How to Find a Lost Dog, Cat, or Other Pet

Lost pet? It's important not to waste any time if you've lost your dog, cat, or other pet. Begin your search as soon as you notice that your pet is missing. Here are some tips to help you find your lost pet.

Tips to find a lost pet

Here are some general steps to take to find your missing pet:

  • Ask everyone whether they've seen your lost pet: neighbors, children, mail carriers, passersby. Show them a photo of your pet. Even if they have not seen the animal, they might be willing to keep an eye out.
  • Create a flyer with your pet’s photo, a brief description, and your phone number. Post flyers in the area where you lost your pet. If you can afford it, you might consider offering a reward. Check out websites like for generating lost pet flyers.
  • Put a lost pet ad in the local newspapers. Title the ad something straightforward like “Lost Cat” or “Lost Dog.” And include your phone number; the date that the animal was lost; where the animal was last seen; and a clear, brief description containing the animal's name, breed, color, sex, age, and whether they were wearing a collar. (Note: If you're offering a reward, you might want to leave out one detail, such as the animal's sex, to avoid scam artists.)
  • Go to all the shelters in the area — don't just call them. Give them a color photo of your pet with your phone number on it. Ask to see all the animals in the shelter and visit every cage.
  • Go back and check all the shelters every day. Shelter employees are often very busy, so you can’t depend on someone remembering that an animal like yours was brought in.
  • Call area veterinary clinics, and send them a photo of your pet. Ask each of them whether any animal fitting your pet’s description has been brought in.
  • If you suspect that your pet might have been stolen, report your pet missing to the police. They also might know whether an animal fitting your pet’s description has been hit by a car (or they might be able to direct you to the department that handles this).
  • Read the “found pets” section in the local newspapers daily. Many papers run these ads for free. Follow up on any ad that describes an animal similar to yours; you can’t count on the finder to describe your pet exactly as you would.
  • If your pet is microchipped, call your microchip company to ensure that your personal information is up to date, and report the pet as missing.
  • Join all local pet groups on Facebook and neighborhood groups on, and post about your lost pet. Include a good-quality photo, a description, contact information, and the last known location of your pet.
  • Place a lost pet ad on your local Craigslist page. Title it “Lost Cat” or “Lost Dog,” and include a brief description, contact information, and last known location.

If your lost pet is a dog:

  • Search your neighborhood carefully (or wherever your pet was lost).
  • Late at night or very early in the morning, go to the place where your dog was lost. Bring your dog's favorite food and a flashlight. Call the dog's name and wait to see whether they show up. Try this repeatedly.
  • For more information, check out Missing Animal Response Network's Lost Dog Behavior.

If your lost pet is a cat:

  • Search your neighborhood carefully (or wherever your pet was lost). Cats can wander into a neighbor’s basement or garage, fall asleep, and get shut in accidentally.
  • Late at night or very early in the morning, go to the place where your cat was lost. Bring your cat's favorite food and a flashlight. Call the cat's name and wait to see whether they show up. Try this repeatedly.
  • Borrow a humane trap and set it up (with tasty food inside) in the location where you last saw your cat. Many inside cats become fearful once they’re outdoors, and it might take being trapped for them to be reunited with their people.
  • For more details check out Missing Animal Response Network's Lost Cat Behavior and The Case of the Missing Cat: How to Increase the Odds of Finding Your Lost Feline.

Posting messages online

You might want to post a message about your lost pet on websites and apps such as Neighbors, Shadow, Craigslist, Nextdoor, and Pet Amber Alert. A word of caution: While posting online is an excellent way to advertise lost and found pets, some pet websites and online community boards have been used by people attempting to commit fraudulent transactions. So investigate closely all responses you receive from online posting. You might want to set up a separate email address to use just for the "lost pet" posting. 

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When you sponsor an animal like Snickers, or any of the animals here at Best Friends, you’re providing them with the love, care, and healing they need for a bright future.

You might also find some helpful advice on the Missing Animal Response Network, which was created by Kat Albrecht, a former police bloodhound handler and search-and-rescue handler. Kat is dedicated to reuniting lost companion animals with their people. She has done quite a bit of research into how animals behave when they are separated from their homes and has discovered that not all lost pet incidents are the same.

Kat has identified the three most common reasons why pets become separated from their families: opportunistic journey, wanderlust, and blind panic. She has also identified six major factors that influence the distances that a lost pet will travel: temperament, circumstances, weather, terrain, appearance, and population density. 

Creating a missing pet flyer

One of the best aids in your search is a good missing pet flyer that you can post throughout your neighborhood. Be sure that it includes a good photo of your pet and a thorough description. Paste the flyers to fluorescent poster board, and write "LOST PET" in large black letters at the top. 

If your pet was lost in an area other than your neighborhood, post the flyers in the area where your pet was lost, as well as the area around your home. Animals often find their way back to their home neighborhood.

A free, easy-to-use flyer-making program is available at This program allows you to enter information about the animal, insert a photo, and print the flyer, which you can then post at local businesses and other places in your community. Additional suggestions on how to create effective flyers and where to post them are available at Missing Animal Response Network.

Keep looking!

Remember, pets can be amazingly resilient and resourceful, so don't stop looking. We have heard stories of pets being found long after their disappearance. If your pet is frightened, they might find a safe place to hide and stay there for several days before venturing out. 

In addition, it's quite common for people to pick up pets and assume that they have no home rather than are lost pets. So make sure you are not only posting "lost pet" flyers but also checking any "found" or "for adoption" flyers you come across.

Don't give up! Persistence is often the key to finding a lost pet. Some animals have been found after months of being missing.

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Best Friends Animal Society is working with you to save the lives of cats and dogs all across the country, giving pets second chances and happy homes.

Just a few short years ago, cats and dogs were killed in staggering numbers in this country simply because shelters didn't have the community support or the resources to save their lives. That number is now less that half a million per year, but there's still work to do to ensure a bright future for every dog and cat in America.

Best Friends operates the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals and is committed to saving the lives of homeless pets by working with shelters and passionate people like you. Together, we will bring the whole country to no-kill in 2025. Together, we will Save Them All.