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What To Do If You and Your Pet Get Separated

Published on: June 7, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

bernese mountain dog

It can happen in an instant. One minute, your dog or cat is nearby, the next, they’re gone. It’s a heart-stopper for any devoted pet parent. What to do?

You and your pet can get separated for any number of reasons. Many cats and dogs are afraid of loud noises – gunshots, cracking thunder and lightning, and popping, fizzing fireworks can send them scurrying. Thousands of pets become lost in the chaos surrounding natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and fires. 

Regardless of the source, if they’re outside in an unfenced yard or you inadvertently leave the door or a window open, they’re gone. Some look for cover, others just want to get as far away as possible. 

Some dogs and cats who aren’t fearful see an open door as an invitation to explore. They’re out of the house (or your car) before you even realize it. Certain dog breeds, such as hounds and huskies, have an instinctive need to wander. And, as every doting pet parent knows, cats and dogs have their own distinct personalities. That means different pets react differently if they get separated from their owner. 

Become a dog- or cat-savvy pet parent

The more you understand about why your pet acts the way they do, the better you can care for them in any circumstances. That’s true in an emergency but also when it comes to basic obedience training and day-to-day living. If you want to delve deeper into the psychology of missing pets, the Missing Animal Response is a great resource to learn about triggers and responses in dogs and cats. 

What to do if your pet goes missing

Knowing how your cat or dog might respond is helpful, but it’s how you respond that determines whether you and your beloved furry companion will be reunited. Do the following things – all of them – because you have no way of knowing which one will do the trick:

  • Don’t wait around assuming your pet will eventually come home. Get busy searching. Time matters, because your pet may be injured and because the more time that elapses, the farther away your pet may have traveled.
  • Start right where your pet went missing. Canvas your neighborhood, calling for your pet and ringing doorbells to learn if anyone has seen your pet. Cats, in particular, don’t go far, and they like to hide. So yours may very well be in a neighbor’s yard (or even your own).
  • Make up flyers with your pet’s picture and description and your name and contact information. Post them around the area, and hand them out as you go door to door. Visit businesses as well as homes.
  • Call local animal shelters to report your pet missing, but don’t assume they’ll recognize your cat or dog. Visit in person, every day, to check.
  • Use social media to ask for help locating your pet.
  • Call your vet and any other nearby vet clinics, in case someone has brought your injured pet to them. Don’t forget your local animal emergency clinic. 

Be prepared, before your pet gets lost

  • Make sure your pet is microchipped and ensure you register the microchip with your current contact details. An animal shelter or vet can scan the chip, and search the chip number through a microchip database to find your contact information. If you plan to travel internationally with your pet, or if you’ll be moving to another country, it is essential that you also register your pet with Global Pet Register. While there are multiple registries that can store your pet’s data, GPR is the only one that functions worldwide.
  • Make sure your cat or dog always wears a collar with ID tags and their rabies tag. Microchips are essential, but your neighbors can’t scan them, so an “old-fashioned” tag is equally important.
  • Once your cat or dog goes missing, it may be too late to assemble an identity kit that will help others help you find them. Just as you should have a pet emergency first aid kit on hand, you should have a packet that includes several photos, a description, identifying marks, and contact information, plus copies of their rabies certificate and any other key medical information. 

What if you’ve moved to another country?

While your “home” embassy is there to help you in many ways, there is nothing they can do about your missing pet. So finding help in a foreign country is the same as it would be on your familiar home turf. It’s up to you. But the same resources exist – neighbors, shelters, veterinary clinics, social media, etc. If you have a language barrier, get help from someone who can translate for you ­– with people as well as with making posters and notes to hand out. 

Above all, don’t panic. If you’re prepared for the worst and you get started searching for your pet right away, chances are good that you’ll be together again soon.

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Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.