According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 1 in 3 family pets will be lost at some point. That’s a tragic statistic! And, it’s a key contributor to the epidemic of pet homelessness in cities around the country – something we all want to end.
The good news is that even though pets can’t speak for themselves, you can take steps to increase the odds they’ll find their way back to you.
Here are 11 ways to keep track of your pets and get them home safe.
1. Tags, tags, all the time.
First, make sure your dog or cat wears a collar and ID tag at all times. That’s the first thing a concerned passerby, shelter, rescue or vet technician will look for if they find your pet. A collar and tag shows they are loved and have a home.
You may also want to add your pet’s rabies tag to their collar – and in some cities this may be required. If your pet’s ID tag goes missing, a rabies tag on file may be helpful in tracking you down.
2. Don’t “tag it & forget it.”
It’s easy to forget about tags once we attach them to pet collars. But it’s important to check regularly to make sure they are still in place. For example, cats can lose breakaway collars altogether – which means their tags are lost as well!
Make sure your pet’s ID tags are in good repair and can be easily read. If they get too scratched or worn, they can become unreadable.
Keeping tag information up to date is critical, too. Include your cell phone to make it as easy as possible to return your best friend to you.
3. State licenses can help.
Some states require licenses for pets. The information you provide for this license (breed, color, microchip number, owner contact info, etc.) can help to identify and return pets if they get lost.
Check your local regulations to see if licenses are needed in your area.
4. Always use a leash.
Keep pets on a leash anytime you’re outside unless you’re at an enclosed off-leash dog park. You never know when your pet might see a squirrel and decide to give chase. Even the best-behaved pets can be startled by an unexpected noise and run off.
The best way to keep your pet safe is always to maintain control with a leash.
5. Make sure to microchip!
Microchips are small devices implanted underneath a pet’s skin to provide reliable identification – especially if collars/tags are missing. A chip the size of a grain of rice is implanted between a cat or dog’s shoulder blades.
This doesn’t require anesthesia – it isn’t any more painful than a quick shot – and the benefits far outweigh any brief discomfort.
When a pet is found without ID, a shelter, rescue or veterinarian simply uses a handheld scanner to read the data on the chip. Here’s a post from BLUEPEARL™ where you can learn more about these life-saving devices.
6. Keep your chip current.
Microchips only work if their registration information is accurate. You can check the accuracy of your info by accessing your microchip manufacturer’s database. That’s the database shelters and vets will search.
To update your cat or dog’s registration, you’ll need their microchip number. If you don’t know it, ask your vet to scan it on your next visit. If they aren’t sure where it came from, check this page from AVMA to get in touch with popular manufacturers.
Then make sure all of your contact info is correct in all related databases, including your phone number and address. Make sure your veterinarian has your pet’s microchip info as well as a photo – many vets are part of social media networks that help identify lost pets.
7. Consider a pet tracker to respond even faster.
While tagging and chipping pets is key, these only help when someone finds your pet. A pet tracker can help you locate them even faster by letting you know when they’re not where they should be.
Some pet trackers use simple technology to track your pet when they are within close range. Others use cellular and GPS technology to keep in touch with your pet at greater distances. We’re partial to Whistle devices, the trackers from Mars Petcare that help you monitor your pet’s health, location, fitness and more.
8. Know your neighbors.
Whether it’s in your building, on sidewalks around your home or at the local dog park, chances are people you encounter regularly know you have a pet and what they look like. Keeping up connections with your neighbors means they’ll be more likely to recognize your pet and help them get back to you.
The same holds true in reverse. Get to know your neighbors’ pets so you can be a helpful resource for them if their pet ever gets out!
9. Communicate about your pet.
Let people know that you have a pet in case you aren’t home in an emergency situation. A window sign at your home can signal to emergency responders that pets are inside and may need help or need to be cared for until you return. Find out more about pet emergency cards here.
10. Have a pet bio ready if needed.
Keep a file with your pet’s info including a photo, description, tag and microchip information, vet’s name, and dog walker or other service providers. Keep a paper copy and a copy on your phone. That way if your pet is lost, you have everything you need to act quickly.
This is also an important part of your emergency go bag for your pet, since emergencies are a key time when pets may get loose. Keep a copy of your pet’s file is in a waterproof container in your go bag.
11. Buddy up.
Have a trusted emergency contact who has a copy of your pet’s info in case they are lost while you are out of town or unavailable. This can save precious time since they can begin the search while you are making your way home.
Want more ways to help pets in your community? Check out our Helping Homeless Pets Toolkit for resources for cities, tools for shelters and tips for pet lovers.