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What to Do if Your Pet Escapes

By: Lisa Klassen - Updated: 5 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Pets Animals Small Animals Pocket Pets

It’s tough not to fear the worst when an animal is lost, but staying calm and using these effective methods will help you track down your wandering pet.

Dogs and Cats: The First Steps

Walk around your neighbourhood, calling your pet’s name. Do this frequently, in a tone that’s friendly and loving, not tense and scared. Take a box of your pet’s treats with you and rattle the box while you’re searching. Ask permission from the neighbours on all sides of your house to check their back gardens for your pet, which also lets you alert them to your missing animal and has them on the lookout as well. Take a good torch to search dark areas, as hurt pets will hide away. There are few more observant, enthusiastic searchers for a lost pet than neighbourhood kids playing outside. Tell them about your missing pet, how much you love your animal and make sure to mention a reward is there for the finder. Talk to anyone else that you know spends a lot of time in the area, like postmen, newspaper deliverers, neighbourhood watch people, etc. Take objects that have a lot of scent on them and put them outside your home, including a few items of dirty clothing and some of your pet’s favourite objects. This helps lost animals sniff out the way back home.

Lost Pet Poster

If you don’t already have one made up, immediately print/photocopy/handwrite a lost pet poster to put through every neighbour’s door in the vicinity of your house, as well as on every major street corner or lamppost. Include a photo of your pet, if you have room to fit several photos at different angles, then do so. Keep the contents of the poster short and info specific. A description of physical features, anything that is unique or stands out, your pet’s name and the sex of your pet should be on the poster. Mention a reward but don’t specify the amount, leave out one small but relevant detail about your pet and only put your phone number but not your exact address or name. This is to prevent criminals and pet return scam artists from using your loss to their gain.

Contact Local Shelters

It’s a good idea to call immediately with a description of your pet and your contact info. Contact all the shelters within a fairly large diameter of your home, as pets can sometimes roam quite far or be picked up by people who may take them to a shelter in their home area rather than yours. Check back with them frequently and take trips down to visit in person after a day or two, no one is going to be as effective at spotting your pet as you are and as many pets will end up looking quite different after a day or two of getting muddy and bedraggled outside.

Inside the Home: Finding Small Animals

Search every space in the room your pet was in, no matter how impossible it might seem that your little friend could fit into. Animals are remarkable at squeezing into small spaces, especially rodents. Remember to keep the door closed for containment so your pet doesn’t get into the rest of the house and stuff a towel under the door crack, just in case. Take a careful look inside the backs of furniture, under pillows, in piles of clothing, in drawers, closets, cupboards etc. Don’t despair if you can’t find your pet, hiding is an essential survival skill and something small animals are excellent at doing.

Lures and Capture Ideas

When lost pets get hungry, they return for food. Put out the food your pet finds most irresistible but make sure you count what’s there so that you know if any has been eaten. Put a small pile in every room you suspect your pet could be. You can pile the food on a large piece of tinfoil, cellophane, or anything that makes a crackling noise to track your pet by sound and you can also dust the floor of a room where your pet is hiding with flour so you can follow the footprints back to the hiding spot.

To recapture your lost pet, you can leave the cage open on the floor and sit quietly with a book in the room, waiting for your pet to return so you can shut the door. If you can’t stay awake you can still leave the door open and hope your pet returns in the night and falls asleep in the cage. Or you can try the popular ‘bucket trap’ method, which involves setting up a stairway of books or wood to the top of a bucket with a towel in the bottom and your pet’s favourite food inside as bait. When your pet goes after the food, it falls into the bucket onto the towel and is then trapped inside.

Many pets return after a long amount of time, so don’t despair.

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