by Jon Mohrman
There’s not much worse than that moment when you realize your dog or cat is missing. Although panic is a natural response, it doesn’t help. Keep calm and organize your thoughts. The search for a lost pet should begin right away, but in a logical and organized fashion.
After calling your dog or cat’s name several times, loudly open a package of food or treats. This may bring a hiding pet running. If that doesn’t work, a thorough look around your home is in order. If anyone has been home, ask when and where they last saw the missing animal. Dogs and cats sometimes fall asleep behind furniture, under a bed, in a closet or laundry pile, in a kitchen cabinet, or in any other small, dark, and cozy spot they find. Check everywhere. Even on the windowsills and behind the curtains.
If the indoor search doesn’t turn up your missing dog or cat, head out into the yard. Dogs and cats that get out often don’t go far, particularly if they don’t usually go outside alone or if they’re indoor pets. Check in shrubbery, up trees, in your garage or tool shed, and under your deck.
Next, look around the neighborhood. Round up some people to assist with the search if possible; the more eyes and the more ground covered efficiently, the better. Bring a recent photograph if you have one. Inquire with neighbors, showing them the picture, asking if you can check their property, and leaving a phone number so they can contact you if they see your lost dog or cat. Again, pay attention to bushes, trees, and other possible hiding spots as you make your way around.
Head home once you’ve covered as much ground as possible. Call the animal shelters and other animal organizations within about 50 miles of your home. Someone may have dropped off your missing dog or cat. File a missing animal report with each place and call back daily. If there are large animal shelters nearby, try to stop in every day or two. In areas where there are no shelters, contact the police instead. They may be notified of a dog or cat that appears lost, and they should take a missing pet report.
After making calls, create lost pet posters to hang up around the neighborhood. Top them with a bold “lost dog” or “lost cat,” then photocopy a recent picture of your pet. Identify your pet’s name, breed, sex, age, size, and coloration. Post your name and contact information. Hang the posters on telephone and light posts in the area, including at shopping centers and park grounds. Ask proprietors if you can put them up at their veterinary offices, pet supply stores, grooming or spa locations, and other businesses.
The web offers opportunities to help you locate your missing dog or cat, as well. Some communities have Facebook groups specifically for lost pets, or just community chat. Check the social networking sites, Craigslist, or other local online ad services. There are also websites that aggregate and disseminate lost pet information, such as FidoFinder.com, TheCenterForLostPets.com, and other sites.
By looking for your missing dog or cat in these ways and in this order, you maximize the chances of finding your lost pet. These steps help get the word out as efficiently as possible to as many local people as possible. If you don’t locate your missing dog or cat right away, don’t give up. Keep checking in with nearby shelters and hang additional flyers; sometimes lost dogs or cats turn up weeks or months after they go missing.