Help and Advice
We understand that it can be extremely stressful if your pet goes missing. We've put together a detailed step by step guide to help you find your pet: our top 10 tips for you to follow and navigate to a happy reunion...
Tell usReporting your missing pet on Animal Search UK gives you the support needed to get your pet home. How do you report a pet? What are the the benefits to reporting? Having support and advice on hand is needed when your pet is missing
When you report your pet as missing on our free website you are one big step closer to getting them home.
Awareness - An alert will be sent out immediately to all our local volunteers in your area, as part of our PetWatch community. More than 86,000 people nationwide, with possibly hundreds of people close to you, all looking out for your lost pet.
Alliance- Our alliance with the RSPCA means all the pets found by their inspectors will be exclusively reported to our website.
Advice- Get the correct advice when your pet is missing; 24/7/365 support. We are always here for you.
Auto-match- Our exclusive system will cross reference every reported lost pet with every pet reported to us as possibly lost or any pet reported as found; if we get a match, you will be notified immediately.
SearchSearching for your pet can be a daunting thought. Where do you begin? Where could they be hiding? Searching gardens, sheds and outbuildings is a great place to start!
A physical search for your pet is an essential part to help bring your pet home.
Begin by checking all normal places your pet roams or visits, walk your pet’s roaming route to identify if there are any changes in the environment that could have prevented your pet coming home. This could be new pets in the area or new building work nearby. This disruption to a pet’s territory can spook them and leave them displaced outside of their territory.
Follow these tips from our Missing Pet Search Team on how to search for your pet:
Start your search from the outskirts of the area you believe your pet could be, then walk in the direction of your home, calling out as you go. (Walking away from home and calling out may inadvertently encourage your pet to follow your voice in the wrong direction if they are between you and your home.)
It is important to call out in your usual way. Stay calm and call out as you would normally at home. Stop walking and listen for any response. Your pet may be stuck in a garage or an empty property so their response may be muted.
If your pet is injured, it may be that they are unable to come to you or that it may take them longer to get to you. Stand still in one spot for five minutes or so and call. If you have no response, then move on and repeat.
Sean from our Missing Pet Search Team insists time of day is important; “It is best to go out and call for your pet when it is quiet. I would recommend early in the morning and late evening. This way you will be able to hear any responses, even when they are faint. Also go out at the times when your pet is normally most active. Incorporating your pet’s normal routine will tailor your search accurately to your pet’s individual character. “
Take note of any vacant houses that are up for sale or rent in your road or those surrounding you. It’s a good idea to contact the estate agents to check if any of the properties have cat flaps that your pet may have gone through but can't get out. Estate agents often open the windows of empty properties before viewings, making it an ideal time for a pet to jump in and hide without anyone noticing.
If any of your neighbours are on holiday it is possible that your pet has got locked inside their house, garage or shed etc. before they went away. Look and listen for any signs and contact the homeowner as soon as possible.
Get neighbours to check sheds and outbuildings as this a common reason for a pet to not come home. If possible, stay with your neighbour as they check; often neighbours will say they will check, but quickly become distracted and forget. Pets often get into places to hide if they are scared and been spooked. Ask people to leave their shed, garages and outbuildings open for 5-10 minutes to allow time for your pet to come out on its own. If any person remains in the doorway, it can prevent your pet from feeling safe enough to emerge.
Local shops, restaurants and takeaways often have large bin areas at the back where lost pets can take shelter and look for food. The workers in these businesses are key people to notify as they can often be around early in the morning and late at night, the quiet times when it is common for a lost pet to move out of hiding. Remember, it is just as important to look up as it is to look down. Shrubbery and areas of long grass can easily conceal a pet, but trees and scaffolding provide the perfect opportunity for pets to get stuck high up out of view. When the weather is bad your pet will likely have found somewhere warm and dry, and will stay still for long periods of time. Likewise, if the weather is too warm, they will be staying cool somewhere undercover. Excess heat or cold are not the best times to go out and search for your pet; try to go when it is dry and cool to maximise the chances of actually seeing your pet on the move.
Equipment- Bringing the right equipment out with you is crucial to a successful reunion. When you have had a positive sighting a humane pet trap is an easy way to do this. These cages are set up with food, and when the pet enters the cage, it slowly closes behind them. Contact us if you’d like to discuss traps and information on how to get one.
Juliet from our Missing Pet Search Team shares her experiences with pet traps. “Make sure you have put in your pet’s favourite food (ideally something smelly) to encourage your pet inside the cage. You can also put your pet’s blanket over the cage, to disguise the metal cage, but it will also smell like your pet and will entice them toward it. Most important please check the cage regularly – at least every hour – as any animal caught in the trap could quickly become distressed.”
