When Your Pet Gets Lost

There is nothing more stressful than losing your pet, especially whilst away on holiday. However, the reality is that animals are far more likely to stray and get lost when you are travelling. Dogs can easily wander off on the trail of an exciting new scent and because they are in unfamiliar territory, they could go too far and be unable to find their way back to you...
Cats on the other hand may get a fright and bolt, also going too far and getting lost. By taking certain precautions you can reduce the risks of losing your precious pet and increase the chances of him/her being found if you do find yourself separated.

Tips to prevent your pet from getting lost:
  • Ensure that your pet wears a collar with an identity tag and that the tag has a valid, contactable phone number engraved on the back. If you are travelling it is advisable to include your cellphone number on the tag.
  • Identity tags should be securely attached to a sturdy collar and not a choke chain, which could easily slip off.
  • Another method of identifying your pet is to have him / her tattooed. Tattoos have been used for many years on pedigreed dog breeds and the perfect time to have it done is when your pet goes under anaesthesia for some kind of medical procedure e.g. when s/he is sterilised.
  • Micro-chipping is the latest and most technologically advanced method of pet identification available today, and the procedure is much less traumatic than tattooing. The main disadvantage, which prevents many pet owners from making use of this new and painless technology, is that a scanner is needed to detect the microchip. Scanners are expensive and not all vets, welfare societies, shelters or municipal dog pounds can afford them. In addition, the companies that are contracted to remove "road kill" from the roads, unfortunately do not scan these corpses to see if any was perhaps someone's beloved pet.
  • For multi-pet households, micro-chipping is an expensive option (although well worth the cost if you can afford it), particularly since there are additional, annual costs involved for being retained on the national database.
  • Virbac Animal Health has developed an electronic identification programme for pets called BackHome. For more information you can contact them on Tel: 012 675 6000 during office hours or visit www.virbac.co.za
  • Always keep updated photos of your pet/s with you so that if they do ever stray, you can use these to help you find them.
What to do if your pet is lost:
  • If your pet does become lost, it is best to act quickly as this will increase your chances of finding him/her again.
  • Distribute leaflets in the general area and put up posters (preferably with a picture) in local shops and on lampposts. Pamphlets in your neighbour's post boxes (if you aren’t on holiday when it happens) are also essential. Remember that cats often hide in garages, wendy houses, garden-sheds etc. and may become temporarily trapped.
  • You should also advertise in the local newspaper/s and call all the veterinarians, animal welfare societies and rescue groups in the area.
  • Offer a reward as an incentive, but don't specify the amount. Put the word out with local children and homeless people as well.
  • There are also various websites that allow you to advertise lost & found animals for free. For cats, visit www.kittycat.co.za.
  • If you suspect that your pet has been stolen, report it to the police.
  • Don't give up hope. Many pets have been reunited with their owners months, and sometimes even years afterwards.
What to do if you find a stray whilst at home or on holiday:
  • Place a "Found" notice in the newspapers - these are usually free of charge.
  • Put up notices or posters in the area and distribute flyers. If you have a camera, take a picture – it always helps!
  • Report the animal to all the local animal welfare societies and if you are unable to keep him/her, ask them to shelter it.
  • You can also contact Law Enforcement to collect a stray animal, as this is the primary responsibility of Local Authorities in many towns and cities.