Help bring your lost pet home by making posters for your neighborhoodCats and dogs can be cunning escape artists, especially when an open door beckons. Pets can easily slip out and wander from home, sending you into a frenzy as you try to locate your loved one. Fortunately, there's good news for the 15 percent of pet-owning households that have lost a dog or cat in the past five years. According to a survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 85 percent were found. If your pet goes missing, spring into action immediately with these strategies.
1. Search Your Neighborhood: As soon as you notice your pet is missing, canvas the area. "In our research, most cats and dogs are found within a close radius of home," says Emily Weiss, Ph.D., vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA. Nearly 50 percent of dog owners and 30 percent of cat owners found their pet by searching the neighborhood. Knock on doors and ask if anyone has seen your critter; don't be shy about asking for permission to poke around your neighbor's porch or garage in case your pet is hiding.
2. Vary Search Times: Get out multiple times during the day. Look in the morning, afternoon, and night, especially because cats are more active at dawn and dusk. Shy dogs might also stir more then, as there are less people out during these times of the day.
3. Call Animal Shelters: Good Samaritans often take found pets to animal shelters, which is why you should immediately call locations within a 20-mile radius of your home. Check back with the shelter often, as your pet could show up after your first call. Also, know that every place has a different policy for holding strays; some keep animals for as little as 72 hours. "Once that time passes, your animal could either be put up for adoption or euthanized," Weiss says.
4. Visit the Shelter: Once you've notified the shelter of your missing pet, follow up in person. Although you can describe the animal over the phone, many dogs and cats look alike, and shelter personnel could easily overlook your pet.
5. Contact Veterinarians: Let your vet - and other vets nearby - know your pet is missing in case somebody brings it to the office.
6. Hang Posters: It may be an old-fashioned strategy, but posters can help raise awareness about your missing pet. Hang signs around your neighborhood and in veterinarian offices, community centers, and grocery stores. Remember to clearly state that you're looking for a lost pet and to include a good photo of the animal, your phone number, and the location where your pet was last seen. The day your pet went missing may help, but "the further away that date gets, the less people may pay attention to it," Weiss says.
Related: Working Out with Your Pet
7. Place a Newspaper Ad: If your local paper has a lost and found section for animals, list your pet. (Many newspapers don't charge for this service.) The biggest reason? "Shelters look at these ads every day and try to match pets in ads with ones in their shelters," Weiss says.
8. Log Online: Letting the online community know about your missing pet could help you find it, says Weiss. Try Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, or even specialty sites like Missing Pet Network.
9. Offer a Reward: Contrary to popular belief, offering a reward won't increase the likelihood that somebody will hold your animal for ransom. It could, though, increase interest in locating your pet.
10. Set a Humane Trap: Placing food or toys outside your home may lure pets back, but your cat or dog could easily scamper away again, especially if you're not home when the animal returns. Instead, call your local animal shelter and ask if you could borrow a humane live trap. "Although you might end up trapping your neighbor's cat, you might also lure your pet back without losing it again," Weiss says. The ASPCA reported that 59 percent of people found their missing cat because it returned home on its own.
Related: Is Your Dog or Cat Depressed?
11. Don't Give Up: You've probably heard stories about owners and pets that have been reunited years after they've been reported missing. While not every story has a happy ending, you should keep searching. You never know what might happen.
12. ID Your Pet: While most pet owners think pet ID is important, only 33 percent tag their pet, according to the ASPCA. Once you find your missing pet, get your animal an ID as soon as possible. The tag should include your cell phone number, a back-up number, and perhaps your address. You could take it a step further by having your pet microchipped. Your neighbors won't be able to read the chip, but a shelter and some veterinarian offices can.
How do you locate a missing pet? Let me know in the comments!
More from Good Housekeeping: