Content Sponsored by 24Petwatch
The thought of losing your beloved dog or cat is not a situation you ever want to imagine. By preparing for the worst, you can increase your chances of a happy reunion – and possibly even prevent your pet from getting lost in the first place.
If your dog or cat enjoys a pretty cushy life, you may be left scratching your head as to why they would try to run away in the first place? The truth is, pets can go missing for any number of reasons – from slipping out an unlatched gate to chasing an interesting scent to searching for a mate. Whatever the reason for their disappearance may be, read on for our guide to ensure you have the best chance of finding each other again.
Always Microchip Your Pet
First things first, always ensure your pet has a microchip. Virtually painless and priceless, microchips are teeny-tiny devices (no bigger than a grain of rice) inserted under a pet’s skin. When scanned at a shelter or veterinary office, a microchip transmits a unique number. Every number is stored in a microchip registry database. As long as you have properly registered your pet’s microchip and kept your contact information updated, pet recovery specialists can use a lost pet’s microchip to facilitate a reunion.
Data shows that microchipped dogs are more than twice as likely to be reunited with their families, while microchipped cats are returned 20 times more often.
“Microchips are the most reliable forms of pet identification available,” says Dana Rayman, Director of 24Petwatch Membership & Lost Pet Services. “ID tags can fall off, tattoos can become illegible over time and need to be registered in multiple states or provinces, but microchips provide permanent protection and peace of mind.”
How Can I Prevent My Pet from Getting Lost or Running Away?
In some cases, accidents are unavoidable. Whether the carrier door swings open as you are taking your cat to the vet or a car suddenly backfires causing your dog to get spooked by the noise and bolt, it is impossible to avoid mishaps 100% of the time.
While the unexpected may not be within your control, setting your pet up with the tools they need to get back home is. Don’t leave your happy reunion to chance – follow these 10 tips to ensure your pet has the best chance possible of finding their way home.
Top 10 Tips to Prevent Your Pet from Getting Lost
1. Register and Update Your Pet’s Microchip
Only about 60% of microchips are registered with current contact details. As important as they are, microchips aren’t magic. They’re only as useful as the information attached to them.
“It’s key to register your chip and keep the information up to date,” says Rayman. “When we find your pet, we want to make sure we can get in touch and reunite you as soon as possible.”
When you register your microchip with 24Petwatch, you can update your information anytime via the convenient online portal.
2. Make sure your pet has a collar and ID tags
People may be more likely to approach a pet wearing a collar and ID tag, as it signals that they are a lost pet and not a stray animal. A tag is likely the first place a finder will look when trying to get a lost pet back home. A durable, clear identification tag with your pet’s name, microchip number, or contact details is recommended. Keep in mind that tags can become worn and illegible over time, and they can be lost if your pet wriggles out of their collar. That’s why it’s important to double down on your identification efforts with a microchip as well.
Be aware of your local municipal bylaws. Your dog or cat may also require a license tag from the city, which can prevent unwanted boarding fees if they are lost and picked up by animal control. It’s also a good idea to attach the rabies tag provided by your vet on their collar as well, so that a finder can rest assured that your pet is vaccinated and safe to approach.
3. Train Your Pets
Was your pup born to run? Some dogs can’t resist chasing squirrels, while others instinctively bolt when surprised by loud noises. For these unpredictable situations, a strong “recall” command – such as “come!” – can prevent a sprinting pup from becoming a missing pup.
The trick is to make returning to you more interesting than running away, so use plenty of praise and treats when teaching the command. Once your dog has mastered the cue, practice daily to keep the skill fresh. (New to training? Consider working with a certified trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques.)
4. Keep Pets on a Leash
Even if your dog is well trained, you can keep your dog from running away by securing them on a leash unless you are in an enclosed yard or designated off leash park. You never know what you may encounter that could cause them to behave unexpectedly. Something could pique their interest, like wildlife or an interesting scent. They could get spooked by an aggressive dog or unfamiliar noise. It’s not worth the risk.
Keeping your pets leashed may even be the law in your municipality, and there are benefits beyond preventing them from getting lost. A leash provides you with the ability to guide them away from harmful situations, like eating something hazardous off the ground or wandering into traffic, preventing accidents with the environment, people, and other animals.
Inspect your pet’s collar and leash regularly (especially if you have a leash chewer!). If there are signs of fraying or significant wear and tear, it’s time to invest in a new one to avoid breakage.
5. Make Sure Your Home and Yard Are Secure
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take some time to evaluate your house – could a motivated pet break free? Make sure all doors close completely, equip windows with pet-proof screens, and secure access to any balconies.
