A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

What to Do if Your Pet Goes Missing

By: Brianna Gunter

A hand posts a lost dog flyer with a reward on a pole.

Most people never expect their beloved pet to go missing, but lost dogs and cats happen every day. As a responsible owner, it’s important for you to be aware of the risks and have a plan in place for what to do if your pet is missing.

On that note, if your cat or dog is currently lost, go ahead and skip down to the missing pet tips below. In all missing pet situations, time is of the essence. Otherwise, read on to learn more about lost pets and what to do if your cat or dog goes missing in the future.

How do pets go missing?

You’re a protective pet owner who wouldn’t dream of just letting your dog or cat wander off into unknown territory, so how do pets go missing in the first place? The answer usually isn’t irresponsible pet parenting. Instead, pets can go missing for a number of reasons:

  • Being stolen—certain cat or dog breeds considered to be high value may attract thieves
  • Adventurous pets left alone in an open yard or other unsecured property
  • Panicking and running away from certain stimuli (vehicles speeding past, construction noises, any sudden or loud noises)
  • Exploring unknown territory (like a large park or new neighborhood) and becoming lost
  • Running away from or chasing another animal
  • Being in heat and seeking out a mate
  • Wandering off in response to certain smells (like barbecue)

Pets are at greater risk of becoming lost during the summer months, when they tend to spend more time outside of the home. Loud noises like fireworks and sirens can also frighten pets easily and cause them to run away and hide.

Missing pet statistics

  • Approximately 10 million pets are lost in the US every year
  • Two million dogs are stolen every year in the US
  • Animal control services experience a 30% rise in missing pets during the month of July
  • Between 70% and 90% of missing pets are returned home safely
  • The median recovery time for lost pets is two days
  • One third of dogs and cats will go missing at some point in their lifetime

*Data is compiled from the American Humane Society, the ASPCA, and Pet Amber Alert.

What can I do if my pet is lost?

Front view of a gray cat wandering alone outside on green grass.

If your dog or cat goes missing, what you do in the time immediately afterward is crucial. Follow these 6 tips to improve the likelihood of bringing your missing pet home:

1. Don’t blame yourself

Accidents happen, and you didn’t intentionally lose your pet. It’s understandable to feel frantic and upset, but take a deep breath and know that there’s no point in wasting time by blaming yourself. Even if you do feel at fault for a lost pet, tell yourself that you can think about it later—right now is the time for action.

2. Search the immediate area

Try not to give your dog or cat time to wander away too far. As soon as you notice your pal is missing, start searching the area (the American Kennel Club suggests covering a two-mile radius for recently lost dogs, and the same can work for cats). Call out your pet’s name along with any other words he knows, like “treat” or “walk.” Shaking a bag of treats while you’re at it may also help if it’s something your pal responds to at home.

3. Make sure someone is home

While you’re out searching, send a friend or family member to your home in case your pet makes her way back there. Try to make sure it’s someone your pal knows well. If this person has fed your pet treats before, have them sit outside with a bag of snacks, calling your missing dog or cat’s name.

If you’re out in an unfamiliar neighborhood and are nowhere close to home, it’s a good idea to still have someone stay put at your car or area where you last saw your pet. There’s a chance they may return there as well.

4. Get the word out

Your chances of reuniting with your dog or cat increase with the amount of people who are aware of the situation. If you haven’t found your pet within an hour or two, try door-to-door with photos of your pal, as someone may have recently spotted them. After asking around the area, it’s time to spread the word through additional means. Put up posts on your social media accounts with clear photos of your pet, and ask others to share.

The old fashioned print way can help too, especially when it comes to people you don’t know. Along with the traditional lost pet utility pole flyer, consider using lawn signs and asking local businesses if you can put up posters in their windows.

5. Use other lost dog resources

In addition to friends, family, and neighbors, there are many other local resources you can reach out to that may be able to help you find your lost pet:

  • Police force (try calling the station itself to report a missing dog, not 9-1-1)
  • Animal control
  • Animal rescue groups
  • Animal shelters
  • Veterinary practices / local animal hospitals
  • Online dog databases (Pawboost, Lost Dogs of America, Petco LoveLost)

6. Stay positive

Keeping a positive mindset is difficult when you’re caught up looking for a missing dog or cat. However, it’s important to helping you stay clearheaded and leave no stone unturned. The good news is that with so many lost pet resources available today, there’s a high chance you’ll be reunited with your pal. Staying calm and collected will also help keep others open to helping.

How Trupanion can help

Trupanion is about more than just pet insurance for cats and dogs. In order to help pet owners recover lost pets as swiftly as possible, Trupanion offers a pet owner assistance package that can be used for advertising and rewards costs. Call customer care at 888-733-2685 to learn more.

A dog and cat snuggle

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We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.

While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.

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