It is every pet owner’s worst nightmare. You walk out to your backyard to let your dog in, and you find they have managed to dig their way out. Or someone leaves the door open, and your cat makes a run for it. While they’re off sniffing and having a grand adventure, we’re out of our minds with worry.
The majority of lost pets are either found or manage to make their way home. Despite the news stories you see, most of them are found in days, not years. But days can feel like months when it comes to a missing pet. We can raise the chances of our pets being reunited with us by taking a few simple steps.
We’ve put together a list of ways you can help your wayward pets make their way home. We’ve included resources specific to the Maricopa County area that you may not have even known existed. Keep reading so you are prepared if your pet decides to go MIA.
Before Your Pet Is Lost
There are steps you can take before your pet goes missing to make it easier for them to be returned to you.
Microchip your pet- Many shelter and rescue pets are already microchipped. If your pet is not, it is worth it to take a trip to the vet and have one put in. There’s no need to worry about the information on your pet’s microchip. The only thing stored there is your address and phone number.
Getting your pet chipped is simple. The vet will inject the microchip under the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades. You will be given paperwork to fill out or access to a website so that you can get the chip registered in your name. Don’t worry; you will be able to change the address on the chip if your family ever moves.
Collar and tag- A collar and tag are still a great way to make sure your pet finds its way home. You won’t need to worry about the chip being incompatible with the scanner being used. And it’s likely your pet will be returned much sooner if they’re just in your neighborhood where a neighbor can glance at their collar and get important information.
A collar, tag, and microchip is the perfect combination. A collar can break or slip off, so having your pet microchipped is extra insurance.
GPS tracker- When attached to your pet’s collar, a GPS tracker can help you pinpoint your pet’s exact location. For a monthly subscription fee, you can track your pet, and receive alerts and mapping.
Keep in mind that while they can be handy, GPS trackers aren’t waterproof; and if your pet wanders into an area with bad cell reception, they will be difficult to track.
What To Do If Your Pet is Lost
If your pet has run away or gotten loose and wandered off, a quick response is essential. If possible, divide and conquer. Have a friend or family member begin making phone calls and social media posts while you go out looking. A friendly dog may be easy to catch up with if you’ve quickly noticed that they’re missing. They will be more likely to try to play with other dogs or people, and this will slow their wandering.
Your pet may come home while you’re out looking. Leave water on the porch, especially in hot weather, and their bed or favorite food to help attract them if they are within smelling distance. Some people with lost cats have even had luck with leaving their cat’s dirty litter pan outside.
Your pet has most likely not wandered far. Although a large dog can run 5 miles, this is usually not in a straight line. Most pets are found within a 2-mile radius of their home. This is true for cats as well. Although an outdoor cat may roam 17 miles or more away from home, indoor cats who have escaped (also known as displaced indoor cats) are likely hiding within 2 miles of home.
Other steps to take if you don’t find your pet immediately include:
Call veterinarians in the area- Give them a description of your pet and a contact number. If someone brings your pet to them, they will scan them for a microchip or alert you if your cat appears and is wearing tags.
Check the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Map- This interactive map allows you to post your missing pet along with a picture. It also allows people who have found a pet to post and include a picture of the pet. Animals brought into animal control will also be posted.
Contact animal shelters- Call every animal shelter in your area to see if your pet has been turned in. You are also encouraged to fill out a missing animal report with the Arizona Humane Society.
Post flyers- This may seem slightly old-fashioned, but it is still effective. Use a recent picture of your pet to make a flyer including your contact information. Post them at vet clinics, pet stores, and around your neighborhood.
Use social media- We mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. In our computerized age, one of the quickest ways to spread news is on social media. Post the area your pet was lost in, a picture, and if they’re skittish, instructions on how to approach them. If your profile is set to private, make sure you make the post public so everyone can see it. You will be shocked by how quickly the news will spread. Many pets are found thanks to the help of social media. Be sure to post in your local Facebook pet groups as well. Groups like Lost Dogs of Arizona can be of great help.
Check online lost pet resources- There are websites that can help you locate your lost pet. They allow people to post about their lost pets, and make posts about found pets.
No one should have to go through the trauma of losing a pet. Being proactive by microchipping your pet and using a collar with tags will greatly improve their chances of coming home. Keep resources readily available and a loose plan in place in case the worst does happen and your pet becomes lost. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. Your pet needs you to think clearly and act quickly so they can end their adventure at home where they belong.