4 Important Steps Owners Should Take to Bring Their Missing Pet Back Home

·4 min read

It's the pet owner's worst nightmare: your dog or cat goes missing. Although you never want it to happen, you should always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. If your pet gets lost or goes missing, you need to be quick and jump into action; both senior and young pets, whether you adopted them from a shelter or purchased them from a breeder, can go missing. The moment you notice your pet is gone, keep calm and stay focused. First, check every single place you think they could be (even the most obvious ones). After you've done that, follow these steps to help bring your furry friend back home.

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1. Get a Chip and ID

Getting your pet microchipped costs $15 to $45, and it's worth it, says Kim Barker, president of the nonprofit Lost Dogs of Fort Wayne in Indiana. In one survey, only 21.9% of non-chipped dogs who turned up at shelters as strays were returned to their owners. That number increased to 52.2% among microchipped dogs. Ask your vet about microchipping; if you adopt from a shelter, it often will chip your new pet. Once the chip is implanted, register your contact information and always update it if you move. For more insurance, order a collar personalized with your phone number or buy a nylon one you can write on (tags can fall off), so you can be contacted directly if your pet is found.

2. Do a Little Home Prep

Having a few items in place will come in handy. First, you'll want some good photos. Take pictures of your pet from different angles (make sure one shows them on all fours), and focus on any unique markings. You'll need these to identify them. Second, you'll need a scented item to help lure pets out of hiding. Rub four to six pieces of sterile gauze over your pet's body for 30 seconds, then place them in a new resealable bag with your pet's name and date. "This item can help lure her to you when you're out searching," says Jamie Katz, a Florida-based private investigator and pet detective. You should do this every few weeks as every dog's ability to pick up scents greatly varies, according to the Missing Animal Response Network.

3. Act Fast

If your pet has gone missing, you should have a plan of action. On social media sites, post pet photos, information, and the exact location where they were last seen. Then, file a lost pet report with local animal shelters and visit the shelters every one to two days, asking to see all of the dogs or cats, including stray pickups. Put up flyers and waterproof signs large enough for people to see at a glance. Include a photo of your pet standing on all fours; a description including color, sex, breed, and weight; reward info; and your phone number. If there's been a sighting or you think you know which direction your pet went, place a fabric item that smells of you (the one you touched or wore within 11 to 24 hours) and a piece of gauze with your pet's scent nearby; change every day. For cats, move their litter box to the porch. Their noses can pick up the scent from up to a mile away, Barker says. Set out food and water and, if possible, crack the garage door.

4. Try a Tracker

GPS devices for pets help ensure they don't get lost in the first place. Whistle Go ($100, Whistle.com) easily snaps onto your collar. Fi ($149, TryFi.com) is a tracker that's built into a waterproof collar. It comes in four different colors: gray, yellow, blue, and pink. The Findster Duo + ($150, GetFindster.com) is great if you have more than one dog. For one tracker, it costs $150; for two, it's $200, and for three, it's $250. For these three, you designate a safe zone and get alerts from the app if your pet strays. Bonus: They track and analyze your dog's activity levels.