How to Find Lost Pets

With our new puppy Shadow appearing recently, I wanted to remind folks on tips to find lost pets. Now, chances are he didn’t get lost on his own, but for many adult dogs and cats that get scared, they run away from the scary stuff.

Whether it’s summertime fun, or winter vacation, we often want to include our pets in the adventure. Nothing stops the fun faster than lost pets, so it’s vital to create a pet-safe plan. Thanks to the ASPCA for the fun infographic (and a cool free app!) that can save you heartbreak. Read on for more tips to prevent pets going AWOL and how to find a lost pet.


Happy 4th of July! I suspect that the fireworks may have already begun, and that’s great fun for us—and not so much for the pets. In fact, you can go to this blog for a tips post about dealing with fireworks fears in pets. But what happens if your scaredy cat or dog has already taken off, and gotten lost? A safe enclosure and proper fence (learn more here) can help, but fireworks almost always are followed by a rash of lost pets.

lost pet

Panic leaves no room for thinking. A terrified dog may run for miles, while a cat may hide nearby under the back porch–but remain frozen, unable to cry for help. Pets that may be friendly around you and the house may become so scared, they refuse to come to strangers–or respond to you, because they’re so darned scared.

How can you find lost pets if your dog or cat does the door-way dash or escapes the back yard fence? Even experienced pets may not have a clue how to find their way home, and puppies and kittens are at even greater risk for being injured by cars or picked up by well-meaning people who find them. According to the ASPCA, nearly one-in-five lost pets go missing after being scared by fireworks.

lost pet


Identification is vital for happy reunions. Thankfully, today there are may options for providing identification for your pets. In addition to microchips (my Magical-Dawg and Karma-Kat have microchips), you can also invest in tracking collars to keep tabs on your pets. You can learn about one such service on this blog post. That technology had a big role in my pet-centric thriller series, to track down lost animals.

Microchips contain detailed information about your pet in a tiny rice-size surgical glass capsule. It’s placed beneath the pet’s skin in a similar fashion to a vaccination. Most pets don’t even notice. Once the dog or cat details are registered to that specific microchip, pet parents can access the information. That’s invaluable should your pet be lost or stolen, because shelters, veterinarians and rescue organizations can “scan” for the chip to reunite you. Some of the best-known microchip sources include HomeAgainAKC Reunite and Avid.


The ASPCA also has a free interactive mobile app for pet owners, tailored to your specific circumstances and each pet’s individual personality. That can help you know how and where to search if they go missing, build a digital share-able lost pet flyer that can be instantly posted online. The app includes advice for pet safety before, during and after a major storm or natural disaster. If your pet ever does go astray, follow these tips to help you find your lost buddy.

lost cat


VISIT THE SHELTER. People often take strays to the local shelter. Don’t call and ask about a missing Great Pyrenees puppy. Baby dogs often look different than adults of the breed, and the shelter staff may not always know recognize your verbal description. You should visit several times to see if somebody has turned him in, and don’t take the staff’s word for it–insist on eyeballing the dogs. Your white fluffy baby may have rolled in the mud and now look brown, and you’re in the best position to recognize your furry wonder.

ID YOUR PET. July 1st is ID YOUR PET DAY…but this is important all year long. It’s ideal to have your pet wear some type of identification. Up to seventy percent of animals that arrive at shelters have no identification, and as a result a great percentage are euthanized. A metal or plastic tag with your contact information attached to the dog or cat’s collar offers the simplest method of identification. A rabies tag serial number with clinic contact information also helps. People can call the clinic, where they look up the serial number to identify the pet and his owner. Tattoos and microchips are also common and effective forms of pet identification.

BE SPECIFIC. Avoid describing pets as a Labradoodle or “whatever” cross when the combination can vary. Will other folks know what a “silver shaded tabby cat” looks like? (HINT: that’s my Karma-Kat…) Offer specifics: curly chocolate color fur, one ear up and one down, 45 pound neutered male, floppy (or erect) ears, docked tail — answers to “Spiffy” and dances and spins when you say “wanna cookie?”

lost pet cryingTELL THE WORLD

VISIT THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Alert your neighbors to be on the lookout for a lost pet. Kindly pet lovers may take in a friendly stray and watch for “lost” ads in the newspaper before taking them to the shelter. Go door to door, and ask permission to check outbuildings, under porches where frightened dogs or cats might hide or become trapped in an infrequently used garage. Holidays, when neighbors leave town, may mean the pet becomes trapped and not noticed for days or weeks.

ADVERTISE. Make posters or fliers to leave with neighbors or at the shelter that includes several photos documenting a close up of the face, full-body shots from both sides and the back, and any distinguishing marks. Lots of folks have a Labrador or Golden Retriever or calico cat but yours may be the only one with three pink freckles in a triangular pattern on a white tummy. Check with local newspapers about posting “lost pet” notices–often they do this for free. Use social media. Many lost pets are reunited because Facebook friends and twitter followers organized to spread the word about a lost furry wonder.


TRACK HIM DOWN. Search and rescue dogs have been trained for years to find missing people lost in disasters, or that have wandered off due to illness or simply becoming confused. Today, specially trained dogs also are available to track down missing pets. One example is Dogs Finding Dogs, but you may find similar organizations in your neck of the woods. One time when Karma-Kat got out (EEEEEK!) and he wouldn’t come to us, we put his best friend on a leash, and Magical-Dawg used his excellent tracking skills to find his cat-buddy.

Because a pet’s scent can fade over time, it’s important to contact a tracking dog organization for help as soon as possible. You’ll be asked to provide the pet’s favorite toy, a blanket or brush that smells like him for the tracking dog to scent and know what he’s looking for.


YouTube Button

Subscribe to Amy’s YouTube Channel

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!


