website like Finding Rover.11

Run An Advertisement

Paid advertisements may give your search more visibility. Here are a few ideas:

  • Craigslist
  • Local newspapers
  • Local radio stations
  • Lost Pets USA
  • Missing Pet Partnership
  • Pet Finder

Some organizations will place your ad for free, so be sure to ask.12

Be Wary Of Pet Recovery Scams

unknown criminal in hooded jacketIt’s infuriating but true: some people will pretend to care about animal welfare when they are really after your money. If you receive a
call from someone who claims to have found your pet, ask them for more information. You want to hear an accurate description of your pet, preferably with some details that were not included on your poster.13


Never send anyone money before you’ve been reunited with your pet.

Don’t Give Up Or Lose Hope

If you’ve been looking for a few days, don’t give up. Keep up your search. Scan your neighborhood, talk to neighbors, visit shelters, and post on social media. Lean on your community for help. There are many stories in the news of people who are reunited with their pets days, weeks, months, and even years later.14 This can be an incredibly tough time but remember: there is hope.

Learn More:

Pet Guides: Safety In The Home For Your Furry Friends

How To Teach Your Dog To Come When You Call Them

Info For Pet Parents: Health And Safety For Cats During The Winter