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How to care for a lost and found animal...

Updated on February 2, 2016
The beautiful pug we found wandering the streets...
The beautiful pug we found wandering the streets...

And so it begins...

Your walking (or driving) along minding your own business when out of the corner of your eye you notice something….its a dog (or cat) looking a little lost, a little unsure what to do, but never fear you’re here to save the day. Whilst this has become more of a common thing in my life lately I do have quite a few doubts with what the best thing to do? I have put together some basic things to remember when caring for a stray animal so as not to danger yourself or your new little friend until you can find their home again.

First things first, check for an identification tag or some sort of ID on their collar, if they have this then the process is likely to be a lot easier as often it will have the owners phone number or address on it, however if they do not have one read on to know what to do.

Act according to your new little friends personality..

The way to deal with your new little friend will mostly be dictated by their personality. If they look friendly then just squat down to their level and see how they react to you. Mostly they will be nosey and be grateful for the attention, however if they are scared and timid, proceed with more caution as scared animals can bite as their first act of defense. Also if they appear to be aggressive do not approach them and instead call your local council and advise that the animal could be a potential threat to others so they can remove it ASAP.

If you have the all clear and you believe the animal is friendly and you have a string or rope of some kind then you can slip it through their collar safety. Alternatively you can try and coax them to follow you home or to your transport, if you feel they are in danger being left where you found them. If so then lead them to a safe place, whether it be your home or if you want to try door knocking in the area first to see if their home is near.

The lovely little kitty-cat who we believe to have been dumped...
The lovely little kitty-cat who we believe to have been dumped...

Who to contact

Its a good idea to contact a few different places if you do so happen to find a lost pet so their owner has the best chance of finding them.....

1. Your local council

-is always the best place to start as they can organise for someone to pick up the animal and this is definitely your first point of call if the animal appears aggressive or dangerous. Also they will keep a record of the animal reported missing and will contact you if any matches occur.

2. RSPCA in your state;

- RSPCA QLD state-wide Lost and Found service call 1300 36 37 36 - again they will keep a record of the missing animal so if the owner makes contact they will be able to match the missing animal.

3. The local animal shelter;

- The best way to search this would be by using the either google maps or yellow pages and searching "Animal Shelter", alternatively if your not in Australia use your local online directory.

4. Local vets (within about 10km from where you found the pet)

- Again search the yellow pages or google maps to find out whats close by. Vets are great as you can take the animal into them and get them to scan for a microchip. If the animal does have one then they often have details of the owner who the vet will contact and try the reuniting process going. This generally is the most effective method and was extremely helpful in the most recent 2 cases of finding lost animals. This is also ideal as you only have to go into the one surgery for starters.

5. Other things you can do if you have tried the above and still no luck

- Put up signs around the area where you found the animal and on the local community noticeboards

- Advertise in the lost and found sections of newspapers, Facebook and local lost and found websites.

Getting comfy

One of the most important things to do with your new little friend is to make sure they are comfortable. Sometimes like humans animals can get very stressed and anxious in an unfamiliar situation so its best to do something to ensure they know they are safe.

- If they are babies a ticking clock wrapped in a blanket can remind them of their mother so always a good tip if they are especially nervous looking.

- Some old towels or pillows for them to sit on.

- A ball or some sort of toy - It really can be just a piece of material for a game of tug of war.

- Most importantly a safe place - in a secure back yard or balcony or in the laundry if you are nervous of them running away again. Note if they are quite scared and anxious a dark and quite room can do wonders to calm them down.

- Also unless the animal wants to be held or patted it is best to leave them be until they are settled and comfortable, otherwise it can make the situation much more difficult.

Food and Drink

Whilst they may and most likely will appear hungry the most important thing to remember is you do not know this animal and you especially do not know if they are sick or have any allergies so its best to proceed with caution. (nothing worse than a sick animal on your hands, and conscious)

Giving them a bowl of water is definitely the first thing to do as if they have been walking the streets a bit of hydration can never go astray.

Food wise, if you have some suitable food in your pantry (cat food for a cat or dog food for a dog) then it would be ok to put some of this in their bowl, but probably go easy and give them a small amount to start with just so you can ensure it does not upset their stomachs if they are unwell. Alternatively if you boil up a bit of rice and some chicken this would be ok for a dog or cat as it will be nutritious, (Leave out the bones though!).

**Also please remember if you have cat food and find a dog don't give it the cat food and vice versa. People do not seem to realise this can be a big problem (not so much on the short term, but its really not worth the risk). Cat food is made with specific vitamins and dietary requirements that dogs do not need and the same goes for the dog food. They are made and designed with the needs of the animal in mind and due to this feeding them the incorrect meal can cause problems especially in the long term.

Also contrary to popular belief do not put milk out for the cats (this will make them sick so stick to water please) - why you may ask? most cats become Lactose Intolerant as they grow older.

Foods that are particularly harmful to animals -

  • Chocolate of any kind
  • Onion, Garlic and Chives
  • Grapes and Rasins
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Dairy products - cheese, milk etc
  • Raw Eggs
  • Raw Meat and Fish
  • Green Tomatoes and also the Tomato Plant
  • Candy and Gum
  • Yeast Dough
  • Fat trimmings and bones
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol, just a small amount can put an animal into a coma or worse
  • Most human food is not good for animals as it lacks the essential vitamins and nutrients they need in their diet.

Sad Facts

  • 5 to 7 million household pets end up in an animal shelters nationwide every year.
  • If a lost animal does not find its home within a week they are often put down as not enough adoptive homes for them to go to and the shelters are to full.
  • There are more homeless animals than homeless people 5 to 1.
  • Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home the rest often end up in shelters or as strays.
  • Tragically less than 2 percent of cats and around 15 to 20 percent of dogs are returned to their owner - this is According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy.
  • The best thing you can do for your pet is to microchip them and have them registered as many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with the correct and suitable identification.

Doing your part...

If you are in this situation and still not sure what to do, the best thing is to call an animal shelter or vet and get some advice, they often will be more than happy to help. Also remember your family and your own safety are of utmost important, so only ever bring a lost pet into your household if you are comfortable with dealing with it. If you feel its a danger or risk immediately contact your local council and explain the situation. Finally enjoy the experience, if you are lucky enough to be in a position to help find this little animal its home again then have fun with it...i'm not saying go out and look for lost animals, but it is quite rewarding when you do find their owner and they are grateful to have their furry friend home. Really it is nothing but a win win situation :)

Wishing you all the best!

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    • Chatkath profile image


      4 years ago from California

      Great information. Not sure if animals find me or I find them but I am constantly on the look out for homeless cats primarily - I have always loved animals and the shock of finding so many discarded cats in a town I lived in several years ago motivated me to do something to help. I didn't realize what a widespread problem it is however when I read articles like this my hope is renewed. Understanding the obstacles is the first step to finding a solution. Thank you for sharing these essential steps to responsively assist our animal friends.


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