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What to do if your pet goes missing

Pets are much loved members of the family, and it can be devastating to think of them going missing. If this should ever happen, follow these simple tips to increase your chances of being reunited with your pet.

Steps to take in the first few hours:

When a pet goes missing, try to remain calm and be methodical in your search, because the first few hours are vital.

1. Start searching immediately.

Search thoroughly in and around your home, being sure to check all rooms and cupboards, in the garage, shed, under and inside cars, and, for small pets, small spaces like drawers and storage containers. Call your pet’s name and rattle their food bowl or their favourite squeaky toy.

Outside of the home, check all the nearby locations your pet likes to visit or places they may hide (e.g. under the house, in thick vegetation, a shed). At this stage, you can contact your neighbours and ask them to check their home and garden, and to alert you if they do see your pet. Asking friends and family for assistance can also help the searching process.

2. Report your pet as missing

Report your pet as missing with your local council, vet clinics or animal shelters. If possible, provide them with your pet’s microchip number and any registration details. Sometimes pets wander far from home or hide in your or your neighbour’s car and are taken to another area, so it is wise to also advise pounds, vets and shelters in surrounding areas as well.

To ease the process, ensure your pet’s microchip contact details are up to date with your current phone number and address so you can be quickly contacted.

3. Post details of your missing pet on social media

Share a photo and description of your missing pet on your social media and local lost pet pages, and ask friends to share the information to help spread the word quickly.

4. Make ‘Lost’ posters

Make posters of your missing pet with your pet’s name, photograph, personality and a physical description (e.g. ‘Oscar is a short-hair black and white male cat, medium size, with red collar and green eyes’), alongside your contact phone number. These can be put on notice boards and dropped in letterboxes around your neighbourhood.

5. Register your pet as missing with your local RSPCA

The RSPCA has a handy online guide, and can help with a dedicated pet lost and found service in some parts of Australia.

How to help make sure your pet doesn’t stay lost for long

Microchipping your pet

Pets with a microchip are far more likely to be reunited with their family. In some areas of Australia (such as NSW), microchipping your pets is compulsory.

A microchip is a permanent method of electronic identification and involves a tiny ‘chip’ the size of a grain of rice being implanted under your pet’s skin. Each microchip has a unique identification number which can be scanned by vets, animal shelters and pounds. The associated database can then provide your contact details. It’s essential that you keep the microchip register updated with your current contact details.

The cost of microchipping is a small price considering the peace of mind it gives you. If your pet isn’t microchipped, consider doing so by making an appointment with your veterinarian. Some pet insurance policies may even offer the ability to claim towards the cost of microchipping.

Collar and Identification tag

Ensure your pet has a well-fitting collar with an identification tag showing your current phone number. For cats, a quick release collar is recommended, in case the collar becomes caught on something (e.g. a fence, tree branch, etc).

Key times when pets escape

There are certain scenarios where pets are more likely to run away. This includes when the family goes out without them, when there are storms or fireworks, or during stressful events such as moving house. Be extra aware at these times.

Keeping your pet confined to your property

Ensure your fencing is adequate, and speak to a vet about options for keeping your pet calm, confined and safe, particularly if they are fearful of storms, fireworks or other events.

Reuniting you and your pet

Losing a pet can be extremely stressful, but following these simple steps can help make sure you are reunited quickly. Try not to lose hope as thousands of pets are reunited with their families every year, even after being missing for weeks or longer.

To help with eligible vet bills for accidental injury and illness, consider taking out pet insurance. And if you’re with RSPCA Pet Insurance, a portion of first-year premiums go towards supporting the valuable work of the RSPCA.

Dr Catherine Tiplady bio image

Dr Catherine Tiplady

Dr Catherine Tiplady studied veterinary science at the University of Queensland. After graduation, Dr Catherine worked in veterinary practice whilst undertaking postgraduate research in Animal Welfare, gaining additional degrees in Bachelor of Applied Science (Animal Studies) (Hons 1) and a PhD. Dr Catherine has published widely in peer reviewed scientific journals and has also authored a book, ‘Animal Abuse: Helping Animals and People’. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Catherine also has her own business performing gentle in-home pet euthanasia and provides veterinary care and desexing services for animal welfare charities. Dr Catherine brings her passion for animal welfare, love of writing and scientific training together to contribute quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance’s Pet Care blog.