Lost pets are found through an action plan

How to Find a Lost Pet in 7 Simple Steps


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If you’re reading this because your fur kid is missing, we’re really sorry you’re experiencing the heartache of lost pets. As pet parents ourselves, we know how stressful a lost dog or cat can be. No wonder you’re researching how to find your lost pet – and quickly, no doubt.

Or, you might be reading this because they’re safe at home but you fear they may duck off one day. Like 69% of New Zealand pet owners we surveyed recently you might be worried they’ll escape from home and get lost or hurt.

Either way, this blog providing seven simple steps for how to find a lost pet is for you. We want you to be reunited with your furry, feathery or scaly best friend fast.

A lost dog. You may be wondering how to find a lost pet

Finding lost pets: action plan

There are many reasons why pets stray from home. They might be in search of company, comfort or food, for example. These are the top reasons:

  • Boredom (are you giving them enough exercise and other stimulation?)
  • Curiosity (did they see something interesting over the gate?)
  • A fascinating scent (we’re looking at you Mr. Beagle!)
  • Separation anxiety (where did you go, human?)
  • Fear (e.g. scared by a loud noise such as thunder, fireworks or nearby construction)
  • Roaming to find their mate (if they’re not spayed or neutered).

Here’s how to cover all key bases in your search for them…

1. Start your search immediately

The longer your pet is missing, the lower the chances of being reunited. It’s vital you act fast to find your lost pet. Make sure you:

  • Ask friends or family to help with the search to increase the area covered
  • Doorknock your neighbours in the closest streets first and widen your search field as you go. Encourage neighbours to keep an eye out
  • Check surrounding trees, roofs, garages, under houses, beneath cars or anywhere a scared or injured pet might hide
  • Call your pet’s name and make familiar noises, such as tapping or shaking the food tin
  • Check parks and nearby reserves, in trees, bushes, in dog parks and their favourite walking spots
A lost white dog. A missing pet poster may help to find them.

2. Use social media, registries and lost pets websites

Getting the word out to your community is now easier than ever thanks to technology. Be sure to share a clear photo, description (breed and any unique markings) and name of your pet (it might come if called) with your contact number on it. Do this with those details:

  • Post them on local community Facebook groups – not just the immediate suburb but also those around it. Dogs, cats and birds can travel fast!
  • Also post them on lost and found pet Facebook groups for your region. If you’ve moved recently, also do so for the region you moved from
  • Check out whether your local animal rescue groups, shelters or pound have a lost and found service. Share the details with them too
  • Advertise your lost pet and use the free (and paid) tools at LostPet.co.nz
  • Contact the NZ Companion Animal Register and the Australasian Animal Registry to mark your pet as missing
  • Check Trade Me’s regularly searched and updated ‘Lost and Found’ section
  • Create a lost and found pet listing on PostaNote
  • Use the Neighbourly app to contact neighbours and tell them you’re missing your pet

Also be sure you know what to do if you’ve found a lost pet in a fire or flood. That way you can be the good Samaritan who helps pets reunite with their peeps!

huntaway dog is the third most popular dog breed in new zealand

3. Contact shelters, local pound and vets

If someone finds your lost pet, they might take them to a local vet, rescue shelter or council. Even better if your lost dog or cat has a cat microchip, dog microchip, GPS tracking device or collar with ID tags. If your details are up to date you’ll be found quickly by them.

Take these steps to contact local pet places:

  • Call each one in your area, asking if an animal with XYZ description has been found and surrendered
  • If not, visit in person as soon as possible with a photo or flyer with your details
  • Send a follow up email so they have your contact details in-hand and digitally too
  • Check in every day if you don’t hear back
  • Expand your search to neighbouring councils, shelters and vets in case your pet has gone further than expected (some pets have travelled over 50km!)

4. Make and distribute ‘lost pet’ posters / flyers

A missing pet poster is another answer to how to find a lost pet. When creating a missing pet poster and/or flyer (good ol’ Microsoft Word will do the trick) use the clearest, most recent photo and description, including the breed of your lost dog or cat and any unique markings. Also include their name and your phone number.

Double check all details – especially your phone number! – for typos.

You might also want to add a reward for further incentive. If your pet is purebred and considered valuable, rewards can increase the likelihood of them being returned. However, beware of scammers who are only out to make a quick buck.

We recommend putting flyers and posters up on/in:

  • Community noticeboards in shopping centres and other high traffic buildings
  • Power poles in your neighbourhood and in local parks
  • Vets, shelters and pounds
  • Local schools, shops and other businesses (including pet supply stores)
  • Local letter boxes

You might even place an ad in the local newspaper or on the local community radio station.

A missing pet poster

5. Update your lost pet’s microchip

If your lost dog or cat has a microchip, make sure its details are up-to-date on the New Zealand Companion Animal Register. You may have changed numbers and not updated that on their system – so make sure all the info on there is correct. As we’ve mentioned above, be sure to change their status on the register to missing.

6. Leave your gate ajar

If you can, you might consider leaving your gate ajar and some aromatic food outside to attract your pet. They may return home on their own. A pet stranded outside might be tempted to wander or bolt again if they feel confused about how to get back into the property boundary, or is scared or threatened in some way.

A white dog laying on tarmac.

7. Keep widening your search (and don’t give up!)

When figuring out how to find a lost pet know you’ll likely search far and wide. Dogs, cats and birds can travel quite a distance so be sure to keep checking neighbouring suburbs, too. Your pet might have become trapped somewhere (like in a garage, trailer or pen) and might not be able to get home.

It’s traumatic to think something might have happened to your lost dog or cat, but the good news is that plenty of lost pets are reunited with their owners within 24 hours.

Lost pets like this dog are found every day

Take steps to prevent lost pets happening again

Once a pet knows it can escape its enclosure, it might do it again. If your pet is a bit of a Houdini, consider a tracking device to make finding them easier. Fit your dog and cat with a collar, as well as microchipping them.

Look at how they escaped and think about how you can avoid it next time. Some examples… Does a fence or gate need fixing? Do you need to put extra barriers in place? Do they need to be brought inside at certain times? Has their home environment had an unsettling change that needs remedying or the pet needs reassurance about?

Be sure to check out more useful resources on how to find a lost pet, what to do if you find someone else’s and how to stop them from escaping in the first place:

Protect against the worst: Insure your pets

Hopefully these tips on how to find a lost pet are helpful. Did you know pet insurance can be helpful too>? Not for finding lost pets but for all kinds of accidents, illnesses and other health issues.

Despite the high rates of pet parenthood, our research tells us that around 3 out of 4 pet parents don’t have pet insurance. If this is you, think twice. If your pet escapes and gets hurt or falls ill, with pet insurance you don’t have to make the difficult decision about whether you can afford to pay for their treatment.

PD Insurance is an award-winning brand that offers value rich, month-to-month cover for dogs and cats. Click below for an affordable quote today.

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