Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tips for Finding Lost Pets

Losing a pet is a horrible experience and one that I hope you never have to endure.

If this ever happens here are a few tips to help you with your search and to get your pet back home safe and sound. 

Lost Dogs:

Wilderness areas - If your dog has gone missing in a wilderness area they will usually try to circle back to where they were last seen.  

  • Your scent is still in that location and they will usually make big loops back to that area if they can pick up on that scent. You may need to set up a humane trap.

  • Make sure you leave something with your scent on it such as a shirt, sock, or even something of theirs such as a toy or blanket.

  • Most dogs will venture downhill and in search of water they will seek out cool, shady places in the summertime.

  • It is a rare event that a dog will run uphill or up a mountain or incline.  

  • Think about the course of least resistance. Your dog is probably taking the easiest route too.

  • Walking paths and open areas are easier to traverse so they will generally follow paths unless they are hunting or chasing wildlife.

  • Keep checking the same areas as well as widening your search in a large grid.  

  • A lost dog can travel quite far in a short time, so it's best to get out as soon as possible and start calling for them. In some cases, we have tracked bigger dogs up to five miles away within just a few hours so be sure you are covering a wide area. 

  • Smaller dogs will not travel as far as bigger dogs so refine your search accordingly.

  • Take some treat bags to shake or a food bowl and clang it with a fork calling out as if it were dinnertime.

  • Try to keep the stress out of your voice and call in an upbeat manner.  

There is a big difference between, "GET OVER HERE...NOW!!!" and "Come on puppy, time for a treat!" and your dog can pick up on that tone in your voice.  They may think they are in trouble and avoid you so be sure to use a happy, upbeat tone.

  • Dogs need water to check all water sources in the area.

  • Place a water bowl and food nearby where they went missing.  This will give them another reason to hang out in that area waiting for you to return.

  • Set up a wildlife camera to see if your pet has circled back to the area during the night

  • Try not to think the worst case scenario instead, think about what it will look like when you find your dog or when you get the call that someone has spotted them.

Negative thoughts are real things that go out into the Universe and you will manifest what you are thinking about.  

Stay positive!

Make sure you get their picture up on fliers in the area right away.  Keep updated pictures of your pets just in case.  A head shot and body shot are recommended.

Offer a REWARD but don't say how much

Be careful about private property or going in unsafe areas.  Always have a friend go with you or let someone know where you are searching.  Most smartphones have tracking or location apps to let others know where you are during your search. 

  • Social media is a great way to get people in the area to help in your search.

  • If your dog has been missing for several days without any sightings it is possible that they are injured. 

  • Injured dogs will find a hiding place and will not move around very much.

  • Be sure to look in small hiding places as they will naturally try to hide from predators while they are nursing their wounds.

In suburban areas be sure to contact these untapped resources:

Talk to the locals - People out walking dogs, jogging, bicyclists, etc.

Schools - Kids are great at knowing which pets belong in the neighborhood. They will know if a strange dog has been seen.  Ask if you can post a flier at local schools.

Delivery drivers - Anyone who is in the area for work such as mail carriers, UPS or Fed Ex drivers, utility workers, city maintenance workers, cable TV installers, gardeners, etc.

Contact the local shelters as well as local veterinarians.  

Go outside the range of where you think your dog may be as sometimes people will pick up a dog and drive out of the area.  

Lost Cats:

Unlike dogs, cats are usually not far from where they were last seen and have no motivation for traveling great distances.

Exceptions include:
If a human moves them or traps them and relocates them or if they were chased out of their area by a human or a predator.

Thoroughly check your own home first!  I've had many cases where lost cats are in their own home hiding in spots you have never dreamed of.  

Some good hiding spots: 

  • Garages, sheds, barns
  • Boxes, crates, rafters
  • Basements, shelving units, crawl spaces
  • Under the house!
  • Closets, mattress box springs, headboards, kitchen cabinets, behind refrigerators or washing machines
  • Cars, RV's, travel trailers, wheel wells, old junked out cars
  • Shrubs, bushes, behind fences
  • Under decks, patios, under sheds
  • Woodpiles
  • Behind furniture, inside drawers


A cat who is used to being outdoors will usually have a territory they roam. Sometimes they are chased out of their territory and will hide as they wait for the threat to leave.  

Once they feel it is safe they will come out of hiding and return home.  

That may take anywhere from a few hours to days or even weeks.  

Most lost cats will find a hiding place and it is usually underneath something such as a deck or house.

Rarely do we find lost cats up in trees or up on rooftops.  

They are almost always hiding at or below ground level.  

Many cats get locked in neighbor's garages, barns, sheds or basements.  Some get stuck in basement egress windows.  

I worked one case where a lost cat had gotten its collar stuck on the bottom of a metal fence and was only four houses away.  Her human was within inches of her and she never made a sound. 

Most cats who are used to being outside will be within a 1/4 mile to a 1/2 mile from where they were last seen.  This area will widen depending on how long they are missing.

Cats will tend to hide during the day and then venture out at dusk and dawn when the noises of the day settle down.

Cats are very tuned into the magnetic field of the Earth and can find their way home easily when they no longer feel threatened.

Follow the same steps as above in your search but keep it much closer to home and search in every small nook and cranny you can find. 

Put out scent markers for cats such as something you have worn or even some of their litter.  Sprinkle litter around to leave a trail scent home.  

Shake a treat bag or call out to them in a chirpy, upbeat tone. 


Most indoor cats who go missing are less than five houses from home.  

In suburban areas, they are usually just a house or two away.  

In rural areas that distance increases. 

Most indoor cats find the first place they can crawl into and hide.  

They become very feral, skittish and won't come out even if you are within inches of their location calling their names.

You must search diligently in the smallest of places for them and keep rechecking areas you have already searched.  

Cats can go quite a while without food but will need water to survive.  Check all water sources around or leave a bowl out where they were last seen.

Indoor cats will need to hear your voice so call to them frequently in a positive and upbeat voice. 

In the evening, search in hiding spots with a flashlight as it will cause the cat's eyes to reflect.



This sends out confusing messages to your lost pet.  Think positively and picture them coming home safe and sound.  Imagine your pet is getting closer to home each day.  Like a magnet that is being pulled in closer and closer each day.

Giving up too soon:  

Instincts can kick in with lost pets and their survival skills will take over.  Pets can live a long time on their own even without food.  I've had cases where lost pets have been found a year or more after they went missing.  Never lose hope.

Thinking the worst has happened: 

It's hard not to let our imagination kick in but this is really not helpful to you or your pet.  We worry about them but that stress can cause frantic energy to surround you and interfere with your normal energy that your pet can recognize.  It may also cause them to hide or not come home at all if they think they are in trouble.

Not utilizing resources such as social media or getting fliers out as soon as they go missing:  

There are many animal-lovers who will be your eyes and ears helping in your search.  Ask for help and post fliers in the area.

Most lost pets survive their ordeal and when their human gives up too soon they find another home or end up in a shelter. 

Always use common sense and exercise personal safety when searching for a lost pet.

It also can help to schedule an Emergency Session with me to see if your pet can provide any landmarks or structures in the area that will reveal their location.

Email the office:

The good news is many pets are found safe and sound.

Please microchip your pets and update their tags and information when you move.

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