Lost & Found Pet Tips


When a furry family member goes missing, it can be a very distressing time. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help reunite lost pets with their families. Quick action, both on the part of the family and local community members can help bring the best chances of getting them home.

What to do if you've lost a pet

1. Contact the proper organizations
If your furry family member is microchipped, first contact your microchip company to file your pet as “missing” and to ensure your contact information is up-to-date on your account. If someone finds your little one and brings them to a vet clinic or shelter anywhere in North America, they will be scanned for a microchip. Then, the microchip company can contact you to let them know your pet’s whereabouts. Contact your regular veterinarian if you require more information about your pet’s microchip.

If you are in London, you should also file a lost pet report with London Animal Care Centre (https://accpets.ca) and visit their shelter regularly to view the “Pets in Waiting” that have been brought in recently. You may also consider notifying other shelters in your area or even in neighbouring counties.

2. Spread the word
There are several online communities dedicated to helping lost and found pets. These groups harness the power of social media to reach thousands of local members who can keep an eye out for your furry family member. Don’t forget to check out the “found pet” reports to see if anyone already has your little one in their care.

You should also notify your neighbours and put up posters in highly visible locations around your neighbourhood or where your furry family member was last seen. Consider posting them at grocery stores, community centers, veterinary offices, traffic intersections, post offices, and pet supply stores. You can create a poster for your lost pet using a free template on the PawBoost website. Don’t forget to check for relevant “Found Pet” posters during your efforts, too!

Also, consider updating your voicemail message: “If calling about our lost dog/cat, please leave a message. If you are calling to report a sighting, please give time, location and directions and your number. Thank you for your help.”

3. Search for them
As you search, you can try shaking a bag of their favourite treats or calling out words or commands that they may recognize. Use a calm, conversational voice, not loud or full of panic. Pause often and listen carefully for any rustling nearby.

Before you search outdoors, remember to search every nook and cranny of your house. Cats, especially, can be particularly evasive and can become trapped in the tiniest spaces. Do not assume your cat will meow or come to you.

Remember that if your furry family member is lost outdoors, they may be in survival mode and may not be their normal self. Because of this, they may perceive friendly faces as threats. If you think you see your furry family member, avoid chasing them as this may cause them to flee. Instead, sit calmly and try to lure them to you. While it seems counterproductive, avoiding eye contact and dropping the food while walking away can help you to seem less threatening to a scared animal.

When searching for a lost dog, you should also carry a special leash called a “slip lead” that is designed to be fastened to your pup quickly and securely so they don’t escape your grasp.

When searching for a cat, don’t forget to look up at trees and rooftops! You may also try going out after dark with a flashlight and looking for the distinctive reflection of their eyes in the darkness. The best time to look for a cat is early in the morning and at night when there isn’t much activity.

4. Help them find their way home
Cats especially are comforted by their own scent. Put your cat’s favorite bed, blanket, cat tree, or even their litter box outside. Set out fragrant, heated food such as sardines or tuna, taking care that other animals don’t eat it. For dogs, you can also try putting worn clothing from your household out on the clothesline to help a keen-nosed pup find their way back to you.

You’d think that calling out for your pet would encourage them to come to you, but often it is not the best way to use the sense of sound to bring them home. If calling for them has not been effective, try sitting outside and chatting either on the phone or with a member of your family. Often, our furry family members are attracted to the regular, conversational sounds of our voice and will come trotting up as if nothing has happened.

Keep in mind, though, that your pet may prefer to sneak home when they perceive it to be safer. If possible and safe, you may leave a window, door, or garage door open a crack so your little one can return on their own time. If you can, the first few nights your little one is missing, assign a family member to stay awake and sit close to your front door, monitoring it overnight. You can also use baby monitors to help listen for your little one’s return.

You may also consider getting cameras for your house. This will help you determine if your little one has been coming by when you’re not home or when you’re asleep.

5. Be wary of pet-recovery scams
When talking to a stranger who claims to have found your pet, ask him to describe the pet thoroughly before you offer any information. Be particularly wary of people who insist that you give or wire them money for the return of your pet for things such as transportation. Unfortunately, many people will take advantage of a lost pet parent’s desperate situation to scam them for money.

6. Don’t give up your search
Most of all, do not give up. There are many wonderful stories of pets that have been lost for months reunited with their parents!

What to do if you’ve found a lost or stray pet

If you’ve found a stray or lost pet, first, thank you for your efforts in trying to help them find their way home! Losing a pet can happen to the best of us in a moment’s notice and it is often only because of the kindness of strangers that a reunion is possible.

However, for your own safety and that of the other pets in your household, remember that it is extremely important to keep the pet isolated. Do not let them come in contact with any other furry family members until doing so has been approved by a veterinarian. Additionally, they may be scared and unpredictable and should never be left unattended with young children.

If you’re able, check their collar for tags. If the animal is wearing a tag with a phone number, that is often the quickest way to reunite them with their family.

Otherwise, if you’ve found a lost or stray animal within the City of London, call London Animal Care Centre immediately at (519) 685 1330 to place a found pet report. They will advise you on the next steps for your situation. You may also wish to contact other animal shelters in your area.

If you’re able to gain control of the animal, typically the best thing to do is take them to a shelter such as London Animal Care Centre to be scanned for a microchip. If there are no shelters near you, keep in mind that veterinary clinics can also scan for microchips. Then, the microchip company can be notified and they can then contact the pet’s family. If the animal is wearing a Rabies tag and is registered with the City, London Animal Care Centre can also use that information to connect them with their owner.

An animal shelter such as London Animal Care Centre is often the first place an owner will look, so they are the best place to house and care for the animal (or the shelter may allow for you to foster it under their supervision) to greatly increase their chances of being reunited with their loved ones.

However, if you’re not able to secure the pet (if, for example, you spotted them in your neighbourhood but you can’t get them to come to you) or if no microchip is registered, you can still help! Try posting a “found pet” report with the following community groups:

Please also consider contacting your neighbours and making “Found Pet” posters. These should be put up in highly visible locations such as grocery stores, community centers, veterinary offices, traffic intersections, post offices, and pet supply stores. Don’t forget to look for any relevant “Lost Pet” posters while you’re there too!

Remember, an animal shelter is the best place for a lost animal to be found. However, if you choose to house the animal yourself, be cautious before you surrender the animal to someone who claims to be the owner! Ask them for identifying information such as veterinary records or a photo of the pet, as well as personal identification such as a driver’s license so you can ensure they claim to be. Unfortunately, some people prey on missing pets with cruel intentions. Your personal safety is another reason why it is best to go through an animal shelter whenever possible.

If an owner cannot be found, very often the shelter will be happy to contact you to let you know once the waiting period is over, should you wish to apply to adopt them!

To report cases of animal cruelty, abandonment or neglect, please call the Province of Ontario’s 24/7 Hotline at 1-833-9ANIMAL (1-833-926-4625). In an emergency, you can also contact your local police.

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