What to do when you lose your cat or dog?

You have just lost your animal. Do not panic! Staying calm will help you find your pet quicker.

Reading time : 7 min

No matter the breed, an untrained dog can escape anytime. Cats, even neutered, can also run away, in need of expanding their territory. But what happens when your pet does not come home? It is unfortunately a common and worrisome situation.

Between 2018 and 2019, almost 34,000 stray dogs were taken in by local councils across the UK. However, these numbers do not have to discourage worried owners from finding their pet.

Even if a lot of lost pets are unfortunately never found, some do get reunited with their families. The owner’s persistence plays a big role in that and multiplying actions can maximise the chances of finding the lost animal.

So how do you find a missing pet?

In this article, you will find the different steps to lead an efficient search.

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How to report a lost animal?

Registering your cat or dog

First of all, it is very important to register your animal in case anything happens. Under English law, it is required to get your dog microchipped in England and Wales and it will also be helpful in case your animal goes missing. It is not mandatory to microchip your cat but, as they are more independent animals, it would be advised to do so.

Registering your animal also proves that you are its rightful owner in the event of a dispute. Your name and contact information will be linked to your pet’s microchip. It is therefore very important to register and update your contact information on a microchip database like Animal Microchips, Animal Tracker, MicroDogID or Pet Identity UK.

Role of the Dog Warden in the UK

Your local council employs wardens to deal with stray or dangerous animals. Dog Wardens are specially trained to handle dangerous dogs, but they have to deal more and more with other types of animals. They patrol neighbourhoods, respond to residents’ requests, and collect dangerous, abandoned, or stray dogs. Dog wardens are trained to work with aggressive animals and know how to handle them carefully.

They work hand in hand with the police and the RSPCA to handle dogs and bring them back to their owners. Their role is also to educate the English public about responsible dog ownership.

They always have the dogs and the people’s best interest at heart.

Contacting the Dog Warden

It is essential to notify your local council and dog warden of any missing pets. Dog wardens are legally responsible for stray animals so they are the first people you should turn to when losing yours. If they find an animal that fits your pet’s description, they will be able to contact you directly. You can find the dog warden’s information and phone number through the Environmental Health Department of your local council.

They play the role of a middleman between veterinary clinics, kennels, and you.

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

Consulting your vet

Your vet can be of valuable help when losing a pet, so you can also notify them. Someone might have brought in an injured pet and it might be yours involved in an accident. Sometimes, people report seeing a wandering animal to their local vet, so notifying your vet will make them aware that your pet is missing.

The animal warden or a vet can identify the animal by checking their microchip.

Reach out to your local kennel or rescue centre.

The dog warden must keep any found pet for 7 days. If the animal has still not been claimed after 7 days, it will be rehomed or sent to a local rescue centre.

If your cat or dog has been found by someone, they might have brought your pet directly to a kennel or rescue centre. Contacting kennels and rescue centres in your area can also help you find your pet. And if the centre gets an animal that fits your pet’s description, it will be easier for them to contact you later.

What are the main websites on which to report lost pets in the UK?

Missing pet websites

Missing pet websites are a great way to let people know that your animal has gotten lost. You can find a “lost dog” as well as a “found dog” section on these websites so there might have been someone who found your animal and published a post on there.

Animal Search UK introduced the first Missing Pet Search Team in the UK in 1999 and has been helping reunite families ever since. If you have lost a cat or a dog, you can upload a picture of your pet on their website and it will auto-match to the closest matches of reported found pets. They look for any type of pet but specialise in missing cats.

You can also check the DogLost website, which specialises in finding and reporting lost and found dogs. You can register on their website and upload a picture of your missing dog and the DogLost team will get into contact with you to get reunited with your pet.

By using a website, you are guaranteed to work with professional research teams.

UK Facebook groups

Facebook is also a great place to publish a post about a missing pet as it is full of missing animal groups. You will find many Internet users on these groups who are sensitive to the animal cause. Groups like Lost and Found Pets UK or London, UK – Lost Dogs, Cats & Pets are great resources as they are quicker alternatives to websites and can reach a wider audience. You can also publish a photo on your profile and ask your friends to share it widely.

Leaving out “scentings”

To help the search for your pet, you can leave out “scentings” around your house and where your pet has last been seen. “Scentings” are unwashed clothing or bed sheets with your smell on them. If a dog is lost and running around blind, it can get stressed and anxious. Leaving out “scentings” with your familiar scent on it can reassure your pet and get them to stay close to the scent. Do not hesitate to leave “scentings” in the last places you have seen your animal.

Creating a lost poster

Why make a lost poster?

In many cases, a lost dog or cat is roaming around its neighbourhood. Letting your neighbours know that your pet is missing by putting up lost posters can get them to help you!

It is then very important to notify your neighbours about your animal missing. A poster will also help any passers-by get in contact with you.

Your super social animal could also have entered a neighbour’s garden. Your neighbour could have then kept the animal and not know who to turn to give it back.

How to make an efficient lost poster?

A lost poster must be as precise as possible. The information must be short and clear because the poster should be read quickly, even from far away. Remember that the people who will see your poster will be pedestrians and motorists.

A white A4 paper is ideal. You need to choose a readable font. Do not be scared to use bold letters as well as colours like red to make your information stand out. Avoid coloured backgrounds, as they use up a lot of ink and risk making your poster hard to read.

Key elements to write on your poster

An effective lost poster should have:

  • A clear picture of your pet. The picture must be well-lit and not blurry.
  • Their sex. If your neighbours rescue an animal that looks like the one you have lost, having this information will make it easier to identify your pet.
  • Your pet’s breed or any info regarding its appearance: if it has spots, the length of its coat, its eye colour, …
  • If your pet is microchipped. However, do not give away their identification number as any dishonest person could use it to take your animal.
  • Your contact information. Write down your phone number as well as your email address.
  • Your pet’s last known location.

We do not recommend indicating your pet’s name, as someone with bad intentions can try to lure your cat or dog by calling their name.

Where to put up lost posters

Most of the time, when a pet gets lost, they will roam around their neighbourhood. Do not hesitate to flood your neighbourhood with lost posters and place them in strategic locations:

  • Noticeboards: you can ask your local bakery, butcher, supermarket, and other stores to hang a lost poster on their noticeboard.
  • Bus stops and train stations: many people walk through these places, putting up a lost poster in these areas will get their attention.
  • Electrical posts and enclosures: as long as they are visible, they can be used to hang your posters.

Do not forget to take down these posters once you have found your pet.

Hand out flyers

You can also make flyers. Print out A5 flyers (two flyers on one A4 paper), the ideal size for letterboxes. These flyers have the same information as the lost posters, their size is just better to hand out and slip into a letterbox. A flyer is also ideal to put on a fridge and stay in people’s mind.

If you have lost a cat, you can ask your neighbours to look around their garage, cellar, or garden sheds. A cat is a curious animal, it might have entered a place and have been stuck inside.

A cat or a dog lost without a collar is synonymous with anxiety because we always imagine the worst. Try to not panic as everything is not always over. Most of the time, lost animals are never far away but it might be difficult to find your cat or dog without proper communication. It is important to be methodical, quick, and not hesitate to carry multiple steps to find your pet.

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