When your beloved dog or cat strays from home, it can be a traumatic experience for both of you. Here are some tips that we hope will help you find your pet.

Search the neighborhood

How you conduct your search will depend on your pet’s personality and species. A confident, outgoing pet may have made new friends, while a shy or easily scared pet is more likely to be hiding somewhere or staying clear of strangers. Mission Reunite and the Missing Animal Response Network offer search techniques and online trainings to teach you what steps to take when your cat or dog goes missing. See how to find a lost cat or how to find a lost dog. LostCatFinder.com’s How to Find Your Lost Cat video search guide and e-booklet is another good resource.

In general, walk or drive through your neighborhood several times each day. Ask neighbors, letter carriers and delivery people if they have seen your pet.

Most indoor cats become frightened when outdoors and will often find a place to hide close to home, on average up to three houses away. Indoor-outdoor cats, on the other hand, may travel several blocks. Focus on searching under decks, bushes, sheds—any dark hidden places around your house. Ask the neighbors on each side of your house if you can search their properties as well. Don’t forget to look inside garages and sheds where your cat may be trapped.

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Contact local animal shelters and animal control agencies

File a lost pet report with every shelter within a 15-mile radius of your home and visit them daily, if possible.

To find your local shelter, search online or type in your zip code at The Shelter Pet Project's shelter search. Some shelters even post photos of found animals on their websites, making it easy to check if yours is there. Often shelters are able to loan you a humane trap to set, which can be particularly helpful if your pet is shy and/or frightened. For lost cats, contact local trap-neuter-return (TNR) groups as your cat may have joined up with a colony or be seen by someone who is feeding cats in the area.

If there is no shelter or TNR group in your community, contact the local police department or local animal control agency. Provide these agencies with an accurate description and a recent photograph of your pet. Notify the police if you believe your pet was stolen.

If your pet has a microchip, alert your microchip company so that your pet can be flagged as lost.

Engage your community

In person

Post notices at grocery stores, laundromats, barber shops, community centers, veterinary offices, dog parks, traffic intersections, pet supply stores and other locations. Include your pet's sex, age, weight, breed, color and any special markings. When describing your pet, leave out one identifying characteristic. Listen for this characteristic when people who claim to have found your pet describe your pet to you. 

Hang large and brightly colored flyers around your neighborhood and be sure to include on the flyer a clear photo of your pet, a description of your pet leaving out one identifying detail, and a phone number. Keep your flyer simple and legible. Posters that offer a reward and/or indicate that your pet needs special medication often get extra attention. Post them where people see them—at eye level in bus stops and on telephone poles or lamp posts on neighborhood streets.

Online

Use social media to your advantage! There are many lost and found animal groups on Facebook, so search for one or more in your area and post a notice of your missing pet there. Also post on your personal Facebook, Instagram or other social media accounts. Include helpful hashtags to help people in your area find your post.

Petco Love Lost is a national database that utilizes pet facial recognition technology to search thousands of found pet listings from users and shelters across the country. Simply upload a photo of your pet to start the search.

You can also try:

Be wary of pet recovery scams

When talking to a stranger who claims to have found your pet, ask them to describe the animal thoroughly—or, better yet, have them send you a photo of the found pet—before you offer any information. If they don't include the identifying characteristic you left out of the advertisements or if they refuse to send a photo, they may not really have your pet. Be particularly wary of people who insist that you give or wire them money in advance before they’ll return your pet.

Don't give up your search

Animals who have been lost for months have been reunited with their owners. A microchip reunited dog Kiwi with her owner—New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham—after having been missing for more than a year. Expand your search area and repost to social media and online forums.

Prevention

A pet (even an indoor pet) has a better chance of being returned to you if they always wear a collar and an ID tag with your name, address and telephone number. To further ensure that your pet makes their way home to you should they ever become lost, ask your veterinarian or local animal shelter to microchip them. Just be sure to keep your contact information up to date with the online microchip registry site, such as the Michelson Found Animals Registry.