Having a dog or cat run away from home can be an incredibly distressing experience. To many people, pets are family members, and the experience of not knowing where they are and worrying about them can be deeply upsetting. Here are some tips to avoid pet escapes in your household.

When considering how to keep pets from trying to leave home, it’s important to understand why they try to run away in the first place. Both cats and dogs are prone to escape attempts after moving to a new home or location. Cats and dogs have strong territorial instincts, and after a big family move, they may run away in an attempt to return to their old home. Additionally, they may be drawn away by their innate instincts for wanderlust or hunting. Some dogs will also try to escape if they are frightened by drastic and sudden changes in their environment, such as a storm or fireworks, or if they become bored, lonely, or simply curious.

 

If your dog or cat does manage to run away, there are several actions that will likely help you find them quickly.

Immediately alert your neighbors, as well as animal control services. There’s always a chance that your pet was just curious about one of your neighbor’s properties and that they have already found your pet. If your neighbor has not seen your pet, let them know what it looks like and its name so they can help to look for it. It is recommended that you call all area animal control services within two hours of finding your pet going missing to give a description and, if possible, photos. You will also want to visit area shelters yourself, as they are not guaranteed to recognize your pet like you will.

Search your neighborhood yourself. Consider how far away your pet may have gone (cats are less likely to travel long distances, while dogs will cover long distances often), taking into consideration their age and temperament. Have your search party split up and ask passersby if they have seen your pet. It’s recommended that you search for a lost pet at night or early in the morning, because it is more likely that the pet will hear you when you call its name.

Make “lost pet” flyers. Make sure to include as much information as possible, including a picture, your pet’s breed, a physical description of your pet that includes size, coloring, and any other relevant physical features, and any names it responds to. Offer a reward if possible, and make sure to include your contact information.

Keep in mind that dogs and cats behave differently when outside in the world. Cats, particularly indoor-only ones, are more likely to be overwhelmed by the sensory stimuli in the “wild”, and will likely need to be coaxed out of hiding when found. Dogs are much more prone to wandering, seeking food or attention from people or other dogs, and will also travel farther distances than cats.

If your dog or cat does manage to run away, there are several actions that will likely help you find them quickly.

For dogs, make sure that they are given plenty of opportunities to socialize with other dogs. Dogs have pack instincts, and taking them to a doggy day-care or a dog park can help satisfy those instincts, making them less likely to experience boredom and wanderlust.

Cats are temperamentally much better at handling an indoor lifestyle, but they also have strong instincts that can draw them out of the house. Make sure to be careful with doors and windows if you have an indoor cat, and if it’s truly unable to be happy indoors, an outdoor cat enclosure could be the best option to give your cat some outside time.