Finding a lost cat or dog

Losing your animal can be a stressful experience, up until you found your pet. In this guide, you will find everything you need to know to lead an efficient search.

Finding a lost cat or dog
Complete guide

This guide will help you find your lost cat or dog.

Losing an animal is unfortunately a relatively common occurrence. On average, owners will lose their pet at least once in their lifetime. It is mostly due to the pets running away, which can be prevented by using special training methods. The internet is also full of searches like “what to do when you have lost your cat” or “who to reach to when you have lost your dog?”. So, what can you do if you lose your pet?

How to know if your dog or cat is really lost ?

A cat hidden behind a tree.

A cat can be lost… or not

Although the situation of a cat not coming home is quite worrying, it is important not to panic and think the worst. Most of the time, the cat comes and goes on a regular basis, but in reality it can be gone for 1, 3 or even 5 days without this being a cause for concern, especially during heat periods. A cat's territory can be more or less large. It is not fixed and the cat can, for example, extend it when it does not find females nearby during periods of heat.

A cat is sitting in a wheelbarrow.

Moreover, if the cat is not neutered, it is governed by its reproductive instincts and will eventually return when they are satisfied. In the meantime, during periods of heat, they are prepared to travel miles to satisfy their reproductive needs and may take some time to return.

But it is also possible that he is not far away and simply trapped in a place from which he has no possibility to escape. In this case it will wait for a door to open, sneak in and go back as if nothing had happened.

But it could also be that they are in one of their usual hideouts. Before taking any action, check their usual hideaways and search your house.

A sitting dog seen from behind

Searching for your dog

A missing dog is less likely to be locked up or resting in a hiding place. On the one hand because its size makes it more visible, on the other hand because the dog is more likely to be napping in an "official" place, such as its basket.

However, you can check where he spends most of his time. Look for him in your garage, garden or in the neighbourhood, for example. If he is not in these places, he has probably run away. In this case, you will have to take steps to find him.

section 1

Main players in finding a lost pet

Finding your lost pet on your own is possible, but your search will be more effective with help. Here are the main players who can help you find your pet.

A cat sitting on a large stone by the water

The animal warden

Your local animal warden may be most likely to be notified if someone finds your pet. The duties and responsibilities of a dog warden include like dealing with stray dogs, enforcing dog related legislation and promoting responsible dog ownership.

If you think your dog has been stolen, especially if it is a pedigree breed, you should contact your local police department.

A stray puppy sitting in the street.

Rescue organisations such as RSPCA, SSPCA, Cats Protections and rescue centres

Someone may have found your pet and handed them in to a rescue organisation (or local vet). Give them a call to check, because even if they don’t have your pet, you can still ask them to keep a look out and give them your number.

If you are in a situation where it is too dangerous for you to rescue an injured animal, you should contact the Dog Warden or the RSPCA who will handle the rescue professionally.

A shopkeeper assisting a customer

The vet

Your local vet could know where your pet is in case someone has reported it to them. The role of the veterinarian is very varied: he has to insert identification microchips, provide suitable paperwork for animals travelling abroad, perform surgery, euthanise old and terminally ill animals and immunise animals against different types of disease.

Shopkeepers and supermarkets

Putting up lost posters on your supermarket noticeboard can help find your pet back. You can also simply tell the local shopkeepers that your pet is missing. This way they can ask their customers if they saw your animal and pass on the information.

Neighbourhood streets

The neighbourhood

Use posters and flyers in your neighbourhood and contact neighbours who may have seen your pet. If you have recently moved and your old house is nearby, drop by to see if your pet hasn’t wandered back to the wrong house. You can also post flyers in your neighbours’ letterbox to let them know about your pet’s disappearance.

Section 2

Electronic tools that can help find a pet

There are some electronic tools that can help you find your pet more easily if you don't know where he is.

A vet doing a microchip implantation

A pet microchip

The best way to identify your pet

A common misconception about microchips is that you can geolocate your animal with them. This theory is simply not true. A microchip centralises information but is not a GPS tracker as it does not have the technology.

