General Pet Search Tips
1.) Start foot search
immediately. (For Indoor-Only Cats, go here.)
The sooner you start searching, less distance your
pet will have traveled. Thoroughly search the surrounding property and
continue in the direction that your pet was last seen heading. Go
door-to-door, starting close by initially, moving further out later.
Bring a flashlight and check EVERYWHERE: in closets,
cupboards, and all accessible spaces inside your home; behind washers,
inside pipes and culverts, in heavy brush, sheds, basement crawl spaces,
open garages, under decks. Your pet may be stuck somewhere, extremely
frightened, or injured and lying low. For lost cats and other climbing
critters, check trees, roofs, and attics.
If your pet may still be inside the house, be sure
to check the following:
-- In reclining chairs
-- inside the ledge that supports the
footrest when it is extended
-- In box spring or mattress
-- with a
flashlight look for torn lining in box spring or mattress
-- Behind the books in a bookcase
-- Behind unopened
drawers in a dresser
-- In the chimney
-- In heating ducts
Behind access panels
-- Behind the refrigerator or stove
Wrapped in the bottom of your drapes
2.) Think like your pet.
Put aside your human logic for awhile and put on your
animal thinking cap. Were there any sounds or events just prior to the
escape that could account for either running towards or running
away from something-- Dogs often run off for the fun of it, while
cats are generally chased off their territory (by a new cat in the house
or a new cat in the neighborhood).
3.) Look for clues: pet hair, paw prints, and
Look for physical evidence like animal hairs (caught
under fences, on shrubs, around broken screens), paw prints, and animal
droppings that may provide clues as to your pet's whereabouts.
4.) Could your pet be trapped-- Have any neighbors
recently moved, gone on vacation, or renovating their
Your pet may have been inadvertently locked in a
moving van, delivery truck, or the garage of a vacationing neighbor. It is
also possible that home construction or renovations might have sealed off
part of neighbor's property the day your animal disappeared.
5.) Leave out food and water, as well as
belongings with a familiar scent.
6.) Go out at night when the streets are quiet,
call for your pet, and then listen for any response.
Many animals forage for food between 1-5 AM because
they feel safer in the dark. The more timid your pet is, the quieter and
more slowly you should walk. Bring food and make a noise that would
motivate your pet to come running towards you (tapping on a can or rustling a kibble bag). Keep your safety in mind
7.) Make flyers with a clear photo of your
Print "LOST CAT (or LOST DOG)" in large letters.
Include: your pet's size, coloring, hair length, and any distinctive
markings, whether it has a collar, location pet was last seen, as well as
a phone number where you can be reached. If you want, add that calls are
welcome 24 hours a day. If your pet is timid, add that your pet may run if
approached. If your pet is a cat, ask that neighbors be on the alert and
notify you if they hear sounds of cat fights, caterwauling, or
Many neighbors will assume that after a couple weeks
either the animal is found or the owner gives up. After a few weeks,
remind them that you continue to search with a follow up flyer that says
CAT STILL LOST.
For safety considerations, DO NOT include your name,
address, or a specific reward amount. The type of people that you want to
call with tips are animal lovers who don't care about the money -- not
pranksters and people looking to make buck.
to download a template for a LOST CAT flyer (Microsoft Word doc).
Three different types of flyers:
Flyers with color photos; these show your
pet the clearest; cost about $0.50 each. Make photocopies of the
text onto fluorescent paper, have photo reprints of your pet
made, then tape a photo onto each photocopy.
Flyers using color photocopies; these are
fairly clear; cost about $1.00 each. Make a single flyer using a clear
photo of your pet; bring to copy shop, and have color copies made onto
white paper. To save money, you can also make 4 mini-flyers (4.25" x
5.5") from each 8.5" x 11" color copy; cost about $0.25
Flyers using black and white printouts or
photocopies; these are the cheapest but are the least clear; cost about
$0.05 per flyer. Use white or fluorescent paper.
Post color flyers on utility poles at busy street
intersections, at local veterinary offices, pet stores, pet groomers,
laundromats, and community bulletin boards. Make black and white versions of the flyers and leave one at each house
8.) Talk to everyone you meet. Show them the
poster and ask if they have seen your pet -- particularly neighbors who
leave food out for animals, walkers and joggers, children, newspaper
carriers, mail and package delivery people. In my experience, houses with
gardens that looked like they had been nurtured and cared for, also tended
to have the most thoughtful and receptive residents, willing to help in
As time passes, be sure to keep your presence in the
neighborhood known. If neighbors see you looking, it will remind them to
keep their eyes out. You can't be everywhere at once -- depend on others to
be your eyes and ears.
9.) Leave a message on your answering machine
asking for the date, time, and location when the caller may have seen your
missing animal, as well as the caller's name and phone number in case you
10.) Enlist anyone who is willing to help. It
may be some time before you are reunited with your pet so take advantage
of any offers of help.
11.) Visit local animal shelters every 2-3
12.) Place an ad in the local paper. And check
the Found Pet section of the newspaper. Many newspapers now have
classifieds listed online.
13.) If you have recently moved, check your old
neighborhood and talk with people there and post flyers.
14.) Don't give up after only a few days, or
simply wait for your pet to return on its own. Many pets are found
weeks or months after they disappear. With knowledge, persistence, and
proper techniques MANY pets can be found.