Losing your pet can be a devastating experience. All pets will have plenty of opportunities to slip through your legs and out the door during their lifetime. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help prevent this from happening or at least ensure a safe return if it does happen.

Here are some tips to help protect your pets from getting lost:

  • Spay and neuter all pets. Both males and females are much less likely to wander if they have been altered. Spayed and neutered pets live longer, have fewer health problems, and are happier in general.
  • Make sure all your pets are wearing current identification tags, even pets that normally don’t leave the house, and make sure the writing on the tags is legible and accurate. Without any identification on your pets, they’re helpless if they ever become homeless and your chances of recovering them are greatly reduced.
  • All pets should have microchips implanted, which can be done on cats and dogs as early as 8weeks of age. There are several brands of microchips available, and your vet can help you choose which one is best for your area.
  • Make sure your yard is pet-proof so your dogs can’t escape. Also, keep any gates locked so visitors don’t accidentally open and them open, and caution your kids and their friends about this.
  • Always have your pets on leashes. Never let them roam free in the neighborhood.
  • Always transport your cats in carriers. Make sure the carriers are sturdy and secure.
  • Take the time now to get good photos of all your pets. Since animals can sometimes look similar, get close-up shots to show definition and detail.
  • Train your pet to come when called or respond to a whistle and to sit at the door to avoid them darting out.
  • Give your pets regular exercise.

If your pet is lost:

  • Start your search immediately. Don’t wait for your pet to find its way home, and don’t assume that because your pet may have returned home safely in the past that it will be so lucky this time. Acting quickly can help ensure the likelihood of getting your pet back safe and sound.
  • Search your property thoroughly. Sometimes cats and dogs can hide in very small places. Begin by looking in your pet’s favorite areas, then look outside, under the porch, behind the shrubs, in the shed, in the trees, and on the roof.
  • Start walking around the neighborhood and talk to everybody. Check backyards, garages, alleys, parks, and schoolyards.
  • Go around the area calling out to your pet. Shake a box of biscuits or treats and/or use your pet’s favorite squeaky toy to make some noise.
  • Create flyers with a clear photo and detailed description of your pet. List several phone numbers where you can be reached.
  • Pass out flyers and post them at post offices, gas stations, libraries, pet supply stores, veterinary clinics, grocery stores, Laundromats, convenience stores, shopping complexes, near schools, and on school and church bulletin boards.
  • Place an ad in your local newspaper. Advertise in the Sunday paper as well as during the week. Keep the ad running every day for two weeks or until your pet is found.
  • Check the newspaper “found” ads every day.
  • Some radio stations and local schools will announce lost pet reports, so call them and find out.
  • Place some of your clothes outside your home to attract your pet. The smellier, the better. Sweaty gym clothes work great.
  • Call animal control, humane societies, the police, local radio stations, and veterinary clinics, including emergency hospitals, in your area.
  • Come to pet shelters to search for your pet at least every two days. Shelters will do their best to match up the description you give of your pet. However, it can be difficult to match an owner with their pet over the phone.
  • Ask postal workers, bus drivers, children, neighbors, UPS drivers, and anyone who is regularly in your neighborhood if they have seen your pet. Be sure to show them pictures.
  • Don’t give up! Pets can return home months after being lost.

Remember, the single most important safeguard is making sure your pet is wearing a current identification tag with your correct phone number on it. This simple item could save your pet’s life.

THE End of the line

For many pet owners, the choice of what collar or leash to buy for their dog is more of an afterthought and a question of fashion rather than safety. Most people don’t think much about collars or leashes until a problem arises. Overlooking the basics of outfitting your pet properly can prove to be fatal. Spend some time right now and make sure all your pets have current identification and are wearing appropriate collars. Having a pet without identification makes it very vulnerable, like a small child running around the neighborhood or at home alone. Each year, 10 to 12 million animals are euthanized at shelters across the country, and many are family pets. Don’t let your dog or cat become a tragic statistic—plan and prepare now.