What to do if your cat or dog gets lost or goes missing

It’s a moment every pet owner dreads – the moment you realise your beloved animal may be lost or missing.

Knowing what to do and how to respond is important, as the sooner you take action the more likely your pet is to be returned to you safely.

Petplan takes a look at how to minimise the risk and what to do to ensure the safe return of your pet if they do wander off…

Ensure your pet is identifiable…

Microchipping your dog is now not just recommended – it’s a legal requirement as of April 2016.

Although the new law doesn’t require cats to be microchipped, Petplan recommends microchipping your cat (and rabbit too) so that in the event they become lost and get handed in to a charity or local vets, they can be easily identified by scanning their microchip and be returned to you.

However, it’s vitally important to ensure you keep your contact details up to date with the microchip provider – especially if you have recently moved.

It’s also a legal requirement for all dogs to wear a collar with the owners name and address on it. Placing collars on cats is something that needs to be carefully considered though as there are advantages and disadvantages.

What to do if your pet goes missing…

* Cats can often find unusual and fairly concealed places to hide in the house – washing machines, tumble dryers, the loft, on tops of wardrobes – so make sure you search the house first. Once positive they are not inside, search the garden and surrounding areas calling their name. Try shaking biscuits in a bowl, or leaving their favourite treats around outside. Pay particular attention to sheds, greenhouses, store cupboards and garages as they may have got accidently shut-in.

* Dogs can sometimes slip their lead or escape from the back garden when spooked by loud noises such as fireworks or thunder. In the majority of cases they are usually nearby and may have taken refuge in a quieter spot. If your dog has a collar with your contact details, ensure you take your phone with you before you start your search and if the collar includes your landline number make sure someone is at home in case anyone should call or your dog returns home by themselves. If you are on a familiar walk when your dog goes missing, go back to areas they particularly enjoy such as a pond or river.

* Spread the word as soon as possible. Speak to your neighbours, let them know about the situation and ask if you or they can search for your pet in their garden, shed and garage. Cats are particularly prone to getting locked in sheds and garages after finding a nice peaceful spot to sleep.

* If this is not successful, drive around the neighbourhood slowly and methodically, calling out your pet’s name.

* If your search remains unsuccessful contact local vets and charities to check if your dog or cat has been handed in or found and ensure you leave a description and your contact details. For dogs, check with your local council dog warden too. For your local dog warden contacts details click here: http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/index.jsp?LGSL=432&

* The next step is to produce posters to make the wider community aware. Ensure they are large, clear and bold, with a recent photo of your pet and a short description. Be sure to include your contact details and perhaps offer a reward (Petplan’s Covered for Life dog insurance covers up to £2,000, policy type dependent, for advertising and a reward for missing pets). Ask local shops for permission to put posters up in their windows and it’s also worth making smaller copies to post through people’s letterboxes.

* Put an advert in your local newspaper as soon as possible and post on social media too as this will reach a broader audience.

* There are a number of online, free, lost pet, registers. The National Pet Register, Animal Search UK and DogLost all provide free resources to help reunite you with your lost pet.

* If your pet is chipped, call the microchip supplier to register your pet as missing and ensure your contact details are up to date so, should anyone find your dog and the microchip is scanned, they can contact you as soon as possible.

Have you ever had a missing cat or dog? How did you get them back? Let Petplan know in the comments below…