20 steps you can take when your pet is lost

Would you know what steps to take if your pet is lost? Most likely you think it won’t happen to you. You’re too careful; he’s too well-behaved.  

Visit any animal shelter and you will realize quickly that you are wrong.  An open door goes unnoticed, a dog gets frightened by a thunder storm, you’re traveling with your pet and someone you’re staying with lets him out.  There are so many scenarios and as a result, so many lost pets.  

It can happen to you so be prepared, and act fast if your pet goes missing. 

Be prepared and take immediate action
  1. Microchip your pet and keep that information up to date. 
  2. Even if she’s chipped, have your pet wear a collar with an ID tag and license tag. Make sure the license contact information is kept current. List your mobile phone number as the primary phone since it’s the fastest and most effective way for someone to contact you, no matter where you are.  
  3. Register with a lost and found agency, such as any of the websites listed here.
  4. Carry current photos of your pets, especially if you’re traveling with them.
  5. Call your local animal services to report the missing animal; have their number programmed into your mobile phone.  Fill out a lost pet report and ask for a lost pet poster to complete and distribute. If you’re traveling with your pet, do a search for “animal services” in the area you’ll be travelling to and have that number handy, just in case.
  6. Distribute your lost pet posters and hang them on telephone poles over a wide area.  Animals can travel further than you think, especially when they’re frightened and confused.
  7. Make index card-size printouts with the same information on the lost poster. Knock on doors of homes and businesses in every direction from where your pet disappeared. Leave the cards under doors and on car windshields, and give one to every person you meet.
  8. While you’re canvassing for your pet, call her name often.  She may be hiding, but is likely to come out when she hears your voice. 
  9. Contact your animal licensing authority to let them know your pet is missing. Confirm they have your current phone number to contact you.  Have this telephone number programmed into your mobile phone.
  10. Call veterinarians in the area. They can scan pets for microchips, and some veterinarians take in lost pets in their communities.
  11. Visit all shelters in the area; use Petfinder and Google to find them. 
  12. Ask animal services and every shelter or rescue group you visit where lost pets are taken.  In more remote places, they’re often brought to shelters in larger, neighboring cities that can be up to an hour away from where your pet was lost.
  13. Call the local sheriff’s department to inquire about your pet.  They typically take in lost animals when area shelters and animal services are closed.
  14. Use social media: post a notice on your Facebook page with a photo of your pet and your contact information. If you use Twitter, tweet your pet’s photo, ‘last seen’ address and how to get in touch with you.
  15. Post your lost pet on local online forums.
  16. Email everyone you know about your lost pet. Even if they don’t live near where your pet was lost, they might know someone who does.
  17. Place a “lost” ad in your local newspaper the very first morning your pet is gone. These ads are usually free.
  18. If you don’t have a mobile phone, check your home answering machine frequently.
  19. If you put your address on your pet’s ID tag, make sure someone is home in case your pet gets dropped off or if he comes home on his own.
  20. Leave no stone unturned! Look everywhere, tell everyone and don’t give up!
Additional resources


  1. David Lesage says:

    Very useful information and to the point, some dogs can be 20 miles away within an hour of being lost, microchip is one of the surest way to get your per back.

  2. Jacquie Samper says:

    Hi Beth
    I truly agre with you.its very important to have them microchipped .
    This to let you know that Sugar Bear is doing great,allot more friendly with Roger and Playing something she wasn’t doing before.always asking for attention and what she loves more asking for love. Whom ever abused her will never know what a great dog she is! Last weekend Rogers granddaughter was here and at first we were very scared about sugar bears reaction,but as always she surprised us playing with them ,running and very lovable with her.which was great for us as we enjoyed seeing them play and run,what a weekend!Yesterday Afternoon one of the volunteers from the shelter came over to see her and she was very happy to all the progress Sugar bear has made in such a short time.She said we were doing the right things with her and that if she would see her walking with me somewhere else she wouldn’t recognize her as she has gain weigh and her hair is shinny.
    Again We really want to thank you and Pets for Patriots for everything you’ve done for us!

    Warm regards
    Jacquie Samper Roger Voss

  3. Thank you for this very informative and very useful article. I saved a copy of it. Dread the thought of ever having to use of it. I belong to a very wide network of pet enthusiasts, and, unfortunately, there will be a day when I’ll find myself forwarding this information.

    Again, thank you.

  4. Carol, we all hope to never have to use this information, but even if you never do for your own pets, you might be in a position to help a neighbor or friend who loses theirs. Better to be prepared!

  5. Hi Pets For Patriots,

    Wow, that is one comprehensive and useful list of things to do when a cat or dog goes missing.

    It’s a heart wrenching situation to be in and I’ve been in it before. On more than one occasion I’ve had one of my cats run out the door and was unable to catch her right away. The thing that saved her is talking to neighbors. On one occasion a neighbor brought her back. But I had done some of the things on your list too.

    I like the idea of the various groups you’ve listed to contact. The more feelers you can get out, the better the chance of getting your pet back. Using social media, local online forums, and email is an insightful idea and could help.

    Nowadays, I shoo the cats back from the door when I open it. There hasn’t been an attempted escape for years, luckily.

    Great resources and thanx,

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

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