Lost & Found

Tips to Find Lost Pets

Dog in Path

We’ve compiled this information so you can do everything possible to find your pet. We hope you won’t ever need it — but it is best to be prepared, just in case.

smpaw_blue Start Sooner Rather Than Later ... And Never Give Up

The sooner you begin looking for your missing pet, the better are your chances of finding him or her.  The important thing to remember is that your pet needs you. It can’t tell you where it is — you are responsible for its safety and rescue. So please don’t give up after a day or two. We recommend that you keep looking for as long as two months if necessary; however, if you follow all of these suggestions, chances are very good that you and you pet will be reunited in a much shorter time.
smpaw_green Notify Humane Agencies and Animal Control

Call — and visit — all of the animal shelters in your area, not just the one closest to home. Remember, people who find animals may drive miles and towns over to bring an animal to a shelter who will take stray animals.

 Be sure you give the shelter a good description of your lost pet, and ask them to post your sign or record your loss and the important descriptive information in case your pet is brought there later.  Click here to learn how to contact the MSPCA and what pet information to leave us.

Also, notify the local and surrounding city animal control offices. Most facilities only hold stray animals a few days before euthanizing them, so be sure to check there in person often. Look in the local telephone directory in the yellow pages under “animals welfare agencies,” “animal shelters” and “humane societies” if you are not familiar with the ones in your area or visit our Humane Agency and Animal Control Information page.

If your pet has a microchip, be sure to contact the microchip company as well.  Most microchip companies send out alerts of missing pets to shelters.  Additionally, it is important to ensure your contact information is up-to-date with the company, so that if your pet is brought to a shelter and scanned for a microchip, the shelter will be able to contact you.

smpaw_red A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words

Find a recent picture of your pet and bring it with you everywhere on your search. Print photos or make copies of your pet's picture to give to shelters and neighbors. Remember, shelters can receive several animals a day, and if your pet doesn't have many distinctive features, a picture will help show the exact coloring and shape of your pet. On the phone, every black cat may sound the same, but in person they all have different features that sometimes only a picture can show.

smpaw_blue Tell the World

As soon as possible after losing a pet, you should post flyers to alert the neighborhood. To see how to make a good flyer, visit the Massachusetts Animal Coalition website.

Put a good description and photo of your pet on your sign. Include where and when the pet was lost and a telephone number where you can be reached. Note: You’ll need to reserve at least one identifying mark for positive identification if your pet is found. Don’t put everything in the description. It’s also a good idea to take someone with you if you agree to go to a stranger’s house to identify your pet, or arrange to meet the person — with the pet on a leash or in a secure box or carrier — in a public place. After all, if you are offering a reward, a dishonest person may be hoping you have it with you in cash.

To be effective, you must “blanket” your area with “LOST” signs. If you don’t have access to a copy machine, you should go to a copy machine or a quick print service to have photocopies made. You’ll need a minimum of 200 to 500 signs to cover a several block area effectively, including several blocks in each direction from where your pet was lost. Ask friends to help you post the signs on trees and lampposts. Some businesses will also let you put a sign in their window or inside on a wall or community bulletin board. Don’t forget to include grocery stores, Laundromats, veterinary hospitals, pet shops, and bus stops, as well as other high-traffic areas to reach a lot of people.

smpaw_purple Ask for Help

Ask family members, friends, and neighbors to help in your search. The more people helping, the more ground you can cover. Ask everyone you see if they have seen your cat or dog. Most people will try to be helpful; some will watch for or help search for a missing pet if asked to do so. The more teamwork in your search, the better. Also inform your local police; besides being out in the neighborhoods themselves, many people report stray animals to police.

smpaw_green Place Ads in Newspapers and Online

Be sure to place a “Lost” ad in the Lost and Found classified ad section of all local newspapers. Also read the "Found" ads in case a caring person has found your pet and is trying to find you.

The Internet has opened up many more opportunities to find lost animals.  Click here to view websites where you can post your missing pet description and search a listing of animals people have found.

