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Health & Wellness

How to find a lost pet or report one found

And tips on preventing your pet from going missing.

How many of us have fixed a hole in a fence or tested out a cat leash? As pet parents, we do everything in our power to ensure our dog or cat is always under our watch. But sometimes, even when only turning your back for a second, pets' curious nature can lead them to go missing. 

The second you realize your dog or cat is missing, can be super overwhelming. So we put together a comprehensive guide to help you get through the challenging moments when your pet gets lost. Plus, we offer tips on preventing them from getting lost in the first place.

How to find a lost pets

Most pets run away when they’re unleashed or in an unsecured yard, but there is a scary reality that some pets are stolen, too, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. But, it’s important to know that there is a high chance that you’ll find your missing pet and that pets don’t usually wander far from home.

“Fifteen percent of pet owners have lost their pets. Dogs have a 93% chance of getting back to their parents while cats have a 75% chance of getting back to their parents,” Dr. McCullough explains based on a 2012 study.

If you realize your dog or cat is lost, there are some steps you can take to make your search successful. Here are Dr. McCullough’s tips for finding a lost pet:

  • Start searching for your pet immediately (and let your friends and neighbors know, too). 
  • Look around your immediate neighborhood first.
  • Bring high-value treats (like a safe hot dog brand or cheese for dogs) to get your pet to come to you.
  • Make posters and use social media to describe your pet. Include their picture and last known location — offer a reward, too (Dr. McCullough says to not share this amount yet, though). 
  • Beware of scammers who say they’ve found your pet. Ask them to describe the pet they’ve seen and to send a photograph. 
  • Call and visit your local animal shelters. 
  • Reach out to your local animal control agency. 
  • Bring your posters to local veterinary offices and groomers. 
  • Place an advertisement in the local newspaper. 
  • Don’t give up. 

On some holidays, it's essential to pay extra attention to your pet. For example, the loud noises and fireworks on the Fourth of July can scare pets and cause them to run away. 

RELATED: Dog obedience training: cost, commands and techniques

What to do if you find a lost pet

If you spot a lost pet, Dr. McCullough recommends opening a can of wet food or shaking kibble loudly. Ask your local rescue organization to borrow a humane trap, too. For cats, you can set up a litter box outside. If you manage to catch a lost pet, call your local rescue organization or animal control agency and check social media. 

How to prevent a pet from becoming lost

Preventing both dogs and cats from going missing takes pretty similar techniques, Dr. McCullough says. The only difference is that for dogs, you should monitor them while they're outside (even if you have a fenced-in backyard). And for cats, you should encourage them to avoid hanging around the exterior doors. 

These Dr. McCullough-approved tips will help to ensure your pet doesn’t go missing: 

  • Microchip your pet. 
  • Spaying and neutering pets can stop them from wandering off.
  • Purchase an identification tag for your pet that includes your phone number. 
  • Take photos of your pet regularly and make sure their health information is up-to-date. 


No pet parent should struggle to find their best friend. That’s why AskVet has streamlined the search and rescue process for free with One Pet ID — a smart ID tag that allows pet parents to reunite faster with their lost pets.

"Losing a pet is one of the most traumatic experiences for a pet parent," Dr. Crissy Allstott, AskVet director of veterinary medicine, explains. "We wanted to create a super easy way to reunite lost pets with their families. There is no need for the person who finds your pet to go to a veterinarian to scan a microchip."  

Each One Pet ID tag has a QR code that is scannable by any smartphone, and the service is free for the life of your pet. When the QR code is scanned, the finder will see any important info that you have written about your pet, like medication needed and you’ll immediately receive a “pet found” alert to your phone. One Pet ID adds an extra layer of protection for pets, giving pet parents the peace of mind they deserve.

Just for Fetch readers, AskVet is offering a 1-month free trial of the AskVet Pet Wellness app and a free One Pet ID tag (pet id service free for the life of your pet). Use the code 22FETCH. Valid for new AskVet customers only: https://askvet.onelink.me/gtub/62de1fbc.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

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