When pets are stressed, they act in a survival mode and often act out of character. This could lead to them to not recognise your voice and not come towards you. Traps are important for the capture of some pets, and once they are settled at home and more relaxed, they will become more of their old self again.
Recording yourself calling for your pet, in a calm and easy manner, on Dictaphones or mobile phones can be useful to give out to friends and family helping on the search - they can play the recording on their search, with the hope your pet is nearby. It is more likely your pet will emerge to the sound of your voice compared to people your pet is not familiar with. With this can be Dictaphones or send a voice note message to the person.
If your dog is missing, make sure everyone has a collar and lead. It is important that they have the equipment they need to restrain your dog when found.
Social MediaSocial Media is an important tool to increase awareness of your missing pet. What information should be included? How to layout a post for best results? Posting clear photos of your pet is essential.
Social media is an important part of a missing pet search as the information reaches a vast amount of people in a short period of time. However, it can be difficult to know what information you should include and how to present it for the best results.
Picture choice - Choosing the best photo is essential. Ideally, you need a photo that shows your missing pet as clearly as possible, making sure it shows any distinctive markings, the colouring of your pet and a clear shot of your pet’s face. This will help people to easily identify your pet and report accurate sightings. You want people to engage with your post, so adding in some cute photos is also encouraged.
Caption content - Including all the appropriate information is key to helping the public know your missing pet and to identify the pet if needed. Key information we recommend is:
- Name of pet (unless a dog – we understand this is a contentious issue. However, we believe on balance it useful information to share and people are more likely to become invested in trying to find your dog if they know its name.
- Date they went missing.
- Location. For safety reasons, we suggest you don’t post your full location. We recommend posting just the first part of your postcode and the number that follows and never mention your house/flat number.
- Brief details of how they disappeared: escaped through a door, startled by another animal etc.
- If your pet is chipped, neutered or wearing a collar when they went missing.
Here is a useful template that you can use for your caption
LOST PET TEMPLATE:
MISSING 'ANIMAL TYPE'
Location - YOUR AREA
Name - NAME
/ NAME was/was not wearing a collar
Additional notes about behaviour/the look of your pet.
The main aim of social media is to reach the local community, so posting on local Facebook groups and online notice boards is a perfect way to target these people. If you are focusing on Facebook, you can target your postcode area through a ‘boosted Facebook post’. This does exactly what it says - boosting your post to people in your postcode which will give you that little extra help to reach the people you need most.
Posters & LeafletsCirculating your pets picture is important for sightings. How many should you do? How to display them and where? Making them eye catching is one of the main aims.
In our experience this is crucial to reuniting lost pets with their owners. The more leaflets you can distribute the better as, of course, this means more people are aware of your missing pet. Around 20 to 50 good quality posters in your local area are recommended, but this depends how built up your neighbourhood is and the likely search area. These can be displayed at:
- Bus stations/stops
- School receptions
- Lamp posts
- Street intersections
- Shop windows
- Surgery waiting rooms
- Neighbours house and car windows.
Putting up posters without local council permission can be considered as ‘fly-postering’, which can face you with a fine. The vast majority of local councils and neighbourhoods will tolerate missing pet posters, so long as they’re in good condition, not attached to trees or bushes (which can be damaged by the fixings) and removed after a ‘reasonable’ time. Each area will have its own interpretation of ‘reasonable’ time, however we suggest between 4 and 8 weeks would normally be acceptable.
Posters printed on standard paper will deteriorate quickly. This could become unsightly to your neighbours, or your local Environmental Health Officer, and be counter-productive to your search, so try and ensure any in bad condition are replaced quickly.
Our Missing Pet Posters and Leaflets ensure that all posters are excellent condition, professionally designed and printed, weatherproof and anti-vandal – they’re almost impossible to rip – and consequently look great until you take them down. They come with our unique patented clips that do not damage the post they’re attached to and ensure the poster is displayed flat, as opposed to curved round poles.
Please remember that if you have pet insurance, often your policy will cover the cost of Advertising for a Missing Pet. Similar to social media posts, you should carefully consider the information you are put on your own posters and leaflets. Here are some tips to help you:
- Do not disclose your full address or your house number.
- Do not disclose your personal phone number if you can avoid it. You can purchase a pay as you go sim to use temporarily. Our Missing Pet Posters and Leaflets include our own 0800 freephone number, which is answered by our 24 / 7 Owner Support Team based in Chester, UK, so they can filter out hoax and offensive calls before passing messages on to you.