If the description sounds close, call. Remember, the same animal could be described a lot of different ways. For example, a "tabby" or "tiger" cat may be described as "gray, brown and black" or a black and white animal may be listed as only black.  The only assurance is to call to get more specific information.

smpaw_purple Finding a CatCat

The majority of calls to a humane organization about lost pets concern cats that have always lived indoors but have suddenly slipped outside and disappeared. Cats often make a game of trying to outwit their protective human companions — and they escape from the safety of home into the “tantalizing” world beyond the open door. Too late, they realize how threatening the real world is. Here are some tips on finding your cat:

  • Look Closest to Home First.
    Most lost cats that have always lived indoors will not go far from home. Many are discovered just a few doors away. If lost while being transported (to the veterinarian, for example), cats are often found just a few yards from the spot where they were lost.  Click here for the benefits of having a indoor-only cat.

    Start looking under your porches, in basements and in garages. Sometimes cats are locked in areas that are little used; it’s your job to check with neighbors and ask them to open doors that may be keeping your pet confined. Call your pet’s name often — and listen for a soft reply.

    Once inside a closed-off area, look carefully in boxes or behind stacks of stored items. Cats have been known to hide in the most out-of-the-way place possible within a closet, room or garage — without even meowing to let you know it is there. That’s normal for a very frightened animal — and if your cat was never away from home before, it may be too scared to respond to your call. In fact, new surroundings can produce great fear in cats — and many people have reported their cats “lost” just after a move to a new house or apartment — only to find the cat days later safely inside, and more adjusted to the new quarters.

    If you don’t find your lost pet right away, don’t give up. Keep going back to the same places, calling its name. It may respond differently a day or two after it was first lost. Don’t expect to find it right away. Some pets have been found weeks later, and it’s not unusual to find a cat a month or two later, still hiding quite close to home.
  • Set up a Temporary Outdoor Pet Comfort Station
    Leave fresh food and water outside on a porch or in a sheltered area close to your home. Also set up a large cardboard box lined with an old towel or other item that smells familiar to your pet. If your lost pet should return while you are asleep or away from home, food and shelter may save its life. This is also an incentive for it to stay close by. Check the box and food supply regularly during quiet evening and early morning hours.
  • Look for Cats at Night
    The best time to look for a lost cat is in the dark — between dusk and dawn — when streets are quiet. A lost and hiding cat will come out in the dark to look for food. Take a flashlight with you and search under parked cars, in yards and under bushes as well as in alleys. It’s a good idea to take a friend along at night for safety, and bring some cat food, too, so that you can calm your pet and feed it if you should find it.

smpaw_red Finding a DogBoy and Dog

If your dog is lost, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are a terrible guardian, or that he/she doesn't like you. Dogs are pack animals and are highly social creatures. There are, however, several possible reasons why an apparently happy dog may stray from home.  Intact males have an instinctual need to seek females in heat in order to mate.  Click here for the benefits of spaying and neutering your pet and how this can reduce the chances of your pet becoming lost

Dogs can also become lost if they are scared by a loud noise or if they aren't getting enough mental stimulation and exercise.  Additionally, some dog breeds are more likely to become lost than others.  For instance, dogs originally bred for hunting, such as beagles and bloodhounds, have a strong sense of smell, so if they catch a whiff of something interesting, they may go for miles and miles following it.

The most important thing to remember with dogs is they can travel for miles, so call as many shelters and animal control offices as possible in and all around your town. Also, check places that would be familiar to your dog. A dog that is normally walked on a leash may wander to the places you have walked together before. Or he may seek similar areas if in an unfamiliar neighborhood, such as parks and playgrounds.

Some dogs are masters at slipping out of their collars or jumping/digging to get out of the yards. If you have a dog who is an escape artist, look into microchipping your dog so they always have a permanent way of being identified . Also, contact a dog behaviorist to learn how to help if your dog has behavioral issues.

Information from the Tree House Foundation, Inc. and the Massachusetts Animal Coalition