How to Find Lost Pets — 25 Comments

  1. Thank you, Amy. Great blog. My pup are terrified by thunderstorms and lately by fireworks. An adult man was shooting off firecrackers Saturday. I was outside with two of my dogs. I asked him to stop because it scared my dogs. He told me to keep them inside. I told him that they have to come out side sometimes. I walked away. He blew a few more up and and went into his house.

    • Awww sheesh, so sorry you have to deal with that Mary. Poor dogs, and poor you. At least he finally went back inside (hope he feels a wee bit guilty and that spurs him to rethink his attitude).

  2. Wonderful tips to be aware of before something happens to our pets and we can be ready – even though we are probably panicking just as much as our pets! I’m going to have to check out this app! Thank you

  3. Fantastic advice! Especially about calling g the shelter and inquiring about specific breeds. Not even my vet’s office staff can agree on my mutts’ origins so it’s likely one person’s boxer can be another person’s Weimeraner (I’m not exaggerating there). Use social media AND create posters. And also look at construction sites. In a Denver there’s currently a billion of them, and they would’ve been empty of people on July 4. Cats in particular might have crept inside for shelter.

  4. Such important, timely advice! We recommend all of the steps you’ve shared, and have found that in the last few years, the social-media promotion has become even more important. Great tip about the ASPCA’s free app! We’ll be sure to let PSI’s pet-sitting members know about this as well.

  5. I am lucky that my furry kids don’t mind the fireworks. Ruby (dog) is OK as long as she is inside and Rosie (cat) is partially deaf, which probably serves her well on the 4th!

    It is interesting how dogs and cats handle it so differently – dogs running and cats hiding nearby. I have had two friends who lost their cats and found them in the next year hiding very quietly. Fortunately, they were both found safely.

  6. I admit that I hate Summer. It’s the worst season of them all. Between the heat and the bugs, there is very little to be desired. Cookie hates summer, therefore I hate summer. Can’t wait to make it at least in August, when things start getting more reasonable.

  7. I hope I never have to deal with a lost pet. Truffle and Brulee are indoor only cats, but I could imagine what would happen to Truffle if she were to accidentally get out, especially during a thunderstorm or fireworks. She hides and won’t come out, even for a treat. Thank you for the advice you’ve given.

  8. LOTS AND OTS of critical advice here Amy. So many of these pitns hit home – *nods* Did that *shakes head* need to do that.

    Our cats adore the summer weather and do not stray for from home (except Silver who has a Tabcat tracker) so I can (I hope) keep them in sight!

  9. Great ideas. Living with a thunder, firework, noise phobic dog, I totally get the panic. He just wanted to leave and he had no idea where. I think he thought he was going to dig his way to safety. Always in our home, with me, never outside. <3

  10. Amy, love that you covered FINDING pets that get lost because of the holiday noises! Great tips. Always keep my dogs in doors for this reason. You never know who made decide to escape!

  11. It breaks my heart to think of all the pets that are lost and scared while people celebrate. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips to get them back home safely.

  12. Our neighborhood group has a pretty fair success rate in returning lost pets. I wish it wasn’t necessary though! On firework days, we take him out early on a leash and spend the rest of the night at home.

  13. “Be Specific” is so important. What looks like a Yellow Lab to one person may look like a beige dog to another. Also, I’ve found shelters are not always accurate in their online descriptions of lost pets (not a slam against shelters – that’s just reality). It’s so important to visit shelters everyday and ask to see every single animal – in my state (North Carolina) they must show every animal on the premises to an owner looking for a lost pet – that’s the law.

  14. I love that the ASPCA has an app to help find lost pets. What a wonderful idea. I talk to my neighbors in advance of the holidays. They all know to come to my house if a pet gets lost because I am usually the one that ends up retrieving them from the woods behind my house because they always head there. So far all returned, but I’d rather they didn’t get out in the first place.

  15. This is a great in depth post Amy. These are great strategies to keep pets safe during the Fourth Hoilday. I never knew so many pets go missing during this time of year. Very informative.

  16. This is some really great advice! I love that this outlines so many ways to find lost pets, and it’s such a great resource for pet owners!

  17. I didn’t know about the app, and I need to check it out! In the past year, I ‘ve had 4 lost dogs show up at my back door. There was a pack of 3 Goldens and I called the number on the tag, their people didn’t even know the dogs had gotten loose. They only live about a block away. Last month a beagle showed up and didn’t have a tag. After looking online for a lost dog ad, I was about to take him to the vet for a microchip scan, when I heard someone whistling for a dog from a vehicle. I ran down the driveway and managed to flag her down. The driver was looking for her neighbor’s lost dog and heard him bark at my house. She took him home and was planning on keeping him for the day until the owner got home from work. However, when she pulled into her driveway, her neighbor had just come home. She was too upset to stay at work and burst into tears when she saw her dog.

  18. Excellent tips! I share the ASPCA app whenever I can. It’s a great app, very useful and full of info. It’s always a fear that our beloved pets can break out and get lost…even though it is Fort FiveSibes here, and they are all microchipped, I still worry if someone visiting leaves a door or gate open. Especially with born-runners like Huskies, and, like you said, this time of year with fireworks and thunderstorms…and now there seems to be way more neighborhood fireworks since they can be purchased almost everywhere. All of my visitors get the “dog rules” before settling in. But with kids, I still have to watch carefully, and am always do a dog head count! Lots of great info here. Thanks, Amy!

  19. Pingback: Fear of Fireworks & Thunder? How to Calm Pet Noise Fears

  20. Pingback: Check the Chip Day: Learn All About Pet Microchips

  21. Pingback: Dog Fence: Creating Good Neighbors to Keep Dogs Safe

Leave a Reply