- Do not advertise a reward value – it is okay to say you are offering a reward, but large, advertised cash rewards can encourage hoax callers and it could put your pet at risk of being stolen in the future. We suggest to just state ‘reward’ and avoid any mention of an amount.
- Do not advertise your pet's microchip number but do state if your pet is chipped.
- Do not mention the breed of your pet on your posters or leaflets as expensive pedigree breeds are more at risk of being stolen.
- If your pet is neutered, you should include this information as they cannot be used for breeding and may therefore be less desirable. If they are not neutered it is best not to mention this as it may increase their desirability due to the potential for breeding.
- Where possible, avoid using free-ad websites like Gumtree. We are aware of many people who have fallen victim to disturbing hoax calls after advertising their missing pets on these types of sites.
It is important to keep yourself safe whilst responding to sightings of your pet. Follow these tips to help with this:
- Always tell someone where you are going. If possible, go with a relative or friend, especially if you are going to someone's house or to an isolated area.
- Always take your mobile phone with you, and make sure it is fully charged.
- Do not carry large amounts of cash - rewards can be paid later. If the finder is genuine, they will not mind this and you can exchange details to make a bank transfer or arrange to meet up again for the reward to be paid. If you are insured your insurance company will let you know how they pay rewards. This is usually paid directly to the finder by cheque.
- If possible, drive to the location rather than walking or using public transport. As well as being safer, this also means that you will be able to get straight to a vet should your pet need it.
- Be extremely cautious of callers who repeatedly ask questions about your pet's value, or about a reward or money for information.
- Take a pet basket or carrier, a collar and lead if appropriate.
Leave a scent markerHelping your pet navigate their own way home is always recommended. What to leave out? What to do if it rains? You can use other pets scents in the home to encourage them home.
Try to encourage your missing pet to find their way home and prevent them from wandering further away. Placing scent markers around your property is a perfect way to help your pet to do this. Things you can use as a scent marker:
- Cat litter box
- Pet blankets
- Hoover contents - place in a bag and poke a few holes in the bag.
- Unwashed clothes
- Perfume/aftershave/deodorant sprayed onto an old tea towel
- Favourite pet toys (unwashed)
- Anything that smells like other pets that live in the home
Pets are known to have an excellent sense of smell, so they can smell this scent marker from quite a distance. It is highly likely that if you pet is within this radius they will not stray further away.
Scent markers should be refreshed weekly to ensure the scent is still strong. If it rains you will need to change your scent marker as the rain will wash away any scent, meaning they will not be as effective.
Vets & RescuesVets and rescues receive a lot of missing pets in their establishments most days. How many should you contact? How often do you contact them? Make sure you don't just contact your own vet, cast the net wide!
Even though your pet may be microchipped, it is important to contact as many of your local vets and rescues as possible; this is often a condition of your pet insurance. If your pet is microchipped and the details are up to date, you will be contacted if they are handed in. However, if a person spots your pet but is unable to catch it, they may only be able to report the sighting, so it is best to be sure your local vets are aware that your pet is missing.
Leaving a stack of leaflets with local vets would be a great way to target your local community. In addition, other pet lovers who visit the surgery are likely to empathise with you and be keen to help. You can also ask your vet to share your poster on social media to help with awareness.
We recommend you contact all vets and rescues within a five-mile radius of where you believe your pet went missing to cover all potential establishments they could be taken to. Check in with them weekly to ask if they have had any sightings reported. It is valuable to build a rapport with local vets and rescues so they can help and support you during this time.
Microchip companyInforming your microchipping company that your cat is missing is essential. How do you find out who your microchip company is? What information they will need? This is also the perfect time to ensure your details are up to date.
If your pet is microchipped you should always ring your microchip company to let them know your pet is missing; this is often a condition of your pet insurance. It is important to ensure all your information, including address and phone number, is accurate so that they can contact you if your pet is found. For a small charge some microchip companies offer extra help, such as sending out an alert to all local vets. Reporting your pet as missing will lock the chip to prevent the details being changed which is important if you believe you pet may have been stolen.
You can find out who your microchip company is by searching on Petlog or by contacting your vet. When contacting Petlog you will need to know your pet’s microchip number.
If your pet was microchipped outside the UK, providing you have the microchip number, you can contact Petlog who, for a small fee, will add the details of your international chip to their database.