As for the yard, fences should reach all the way to the ground and be higher than your dog can jump. If your dog is a digger, you’ll likely need a cement base to prevent tunneling. Have a climber? Opt for a smooth board fence or escape-proof fence extensions.
It’s worth noting that very few fences can reliably contain a cat. If your feline friend enjoys the great outdoors, consider leash training or investing in a secure, open-air enclosure, such as a “catio.”
6. Get Your Pets Spayed or Neutered
Spaying or neutering your pet is important for many reasons. Not only does this quick and simple procedure help prevent unwanted litters, but there are health and behavioral benefits too. Did you know spaying or neutering can reduce the risk of your pet running away? Sterilized pets are less likely to leave your house or wander off in search of mates.
Plus, it can help prevent uterine infections, some types of cancer, and prostate problems. Behaviorally, spayed or neutered cats experience a reduction in inappropriate urination and yowling. Neutered male dogs are often less aggressive, leading to less bites, fights, and injuries. The good news is, if you adopted from a shelter or rescue, your pet has likely been spayed or neutered already! If not, talk to your vet to learn more about your options.
7. Be Aware and Safe While in a Vehicle
Whether road tripping across the country or taking a short drive for your annual vet visit, it’s important to secure your pet. Just as you would never start driving without buckling up first, your pet needs protection too.
For cats or small dogs, invest in a sturdy carrier. Ensure all doors and latches are secure before heading out your front door. Avoid holding the carrier by just the top handle, and place your other hand on the underside of the carrier as well to support your cat’s weight and avoid the carrier popping open.
For medium or large dogs, a well-fitting collar or harness and leash are your best friend. Once in the car, there are seat belt attachments you can purchase to secure your pet. When you open the door at your destination, you can rest assured they won’t be able to bolt out the door without you.
8. Keep Documentation Up-to-Date and Easily Accessible
Should the unthinkable happen, the last thing you’ll want to do is waste precious time digging through your old emails or paperwork instead of searching for your pet. Keep the following items easily accessible in a folder:
- Your pet’s microchip number
- Your login details to your com account so you can easily report them as missing and keep track of any updates
- A detailed description of your pet, complete with any identifying features
- A current high resolution, color photo so you can quickly distribute a lost pet poster
- Contact numbers for authorities you should alert, including 24Petwatch (1-866-597-2424), your vet clinic, local animal shelter, or care facility
9. Practice Safety at Home
Always secure your pets inside while you are sleeping or away from home. Even though your dog or cat may love the outside time, without supervision they are vulnerable to not only to becoming lost, but to injury and theft too.
Be aware of local hazards in your community. For example, small dogs and cats can be vulnerable to predation from wildlife like coyotes. Not to mention other unpleasant encounters, like porcupines or the dreaded skunk spray!
10. Be Aware of Upcoming Events that May Trigger Behavioral Changes in Your Pet
Holidays involving fireworks like the Fourth of July can be a particularly high-risk time. While a delight to many people, the loud noise and flashes of light are terrifying for animals and can cause their fight or flight mode to kick in, leading them to bolt, even if they typically never leave your side. Once on the move, they can become disoriented and end up far away from home.
Halloween is another high-risk time, with the flurry of activity at your front door (not to mention chocolates and other potentially harmful candy!). Even if your dog or cat is friendly, it’s best to secure them in a quiet room in your house during these times. Provide them with a space to feel safe, equipped with a cozy bed, some white noise or calming music, and a favorite blanket or toy.
What Do I Do if My Pet Gets Lost?
Despite even the most meticulous of plans, sometimes accidents are unavoidable. If your pet gets lost, stay calm. The first thing you’ll want to do is report them as lost with 24Petwatch so we can begin searching our database for a match. Create a lost pet poster to distribute to neighbors and passersby and post around your community. Get in touch with your local animal care facilities to alert them about your missing pet. Check online listings, neighborhood social media pages, or apps like Nextdoor or Kijiji for any found pet notices. Most importantly, keep searching your neighborhood.
For more tips on finding your pet, check out our guide to finding a lost dog here, and finding a lost cat here.
We know – even thinking about lost pets can be stressful. However, the more you know about pet safety and recovery, the more prepared you are to keep your four-legged family members safe. With this in mind, set aside some time to escape-proof your home and yard, brush up on training, and double-check your pet’s microchip information. Someday, it could mean the difference between lost and found.
For more information about enhanced Pet Protection Services, contact a 24Petwatch Lost Pet Recovery Specialist today at 1-866-597-2424.