Keep your dog or cat from going missing—and know what to do if they do.

By June DeMelo
January 27, 2020

No one wants to think about the possibility of having a beloved pet go missing, but it’s a reality over which all pet owners should take precautions. While you can’t guarantee a skittish cat or adventurous dog will never get lost or run loose—and it’s easier to assume “oh, that won’t happen to my pet”—it’s your responsibility to be proactive about prevention and prepared for what to do in the event your pet does go missing. Here are the biggest tips all pet owners need to know to keep their furry family members safe and sound.

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1. Practice Prevention

Even indoor cats should wear a collar with a tag that displays a phone number and other relevant contact info. Get your pet microchipped by a vet too—that way, if his collar comes off, anyone can have his chip scanned at a vet’s office or shelter. (Remember to keep your contact details up-to-date in the microchip registry.) If you allow your dog in the yard, make sure your fence is secure. And if your pet is prone to bolting when guests come over, keep him in his crate or in a room with the door closed.

2. Act Immediately

If your pup is loose, canvass the area with treats in hand, calling his name. Show his picture to neighbors and post on your social media accounts or local Listserv. Your dog may take off when chased, so if you spot him, run away while shouting his name excitedly to get him to follow you. Entice a skittish dog to approach by sitting down, looking away, and making lip-smacking noises. Most outdoor cats are found within a one-block radius, and indoor cats tend not to stray past a few houses, so ask neighbors if you can search their sheds or porches.

3. Expand Your Search

Broaden your reach by posting publicly on Nextdoor or Facebook (some towns have a special page for lost pets). Make big, legible signs on neon paper to hang around your area. Include a photo, any distinctive features or behaviors (“scares easily,” “loves cheese”), and your contact info. Consider offering a reward. Alert your microchip service and file lost-pet reports at your local animal-services agency and nearby shelters. If possible, visit the closest shelter daily.

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