It’s the stuff nightmares are made of: you wake up, calling for your dog or cat, only to find that he has stealthily escaped through a crack in the door or window. Or, if your companion animal spends time outside, it’s common that he may jump a fence or wriggle through a crack in the infrastructure. There’s nothing more terrifying than losing a beloved animal under our very nose, especially when we feel that we have taken the necessary precautions to prevent our dog or cat from escaping.

But despite our best efforts to provide a safe and secure environment for our animals, these events can sometimes happen. Even if you’re sure your pet would never make a run for it, it’s always helpful to familiarize yourself with the steps to take if your companion animal does in fact go missing. Above all, it is important to act fast; you’ll have a better chance of recovering your dog or cat if you take these steps within 24 hours.

1. Take Preventative Measures

First and foremost, you should take steps to make sure your cat or dog has proper identification so that, in the case that he or she does go missing, there is a greater chance that they will find their way back to you. Along with a proper ID with name and your address, ask your veterinarian for a microchip procedure. Similar to a shot, a microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and serves as a permanent ID. Identification can be achieved by passing a microchip scanner across the shoulder blades of the animal to generate an ID code, which will then connect the animal back to you.

2. Try and Entice Them

Does your dog have a favorite squeaky toy? Does your cat run at the sound of the food container? If you believe that your companion has not strayed very far, carry some items that he or she is familiar with and loves. Take a walk around the perimeter of your house, then expand the search to your block. If your dog or cat hears a sound with a positive association, chances are he will come running in excitement.

3. Post Signs

It might seem cliché, but it’s quite helpful to post signs, especially if you live in a more suburban neighborhood. Make sure to include a picture of your companion animal (color, if possible), a short description, and the date when they werr last seen. If the animal has any remarkable traits (two colored eyes, for example) note them as well. Finally, if you choose to offer a reward, do not specify the amount. If the reward is too low, people will be less inclined to turn in the animal; if it is too high, people will think the animal is worth money and attempt to sell him or her. Post signs outside and in local businesses if they allow it.

4. Use Social Media

In this day and age, social media is instrumental when it comes to notifying our friends and family of news or events. Use technology to your advantage and take to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms with information concerning your missing pet. Keep it short and sweet, but detailed enough to get your message across.

 5. Visit Shelters in Your Area

Often, people who find an animal will not bother trying to search for you and may simply bring the dog to a local shelter. You must be proactive and walk through all the shelters in your area, including ones that appear far – don’t underestimate your animal’s capacity to explore! Make sure to check in at the front desk to inquire about anyone that has turned in your companion animal.

Image source: Greyloch/Wikimedia Commons