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what do i do if i find a stray pet

What Do I Do If I Find a Stray Pet?

Have you ever driven by a dog wandering in the street? Maybe you’ve seen a stray cat or two roaming your neighborhood. What are you supposed to do next?

While every community will have different regulations for helping a lost pet find their way home, there are some general guidelines you can follow no matter where you live. Keep reading to discover what steps you should take when you find a stray!

How Do I Help a Lost Pet?

If you’ve found a pet that seems to be lost, there are a few standard first steps you should take:

  1. Make sure the animal is friendly and safe

Never approach a strange animal without first verifying that it’s friendly. Especially if an animal is lost, they could be confused and scared, and lash out when they may not normally exhibit this kind of behavior. If the animal appears too distressed to approach, keep a safe distance or stay in your car and call your local animal control or shelter.

Even when you have verified the animal is safe, be patient and cautious in approaching the animal. Don’t make any sudden movements, and let the animal sniff you and get comfortable with you before you try touching it.

  1. Check for a collar or ID tags

Is the pet wearing a collar? Do they have an ID tag? It may seem basic, but checking for any form of collar or identification can help determine if it’s a pet who’s gotten lost or abandoned, or if it’s a homeless pet in your community.

ID tags usually list the pet’s name and the owner’s contact information, so l. Look for a phone number you can call!

  1. Have the pet scanned for a microchip

Many pets now have microchips registered with their owner’s contact information. Contrary to popular belief, a microchip isn’t a tracking device and won’t notify you if your lost pet is found. However, it does store contact and identity information as long as the owner has updated it as needed.

Most local animal shelters and animal control organizations will have a microchip scanner on hand. If you’ve found a lost animal, you should take it somewhere to get scanned where they can contact the owner if a microchip is found.

  1. For stray cats, look to see if they’re ear-tipped

If you find a stray cat with the tip taken off of its ear, this is most likely what’s known as a ‘community cat.’ That means that it doesn’t belong to a particular home in the area, but that it’s being cared for by someone, and they had it spayed or neutered and vaccinated before bringing it back to its community.

ear tipped cat
An ear-tipped cat usually lives outdoors, but is taken care of by someone in the community!

These cats are perfectly happy and healthy where they live, and most likely get multiple meals from different families in their neighborhood. You can still contact your local humane society or animal control to determine if there are any steps for you to take.

Should I Call Animal Control or the Animal Shelter When I Find a Lost Pet?

Thanks to older animated movies, both animal shelters and animal control officers can have a negative reputation. But the truth is that both of these organizations do a lot for the animals in their local communities! 

When you find a stray animal and it isn’t possible for you to keep it somewhere safe, you should look up the appropriate animal control entity. Most communities will have different animal control organizations for the county and the city. Depending on where you find the animal, you should call the appropriate office.

If you find a lost animal that’s friendly and is willing to follow your guidance, you should call your municipal animal shelter and ask them what they recommend. They may ask you to bring the animal to the shelter to be scanned for a microchip, but they may also ask you to foster the animal and spread the word about it on social media in hopes of finding its owner. Animal shelters love reuniting lost pets with their families, and will often provide a lot of resources when you’ve found a stray!

You should always be careful when approaching any strange animal you are not familiar with. Even friendly animals can get scared and act out. Follow the Humane Society’s safety tips when approaching a stray!

What Do I Do If I’ve Lost a Pet?

Losing a pet can be terrifying and leave you feeling hopeless, but there are a lot of things you can do to help find your lost pet!

  • Spread the word online through photos and descriptions on social media, apps like Nextdoor, and private groups dedicated to lost and found pets.
  • Put up posters around your apartment complex or neighborhood with a photo and a contact number.
  • Ask your friends, family, and neighbors to help you search areas nearby, especially if you live near the woods or other neighborhoods!
  • Check your local animal shelter on a regular basis. Most shelters have a stray-hold period where they cannot put the animal up for adoption in the hopes of reuniting them with their owners. Ask to take a lost and found tour to look for your lost pet!

It’s important to stay calm when you’re looking for your lost pet. Keep some household items that carry familiar scents outside of your door to help them find their way back. Also, don’t lose hope! Even if they have been missing a long time, there’s still hope you will find your pet. There have been many miraculous stories of pets being lost for weeks, months, sometimes even years, and still being reunited with their owners.

microchip for pets
Getting your pet microchipped can help you find them if they ever get lost!

How Can You Prevent Losing a Pet?

Even the most caring and responsible pet owners can lose a pet sometimes. Accidents happen, and pets can get out the door without us realizing it! There are a few things that can help you prevent your pet from staying lost if this were to happen:

Microchip your pet!

Microchipping your pet is an important part of keeping them safe. PetWellClinic can microchip your pets at our neighborhood walk-in vet clinics! Ask your local PetWellClinic vet about getting your dog or cat microchipped today. It’s important to update the information attached to your pet’s microchip whenever you move or change phone numbers, but your vet will explain how to do this when your pet is microchipped.

ID tag and collar

Personalize an ID tag for your pet with their name and your contact information (such as your phone number, address, as well as any medical information about your pet). Update this when appropriate so that the information stays relevant as you move.

Train your pet

Did you know both dogs and cats can be trained? It’s important to give your pet the training they need to know how to behave outside by themselves. A well-trained pet can get outside without meaning to and know to stay in the yard, or at least to come home if they’ve wandered off. Talk to your PetWellClinic veterinarian about local trainers they recommend.

Finding a lost dog or cat is an excellent opportunity to reunite them with their owners. Taking the time to be a good samaritan can mean the world to an owner who is missing their furry friend. Remember to contact your local animal control office and animal shelter and ask them the appropriate steps to take when finding a stray in your community.

PetWellClinic is dedicated to being here for pet owners. Our hours of operation extend into the evenings and weekends, and our clinic environment is built with your pet’s comfort in mind. Talk to your PetWellClinic veterinarian about getting your pet microchipped today! 

PetWellClinic provides convenient, affordable veterinary care for pet owners. PetWellClinic has locations and services built with convenience in mind. Stop by with your pet any time! No appointment necessary.

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