The microchip is an implant no larger than a grain of rice between the shoulder blades under the skin. The microchip contains information about the pet that can be scanned by a vet or animal warden using Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

a black dog in the snow

Finding a microchipped animal is easier

If you have found a wandering animal, the first thing you should do is see if you can identify it. Check for a collar with a name tag on it. If the pet don’t have any collar, Dog Wardens then will be able to scan them for any microchip. If the animal is injured, you should bring them to the nearest veterinary clinic, which will also be able to scan for a microchip and be able to identify the owner.

a Norwegian red cat

With pet identification, your pet can be identified by a professional if it is found by a third party. The identification chip does not allow you to find your pet's location, but it does contain information such as the owner's name and telephone number.

If you have found a lost pet, it is recommended that you take them to the vet to check if they are chipped. If they are, the vet will be able to contact the database which contains the owner's information.

A shiba wearing a GPS tracker

A pet GPS tracker

Not suitable for an implant

The GPS tracker is a GPS receiver but also a mobile phone transmitter that allows location information to be transmitted via a smartphone for example. Such a device requires the presence of a battery. However, a battery has a defined lifespan which requires replacement every 5 years or so. Also, GPS trackers often have an integrated SIM card. As a result, this technology does not currently appear to be suitable for a microchip implanted under the skin of a cat or dog.

A man using his mobile application

The best way to find your lost pet

A GPS tracker for dogs or GPS collar for cats contains all the technology that allows you to track your pet’s every move and thus never lose your dog or cat. Attached to the collar, its small size and lightweight ─ about 25 grams ─ provide security for the pet without disturbing it. A downloadable app via a smartphone allows the owner to be permanently connected to the GPS chip in the tracker.

section 3

Why do pets run away?

There are various reasons why your pet may run away. Many of them are common to both dogs and cats. Others are specific to one or the other. Here are some of them.

A tired and bored dog

They might be bored

Your dog or cat may find a way to escape if they are bored. Perhaps you have left them alone for a long time and they are lonely. Some dogs may go to a neighbour's house where there are other dogs or children to play with. They may also have a lot of energy to expend because they have no toys or other dogs to play with.

As for cats, some will want to play with you when you get home. Others have favourite times of the day when they like to run around the house with other cats.

A labrador retriever standing in the fog

They have experienced fear

Some dogs and cats run away because they are scared. Many dogs are frightened by sudden loud noises such as thunderstorms, fireworks, big crowds and gunfire. About 1 in 5 lost pets goes missing after a loud noise. Take extra caution and keep your dog in a safe place indoors during loud or crazy times!

As for cats, the outside can be a fun place, but it can also be quite dangerous. They could be chased by the neighbour’s dog, feel threatened by stray cats or also be frightened by loud noises.

A cat kissing his owner

To satisfy their mating instinct

A dog or cat that hasn’t been neutered or spayed may escape in search of a mate. Dogs become sexually mature when they are about 6 months old. Cats usually become sexually mature as young as 4 months of age. This strong and natural urge is a very common reason for cats and dogs to run away.

They need attention

Your dog might run away because it stresses them out to be apart from you. They may bark, cry, whine and destroy things. A dog with separation anxiety will usually run away right after you leave and try to find you.

Close-up of a cat closing his eyes

Despite what some people might say, cats want and need to socialize with their owners. A study has shown that cats are able to create attachments with humans. According to this study, cats not only have the ability to bond with their owners, but they can also develop insecure attachments. Signs of insecure attachments include twitching their tails, licking their lips, or avoiding their owners when they return.

So, although it may seem like your cat is rejecting you by running away from you or your home in general, in reality this is how your cat is showing you that they feel abandoned. If, every time he goes away, you start looking for him, calling his name, he may start using this technique to get your attention.

As you will have understood, finding a lost dog or cat is very stressful and takes a lot of time. To help you deal with this kind of situation, read our complete guide on how to find a lost pet. Start with the first chapter which explains what to do if you found a lost pet.

If you are not currently involved in the search for a lost pet, we recommend that you learn more about geolocation for cats and dogs, as this is the only real way to be sure of finding your pet.

Find out the 5 most important steps to find your lost pet

How to find a lost pet ?

Discover the 5 most important steps

All the information you need to find your beloved companion