Although most pet owners will take every precaution to ensure their pets remain safely confined within their property, some cunning adventurers still manage to break free. Losing a pet is extremely distressing for the owner and can create a very unsafe situation for the pet, who may find themselves far from the familiar and in potentially dangerous surroundings. The sooner one can act the more likely the chances of successfully finding the pet.
The Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) has compiled the below pointers to aid pet owners in successfully locating a pet that has gone MIA:
- Recovery will be so much more efficient if you already have your pets chipped. Having a collar with your phone number assists in even quicker recovery. Though this is not always practical, it’s advisable to at least consider this option if you are away with your pet, in particularly foreign surroundings.
- As soon as you notice that your pet is missing begin your search, starting within your property, in possible hiding places and your pet’s favourite resting spots. This is especially important for indoor-only cats, who generally do not go too far if they manage to escape outside. Until your cat is found, be extra cautious of starting your car, especially in winter, when she may seek warmth under the engine.
- Broaden the search by contacting members of your community to enquire if they have seen your pet and perhaps recruit them to assist in the search. Ask neighbours to check their properties. When dealing with cats it will be very helpful for neighbouring houses to actively look in potential hiding spots as an injured cat may not even make a sound when seeking refuge. Sending a recent photo of your pet will always help.
- While on your search engage with all pedestrians and flag down the security vehicles that are patrolling your neighbourhood to ask them if they have seen your pet and request that they keep an eye out for you. Sometimes security vehicles will be willing to call the request into the call centre, to pass the message on to other vehicles. Remember to give them your cell phone number so that they can call you with information.
- Contact all vets, rescues, shelters and SPCAs within a 20km radius to enquire if your pet has been dropped off. Leave your details with them, with a description of your pet and furnish them with a recent photo. If it’s a weekend or after hours extend the distance to all emergency vets.
- Advertise – make posters with your details and a recent photo of your pet and put them up in public places, such as shopping centres, parks, doctors’ rooms etc.
- Offering a reward may assist you though it may also attract chancers – should someone have information about your pet, question them thoroughly to corroborate their story.
- Network and make use of the far-reaching effect of social media.
- Do not lose hope or give up your search – pets have been reunited with their owners sometimes months after first going missing.
- In instances where pets have been lost during some form of disaster, creating a need for evacuation from an area, get back to the home base as soon as you can to leave food and water – pets may return home during moments of quiet, such as at night, and need sustenance to survive until found.