July is National Lost Pet Prevention Month. I post this each year, in advance of the holiday, because more pets disappear over the July 4th holiday than any other time. They get so scared about the noise. But pets get lost all the time. Both Karma-Kat and Shadow appeared as lost babies. Please bookmark this site for tips on how to find lost pets. Now, chances are neither Karma or Shadow get lost on their own, but many adult dogs and cats get scared, especially over fireworks, run away from fear, and end up lost.
WHY LOST PETS RUN AND HIDE
Fireworks offer 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 rash of lost pets almost always follows fireworks fun. A safe enclosure and proper fence (learn more here) can help prevent tragedy.
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 doorway dash or escape the backyard fence? Even experienced pets may not have a clue how to find their way home, and puppies and kittens are at even greater risk of 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. Petco Love Lost wants to do something about that.
IDENTIFY YOUR PETS!
Identification is vital for happy reunions. Thankfully, today there are many options for providing identification for your pets. Besides microchips (Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat have microchips), you can also invest in tracking collars to keep tabs on your pets. 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 similar 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 get 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 HomeAgain, AKC Reunite and Avid.
HOW TO FIND LOST PETS
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 from 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. Register pets with every database you can find, like the Petco Love Lost resource.
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?”
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 out buildings, 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 include 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. Facebook friends and twitter followers organized to spread the word about a lost furry wonder to help reunite lost pets.
TRACK HIM DOWN. Search and rescue dogs 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.
Cats also can track missing pets. And lost cat behavior differs from lost dog behavior. Refer to this excellent resource to become familiar with lost cat behavior, provided by expert Kat Albrecht (yes, that’s her name!). She also has cats that track missing cats. Felines’ ability to climb, and to access tinier spaces that much bigger tracking dogs make them an ideal choice in some situations. In fact, I used the concept of tracking cats in my latest thriller HIT AND RUN, based on this information.
Because a pet’s scent can fade over time, it’s important to contact a tracking organization for help as soon as possible. They’ll ask you 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.
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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!