AuthoritiesChecking with the council or dog warden is important to ensure they haven't got your pet. Who to call? What department do you want? It is a legal requirement for someone to report a found dog to the dog warden, so it is likely for them to have your dog
It's a distressing call to have to make, but it is important to find out who is responsible for collecting animals that have sadly been involved in road accidents in your area. Your local council will be able to point you in the right direction. You just need to ask for cleansing services, and you will be transferred to the right department. Most local authorities do scan collected animals for microchips, although some don't so it is important for you to know which procedure is followed in your area. If your Local Authority doesn't scan then it will still record the details of the pet so you may need to call regularly whilst your pet is missing.
If you live near a railway line you can contact Network Rail in case they have had any reports of a pet on the tracks.
If you have lost a dog, you should contact your local dog warden as soon as possible. You can also contact other dog wardens in areas that surround the missing location. It is a legal requirement for a member of the public to report a loose dog to the dog warden, so they are a great source of information.
CommunityYour community is always there to help you when your pet goes missing. Who will help you? What are the best establishments to contact? There are always people willing to help, you are not alone.
When your pet goes missing you do not have to search alone. Using your community to help is important as the more eyes on the ground the better. You can reach out to your local community groups, churches, schools, and businesses letting them that your pet is missing. They can help by distributing and displaying your pet’s missing poster, perhaps putting it on their social media accounts, and schools can also include your pet’s poster in their weekly newsletter or in their weekly assembly, all of which instantly increase awareness. Local scout and guides groups can also help distribute leaflets and posters to neighbours.
Knocking on neighbours’ doors is a way to let them know about your missing pet and to ask them to keep an eye out. From experience with our PetWatch community, neighbours often know when new pets enter their gardens compared to the ones that visit regularly and are the perfect people to report sightings and feedback anything they may have noticed since your pet went missing.
A community often comes together when a pet is missing. You can organise a search party, with pairs or small groups taking different routes to cover as much ground as possible.
InsuranceMost insurers require you to inform them if your pet is missing. When do you contact them? How can they help? Most insurers will cover advertising and reward costs, to help you get your pet home.
Many owners are not aware that their pet insurance can be used to help bring their pet home. It is important to let your insurance company know that your pet is missing as soon as possible and add this information to your policy. This way, if your pet comes home and needs medical treatment, you will still be covered under your policy. They will let you know what you need to do to ensure that your policy remains valid. You just need to give them a call, ideally within the first few days of your pet going missing and follow their conditions.
Your insurance company can offer financial assistance too. With the majority of insurance policies your pet will be covered under the Advertising and Reward section of the policy. This covers costs incurred, up to a certain amount, in trying to get your pet home by paying for third party assistance, like our publicity campaigns, and also allowing you to offer a reward to encourage people to come forward with information.
All pet insurance policies and limitations, exclusions and conditions, so take the time to the relevant sections of your policy carefully. If you are in any doubt at all, ideally contact your insurer using their Webchat facility as this will often give you a written record of their advice. We have also found it common that Pet Insurance Advisers do not understand their own policy: in particular, some advisers will confuse ‘Missing Pet Advertising & Reward’ cover with ‘Missing Pet Compensation’. A key indicator of this confusion is if they advise you that you must wait a certain period of time before you can claim – if they say that to you, they are likely looking at the wrong section of the policy.
Ways to prevent your pet going missing
We know accidents happen and preventing your pet from going missing isn’t always possible. However, educating yourself on methods that could reduce the risk of them going missing is valuable.
Congratulations! Now you are reunited with your pet it is important to help them settle back in at home and to reduce the risk of them going missing again.
It is a good idea to take your pet to the vet to be checked over. They may require some extra flea or worming treatment if they have been lost for a prolonged period.
When you get home, it is important to keep nice and calm whilst they adjust back into their daily routine. It is common for them to hide in the house, and they may not want to be fussed for a few days after their return.
You may choose to keep your pet indoors for a little while, this is important to give your pet time to readjust to the home environment. Letting them out too soon can increase the risk of them going missing again. We recommend you try to keep your pet indoor for 2-3 weeks, and gradually reintroduce them to the outdoors.
If you have other pets, you may find that they do not warm to the pet that has been lost, this is likely to be because their scent is very different since they have been outside a long time or in someone else's home. You could try encouraging your found pet to sleep on some of your clothing, scented with perfume, so they pick up your scent quickly.
It is a great idea to get your pet microchipped if they aren't already. Microchipping your pet will not stop them going missing again, but it will substantially increase the chances of you being reunited with them if they do. Most vets have offers on microchipping, it normally costs around £15.00, often less. Many different pets can be chipped from cats and dogs to rabbits and exotic birds.
For more information about micro-chipping cats, you could speak to your local branch of Cats Protection, they may even be able to chip your pet for free!
