Lost cats and dogs – what to do

Warning! Beware of scammers. PEOPLE WILL CALL YOU SOLICITING MONEY TO FIND YOUR DOG OR CAT. You will be paying for a false sense of security as these people do not do what they promise.

The following suggestions are from experienced lost/found pet volunteers.

Register your pet on NextDoor’s Pet Directory

Consider registering your pet on NextDoor (requires joining that free neighborhood social mediate site); that will help a neighbor identify a found pet as yours.

When your dog or cat goes missing…

Put your DIRTY laundry out on the back porch. Your pet does not have to be able to get to it, just smell it. The scent can help them find their way back home. Put out food & water and the pet’s bed (for cats and/or litter box) on the front porch.

Then go WALKING, not driving, especially if you lost your cat or your dog is small. Walking leaves a scent trail that can help them find their way back home. If you have another dog (or a dog if looking for a cat), take it walking with you to leave a stronger scent.

If your pet is chipped, call the microchip company and be sure all your contact information is current and correct. If you don’t have your chip number, contact the facility where the chip was implanted. They should be able to give that number to you.

Put a sign in your front yard, like a for sale sign that says LOST DOG/CAT

Instruct everyone that is helping you to NOT call or chase your pet. This will prolong your search. If they see your pet, tell them to sit or lie down (no eye contact) and gently toss out tasty treats to lure your pet in. If your dog has a collar, consider having searchers carry a leash once they have the dog under control (easier than holding the collar), or to call you and wait for you to arrive.

Find a photo of your pet

Get a good photo of your pet to include in a flyer. A single photo, not a collage, because you want your pet’s face to be as large as possible on the flyer. Try to crop it down so only the pet is showing in the photo. NO CHILDREN in the photos. This is not only unsafe for the child, it distracts from your pet. The post lostdogsofwisconsin.org/2017/03/16/is-this-a-match-are-both-photos-of-the-same-dog-yes/ has good information and guidelines about pet photos.

Post and search online
Dogs and cats – visit as many sites as possible, including https://www.facebook.com/groups/austinlostandfoundpets/ see if someone has found your pet. If not, make a post for your lost pet there as well (slightly different format read the guidelines in their “pinned post” before posting).  Austin 311 does not accept lost dog posts – they redirect to the above FaceBook Page.

Post on every Facebook page you can find to post a lost pet. Post on any other internet community site that allows lost pet postings, like NextDoor .com. In FaceBook, make the flyer your profile photo. Check your ‘Personal Message Requests’ folder often in case people try to message you. Messages from people who are not your ‘FaceBook Friends’ will usually go into the ‘Message Requests’ folder, instead of your inbox.

Report your pet missing on www.petharbor.com

Lost cat https://www.facebook.com/LostCatsTexas/. Also www.lostcatfinder.com/ has a great book that is very helpful.

Lost dog https://www.facebook.com/findtexasdogs/  – get a free flyer almost instantly which will also be posted on the FB page by volunteers. After you submit the report you will get an email back with a link to download your flyer. It’s best to submit a single photo,


Put ads on Craigslist in Lost & Found section and in Pets section every few days. Check those sections daily for a found ad. Also check for dog or cat for sale or being rehomed. If you see your pet for sale take a screen shot of the ad and be sure to include the URL of the ad and all the numbers at the bottom of the ad so that it can be traced, in case the ad is removed. DO NOT call that ad yourself. Get someone who can call and NOT be emotional about it, and can pretend to want to buy the pet. Do NOT tell them you are the owner.

Create flyers

Several sites such as www.freetexasflyer.com will create flyers (FreeTexasFlyer is for both dogs and cats); when you download your flyer some sites have an option to get a single flyer on the page or 4 to a page. You will want some of both sizes.

Contact nearby veterinarians and groomers

Get on Google maps and type in “veterinarians near (your address)”.  Write down the names and phone numbers of all the vets /clinics in the area. Call them all and ask for an email address where you can send them a flyer. Make a note next to each one the date you sent the flyer and keep that list. Go back and expand the area and do the same thing again. If your pet is not home in a week or so, send them all the flyer again and make a note of the date again. Keep doing that till your pet is home.

Leave flyers with neighbors and nearby businesses

Take the smaller flyers and go door to door in your neighborhood, and speak to an adult in EVERY house. Take a tablet of paper with you so you can make a list of the houses where you need to return until you speak to an adult there. Attach a flyer to the door with a rubber band if no one answers, and keep going back until you speak to an adult.

Post the larger flyers everywhere. Check the flyers you posted every day to be sure they are still up. If they are being taken down, put up more. If you notice a pattern in a certain area where they are being removed, but the rest of them are not, it MIGHT mean that someone is trying to keep your pet. So if you notice that, put up twice as many flyers and watch them more carefully. The more flyers you keep putting up, the sooner a possible pet thief will be discouraged and give up.

Take flyers to every business in the area and ask if they will put them in their window. Ask EVERY business…fast food places, convenience stores, gas stations, groomers, hair salons, nail salons, laundromats.  Take flyers to pizza delivery places and ask that all the drivers be given a couple of flyers. Do the same for any other nearby delivery places. Give flyers to the mail carrier, and any UPS driver you see in the area. Give flyers to the trash collection driver, and newspaper delivery person.

DO NOT put anything inside a mailbox, because that is illegal, and you could be charged First Class postage for every flyer; postage due. Instead, use the newspaper receptacle or leave the flyer on the door if no one is home. Take a roll of tape, so you can tape it to the doors. Do not tape a flyer to a neighborhood mailbox – it is Federal property and against the law to do so. Instead, attach a flyer to a nearby post or fence – everyone eventually checks their mail and will see it. Be sure to post flyers near the mailbox area at apartment complexes (as well as on a pole near the entrance to apartment complexes).

Put a large flyer on your own car window and write with white shoe polish in large letters “Lost Dog/Cat”. It’s like a rolling advertisement.

If a stranger says they found your pet

NEVER go to meet anyone ALONE. Take back up. Notify the police BEFORE you go. BE SAFE!!

Visit shelters often

Even if your pet has a microchip, don’t just call, but GO TO the shelters in your area AT LEAST every other day. Ask to see EVERY dog or cat they have including the sick ones that may be another area. GO TO the shelter SO OFTEN that every employee there knows your pet’s name when you walk in the door.


http://www.missingpetpartnership.org/recovery-tips/  (the right side links include more posts with good information, including behaviors of displaced/lost cats and dogs)

https://lostdogsofwisconsin.org/ has good articles…

www.petharbor.com – has a mobile app