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5 Steps to Take if You Lost a Pet

Updated on October 4, 2014

Losing a pet can be a terrifying and horrifying situation, one in which your control is very limited. You become more desperate as you imagine your beloved pet hurt, scared, hungry, or worse. The good news is that many pets come home or are found by a kind-hearted person. You may even find them when you're out looking for them. All hope is not lost! You can take steps to dramatically increase the chances you find that loveable fur baby.

I recently lost my dog and started to lose hope after a week. On day eight I got a phone call. Someone in the next neighborhood found her! We had our poor, scared, skinny girl back. The important thing was she was safe. I employed all of these steps and had I not, we probably would not have her back.

The first 24 hours are critical. You will probably want to enlist the help of family and friends because these steps will take time and your dog or cat could be covering some serious ground depending on their size and what motivated them to take off in the first place.

1. Call all local shelters, animal control centers, vets within a five mile radius, and local police departments. Do not forget to call state and county departments as well. Make sure you give a good description and include any details that make your pet stand out from possible look alikes.

2. Post ads online. Craigslist will let you post under Lost Pets and Pets. Renew your listings every 24 hours to bump it to the top of the list. Someone found my dog and checked Craigslist, which is how we got our dog back. Just be aware that scam artists sometimes peruse these listings and may call offering services. Research them thoroughly online before committing. Also post on They will make a Facebook post for you and they have a search that reports lost and found pets.

3. Talk to neighbors! It would be very helpful to take a flier with a picture with you. As you go around the neighborhood, post fliers up so people walking by can see them and call if they spot your pet. Also talk to mail carriers and newspaper delivery folks. They are around your neighborhood on a regular basis and may spot your pet.

4. Put out water and an item of unwashed clothing. The idea is to attract your pet with your scent and to provide them water if they return. Do not put food out or you may attract more than you expected.

5. Drive around and call your pet's name. Make sure to expand outside of the immediate neighborhood. Look through neighborhoods and large uninhabited areas. Drive slowly and stop near areas with water, trash cans, and spots they can easily hide. Also walk around your neighborhood. This allows your pet to better detect your scent. You also are going slow enough to pick up on movements you may not notice while driving.

Hopefully you will find your pet. Make sure to take steps to identify your pet in case they run off in the future. Get a tag with their name, your phone number, and your address. It is also a good idea to microchip your pet. Shelters and animal control centers scan for these and are supposed to call the number linked with the chip.

Also make sure to keep an eye on your pet. Train dogs to follow commands and stay with you. Fence in your yard and make sure they are not unattended if they tend to jump the fence when they're alone.

Best of luck!


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