It is now a legal requirement that all dogs are microchipped in the UK, and their owner's details must be kept up to date. If your dog isn't chipped, you could face a hefty fine. Speak to your nearest Dog's Trust for help and advice, they too often have free microchipping events and can advise who can help locally to you. See the link below to find out more.
You must remember to update your details with the microchip company, if you move house or change telephone number.
It is always a good time to consider getting your pet spayed or castrated if they aren't already. There are many benefits to neutering ranging from improving your pet's health and behaviour to reducing the risk of them straying.
Castration substantially reduces the risk of your tom cat straying to find a mate, and of course prevents straying and unwanted litters in female cats.
If you have a pedigree pet getting them neutered makes them less attractive to thieves who may intend to steal them for breeding.
Neutering a pet can be expensive however there is financial help available should you need it, see below to find out more:
There are many different types of these available to buy online, some only work in a specific range, some collect data about your pet's daily routine, and some track your pet in real time. It's important to do your research and perhaps ask in your local pet shop for advice before buying, as these types of collars can often be quite expensive.
To reduce the risk of strangulation, we only recommend putting quick release collars on cats. Collars often get caught as the pet moves around and it is important that they release for your pet’s safety. Of course, if your pet has a tracking device on their collar then the lost collar can be retrieved and refitted, however it is worth noting that GPS collars do not actually stop your pet going missing.
Preventative tips for dog owners
- Regularly check all your fences and garden boundaries are secure. Many dogs have escaped through a rotting fence panel. Over winter it is common for fences and gates to be blown down or open, and when letting your dog out in the dark it can be difficult to see if this is the case. It is always best to double check, before letting your dog out in inclement weather. If your dog needs to go out in the garden during particularly bad weather, it is safest to take them out on a lead. Thunder, lightning, howling wind or even very heavy rain can be enough to spook a dog into bolting.
- Only let your dog off the lead in places where you are confident, they will return. If in doubt keep them on the lead. Rural walks, with lots of open land and rabbit burrows for example pose a real danger to smaller breeds. Rivers, canals, lakes and streams can change dramatically from season to season, if your dog enjoys the water, assess the conditions before you let them off lead.
- Make sure your dog is always wearing a collar with an ID tag, containing your details, attached if you let them off the lead, this is not only a legal requirement but means that should they be found a member of the public can contact you quickly.
- It is important to vigilant as dog theft is rising in some areas.
- Vary your daily walk route. Thieves look out for routines.
- Be wary of strangers who ask you lots of questions about your dog. Many are just dog-lovers but some use this to glean information for a pre-meditated theft.
- Don't share lots of pictures of your new puppy or dog on social media sites like Facebook without checking your privacy settings first. It is very easy to find out personal information about people.
- If you choose to use Pet Sitters, Dog Walkers or Kennels make thorough checks on them beforehand, ask for references and follow them up.
Preventative tips for cat owners
- If you move house keep your cat in for while they acclimatise to the new smells and layout of the house. We recommend around 2-3 weeks.
- If possible, encourage your cat to wear a collar, with an ID tag and a bell.
- If you are going on holiday, put your cat in a registered cattery. If you choose to use a cattery or pet sitter, make thorough checks on them beforehand, ask for references and follow them up.
- Visit The Cats Protection website to gain access to a wealth of free informative guides: www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/care-leaflets/essential-guides.
I have found a pet
If you have found a pet or think you have seen a pet that is lost, please try and take a few photos of them and upload the details to our website for free.
Report a found pet
It is not always easy to be sure a pet is lost. However, if a dog is running loose in the streets, it is reasonable to assume it is lost. Cats often look anxious and may hide as they are unsure where to go next. They can be nervous and difficult to catch. If a cat has a coat that looks unkempt or any signs of illness such as running eyes or wounds, then it is best to try and catch the cat.
If possible, contain the pet safely and securely and take it to your local vet. A vet will be able to scan the pet for a microchip and administer any treatment should the animal require it. Vets are not allowed to charge for this service. If the vet can locate a microchip, it will mean that they can contact the owner immediately in most cases.
If a cat is not micro-chipped but is fit and well, there are a few options. You may be able to temporarily look after the cat if you wish, while you make efforts to find the owner through enquiries around your local area. This could include posters in prominent locations, leafleting the neighbourhood and sharing the cat's details on our website and local social media sites. If you are unable to look after the cat, please contact local animal charities that can temporarily look after the pet.
The law requires that you report finding a dog to your local dog warden. Keeping a dog, you have found and not reporting it to either the police or Dog Warden is an offence. Here is a link you may find useful: www.gov.uk/report-stray-dog.