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Norwich Bulletin - 11/20/2005

How To Find Your Lost Dog/Cat

It is devastating to lose your pet, no matter how the loss comes about. Most people become panic stricken and tend to go through the yard calling their dog or cat’s name, hoping that their beloved pet will miraculously appear when they hear their name called.

And, of course, owners will tend to use the three most common lost pet recovery tips that are always given: place a classified Ad in the paper, post flyers in the neighborhood and call the local animal shelters and vets every day. Unfortunately, there are some other methods that may be a better bet (especially with cats).

There are three types of lost: the lost dog, the lost indoor/outdoor cat and the lost indoor only cat, who escaped outside. All three types need a different search method. For instance, the outdoor access cat has had something happen to him that prevents him from coming home. Cats are territorial and if he were okay, he would be home.

The fact that he is not home could mean that he is injured, trapped or even killed. He could have been stolen, or unintentionally climbed into a worker’s van and transported out of the area. He could have been chased by a dog or coyote, causing the cat to be hiding up a tree or under a deck somewhere in the neighborhood. If the cat is alive, how will he get home? It depends on the cat.

Some will become so panic stricken that they will remain in hiding for weeks and never return home, while others will recover from their scare in a short time period and return home. So when an indoor/outdoor cat disappears from its home, the question that needs answering is what happened to the cat?

It’s a whole different story for the indoor only cat who escaped. What happens is the cat runs outside and suddenly realizes it is in totally foreign ground – it recognizes nothing. Not the trees, or leaves or grass or dirt. It is in totally unfamiliar territory so the first thing they will need to do is hide – and they will hide in silence to protect themselves from predators.

How long they hide is dependent upon their temperaments, but in most cases, using humane traps with some good bait is the best method for recovering a panicked cat. When an indoor only cat becomes lost, the question that needs answering is, where is the cat hiding?

How to find the cat? Well, if you have a happy, curious cat, these are the ones that will hide for a little while, but then they will come out and go a traveling. This is the cat you go door to door for and put up lots of posters locally. If you have an aloof cat, they will initially hide but then start peeking around the corner, and eventually come out and investigate their surroundings.

They typically return to the point they got out or they will meow when the owner comes to look for them. If you have an aloof, not particular people friendly cat, you should conduct a tightly focused search in the neighbors’ yards and set some humane traps. And if you have the kind of scaredy cat who is afraid of anything and everything new, this is the cat that you will have the least luck finding. They will hide in silence – they will hide for a really look time – and if they are found they will be mistaken for a feral cat because of their fear. In fact, most real scaredy cats often end up in feral cat colonies.

Dogs are actually harder to find than cats because they travel farther and are oftentimes picked up by humans who decide what happens to the dog. And it will all depend on the dog. Again, it starts with temperament. The wiggly, friendly dogs that go up to the first person they see, will generally be found close to home.

Unfortunately, these happy dogs are oftentimes adopted by the people who find them and never make their way back to their original human. Aloof dogs are wary of strangers and at first they will avoid humans – at least until they are enticed with food and a little patience. These dogs are oftentimes given to rescue groups and because they are wary, they are labeled abused. And if there was any amount of time before they were recovered and the dog has lost weight, they are definitely assumed to be homeless, abused and unwanted.

The fear of everything dog is inclined to travel farther and farther and is at a high risk for being killed on the road. If these dogs are picked up, they are so fearful, it is assumed they have been seriously abused, and the number on the tag is never called because they think the dog ran away because of the way it was treated.

It also depends on how the disappearance occurred – for instance, if the dog jumped the invisible fence, it probably will not go far – just a little adventure. On the other hand, thunder may make the dog panic and take off – and could end up miles away from home.

The weather and the terrain are also important factors in how far the dog goes. But I think number one on the list is the dog’s appearance. A maltese or Shi Tzu has a lot better chance of being picked up by a stranger than a Pit Bull or Doberman. And if the dog is a purebred, people just assume it is lost and valued, while if they see a mixed breed dog doing the same thing, they will assume that it is a homeless stray.

For more tips on finding your lost dog or cat, log on to There are lots of good recovery tips offered on this site that can help you get your pet back home.

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