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How to find a lost pet

Stay calm and act fast

What to do if your pet goes missing

Losing a pet can be a very upsetting experience. It’s also surprisingly common – the UK’s National Pet Register says that 1 in 3 pets is lost in its lifetime. Reassuring news, though, is that 90% of pets with an identity collar are returned to their homes .

Here is some guidance on what to do if your pet goes missing, and how your pet insurance can help.

Search your local area thoroughly

The first 48 hours are the most crucial in finding your pet. Search the immediate area thoroughly, looking in even the most cramped of spaces, as animals sometimes crawl into small gaps, especially if they’re frightened. They might not respond to your voice if they’re scared, so don’t rely on just calling for them. Take a torch with you for looking in dark corners. Ask family members, friends and neighbours to help you in your search. 

Call your local authority

The next step is to phone your local council. The Environmental Health department handles cases of stray animals. You could also call other councils nearby, as cats and dogs in particular can stray quite far. The National Pet Register advises to search for cats in a radius of 20-30 miles, with 50-60 miles for dogs. The council will only hold onto your animal for 7 days, or 5 days in Northern Ireland. 

Tell the police

If you think your pet has been stolen, contact the police. The police will pick up stray dogs if they’re found chasing or worrying livestock, but in all other cases, stray animals are the responsibility of the local authority. 

If your pet is a dog you must contact your local police station within 48 hours of your dog going missing, in case you later need to claim on your pet insurance. You’ll need a police incident or crime reference number when making your claim. 

Contact local animal rescue centres and pet services

Phone up all local animal shelters, such as the RSPCA, Blue Cross, Dogs Trust, Cats Protection, National Animal Welfare Trust, and smaller local animal sanctuaries. If you live in London, also try the Battersea Lost Dogs & Cats Line. If you can, visit the animal centres in person daily.

Also try phoning pet-related services, such as kennels and catteries, plus breeders if your pet is a pedigree. 

Contact your pet’s microchip database

If your pet is microchipped, get in touch with your microchip provider to tell them your pet is lost. If someone tries to change your dog or cat’s chip details, they can inform you. Don’t forget to also notify the provider when your pet is found.

Stop by at your local vet

Someone who has found your pet may leave their contact details at the local vet, or, sadly, if your pet has been involved in an accident, this is where they may be receiving treatment. Some surgeries have a noticeboard and will allow you to pin up a poster about your lost pet. 

Put up notices

You can often put up notices in local supermarkets, libraries and other public places. With our gold or platinum cover you can claim back the cost of materials and advertising up to £100, as well as a £250 reward. 

You should also check these noticeboards in case someone has your pet and is trying to reach you.

It’s a good idea to always keep recent photos of your pets, just in case you need them. 

Use social media 

Social media is free and can be very effective. Put up a note on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media you use. You may find local pet interest groups, too, such as dog-walking groups, where you could post about your pet online. 

Keep your pet insurance provider informed

Remember to let your pet insurance provider know straight away if your cat, dog or other pet is lost, to get further advice on what you’ll need to do to be eligible to make a claim.  

Protecting your pet from loss and theft

Once your pet is safe and sound at home, you’ll want to make sure you keep it that way. So here are some things to do next to protect them in future.

Get your pet microchipped

Microchipping is the best way to ensure your lost pet is found, and it’s a legal requirement for dogs over 8 weeks old. Don’t forget to keep your microchip record details up to date.

Make sure your pet wears a collar

By law dogs must wear a collar with your name and address, and this is good advice for other pets, too. Include your phone number to make it easier for people to contact you.

Prepare for household emergencies

During fire or flood, your pet is at a higher risk of getting lost. Keep a transport box close to hand, and an emergency kit with a small supply of food and water, bowls, litter and a litter tray for cats, blankets, towels and any medication your pet needs .  

Protect your dog from theft

Dogs in particular are at risk of theft, but there’s plenty you can do to prevent it. Avoid leaving your dog alone in your car or outside shops, vary your walking routine, and don’t put your pet’s name on its collar.

Of course, these situations are rare, and we hope you won’t experience them. But taking every precaution, and having the right pet insurance in place, will assure you that you're doing the best for your pet, whatever might happen.

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