What should you do first when you discover your pet has gone missing? What should you do next after that? How can you harness all that anxious worried energy so it might actually do some good to reunite you with your pet quicker? Animal intuitive Shannon Cutts walks you through the steps to take to find your lost pet.
I can think of little in life that is as immediately panic-producing as a missing pet. We feel such responsibility! They are so innocent! So vulnerable! So…..LOST.
It is so tempting to jump into self-blame without delay.
If you’ve been following along with our lost pets series here, you know I have deeply personal experience with lost pets from both the personal and professional side of it (in searching for my own lost pets and assisting others in the search for lost pets).
So let’s get to it. Your pet is missing. What should you do? I am going to give you the lost pets preparation 101 from an animal communicator’s perspective first and then from a boots-on-the-ground pet parent’s perspective. I hope both will be helpful.
First, go ahead and panic.
Yes, you read that right. Why on earth would I encourage you to panic?
Actually, I’m not encouraging you in any way, but rather assuming you are already panicking, so best to get it up and out of you so it doesn’t block your search efforts.
It is also worth mentioning that an initial (short, supported) bout of panic is arguably helpful because it reminds you how much you adore your pet and want them back already. This is motivating and helps you overcome common granular lost pet search issues like social shyness and the natural mental resistance you may feel to knocking on doors, making phone calls and reaching out for help far beyond your normal comfort levels.
Even more importantly, getting your panicky feelings up and out of you before you start your active search efforts is also essential if you want to actually reconnect with your pet. Why?
Because your animal may even still be nearby, but the moment they feel that nervous, panicky ball of fearful energy that is you moving towards them, they will RUN in the opposite direction.
Pets communicate with energy….e-motion. This is how animals know when it is safe to come out and forage and when there are hungry predators nearby. Your panicked pet parent energy is very unlike your usual energy and your lost pet won’t recognize your energy signature.
So they will tune into your presence, read your emotional panic and flee.
Next, stop panicking and ground into calm.
This is way easier to say than to do. When I lost my yearling redfoot tortoise, Malti, I was so panicked I was hyperventilating. My mom came over to help search, found me like that, took me by the shoulders and shook me, yelled “STOP THAT!” in my face, and then said firmly, “We will find her.”
That snapped me out of it.
All that to say, you may need some support to help you stop panicking and get calm. If you don’t have local support, call a friend or go online and ask for prayers, help, good vibes, a friendly face, encouragement, whatever you need to calm down enough to begin your search.
I highly recommend reading my blog post about what to do when your pet is working your last nerve – specifically the section offering helpful breathing tips – because breath work is one of the best tools I’ve found to quiet the part of you that is panicking, which is your mind.
Quiet mind, quiet you.
Remember, if you don’t find a way to get reasonably calm before you start searching, everything you try will have a repellant rather than an attracting impact on your search efforts.
Now it is time to get to work.
Now, start assembling your lost pet search toolkit.
Now you are calm…. or at least a reasonable approximation thereof.
What should you do first? Assemble your search toolkit.
What do you need in your lost pet search kit?
Something familiar and beloved.
Consider what your lost pet will most likely respond to best.
Snacks? Another one of your pets? A neighbor’s dog? Your voice? Something that smells like you? The sight of their favorite bed or crate? Favorite toys?
When our family’s dachshund, Flash Gordon, got out one day and ran behind my folks’ house into an inaccessible area along the bayou, I felt lucky to have a big block of his favorite snack – cheese – in hand. If he had gone any further in I would not have been able to follow him and would have lost him. He wouldn’t come when I yelled “cheese!” (this usually worked). So I grabbed a huge hunk of it, broke it into chunks and threw it all at him. This stopped him for long enough that I could get close and grab his collar while he was chowing.
Just be sure you have the most enticing things possible with you when you start searching for your missing pet so you don’t miss an opportunity when it comes.
Missing pet fliers with a color photo and your contact info.
Each time one of my pets has gone missing, I have distributed literally hundreds of fliers both locally and online.
Have a stack in your car along with tape and thumbtacks. Visit pet stores, veterinary clinics, coffee shops, wine bars – any place that has a community board is good. Put them up on stop signs, light poles and other places in the area where your pet was last seen.
Distribute them online on your neighborhood website and any local missing pets social media pages as well as via your own social channels.
Make sure you use words like MISSING and LOST PET in all caps and bold – ask yourself if you can easily make out what the flier says from a block away. If not, make those changes before printing up any substantial quantity of fliers.
Many pet owners decide to offer a reward for the return of a missing pet. If you do this, do not specify the amount on the flier! Simply stating “REWARD” on your flier is sufficient.
An open heart and positive mindset.
Earlier I mentioned the inverse effect panic can have on actually reuniting with a lost animal.
This can be especially apparent if your lost pet is new to your family, such as a rescue dog or cat who is recovering from trauma or multiple rehoming situations.
There is another facet to this challenge – it is your mindset and attitude towards your search efforts.
Do you believe you will be reunited? Do you believe your search efforts will be successful?
Your pet has conscious free will just like you do. This is where searching for missing pets gets complicated.
For example, your missing pet may truly be lost and seeking you as desperately as you are seeking them.
Or your missing pet may be out on a little adventure and ready to come home….just not yet.
Another possibility is that your missing pet may have left consciously for reasons of their own.
Common examples here include pets who are unhappy at home for some reason and choose to leave, pets that have a karmic path or life purpose that takes them back out into the world and pets that are ready to die and want to do so in solitude.
No matter what initially triggered your pet’s departure, you have the best chance of a happy reunion if you have an open heart and mind and believe your search efforts are drawing you back together.
Qualified and capable support.
Earlier here I mentioned that when my redfoot tortoise, Malti, went missing, I called my mom and she came to help me search.
It is very good to have somebody there with you to support you as you search! But what if my mom hadn’t been available, willing and able to help me?
Periodically during the six days Malti was missing, I also had friendly neighbors who were helping me search, either by coming out to look around their yards or the local common green spaces or by posting fliers or by sharing with their neighborhood email networks to let neighbors know to keep watch for my girl.
You can read a lot more about exactly what I did and how it went on the blog post I created about our experience: What to Do When Your Pet Turtle Goes Missing.
The key point I want to make here is that no one can offer to support you if you don’t tell them your pet is missing and ask for their help! Please, please don’t let this be the time when you retreat into shyness (I’m a natural introvert so trust me I get it – asking for help can be suuuuuper scary!) – many people around you have felt the pain of a missing pet and will be happy to help if you will just be willing to ask. I promise.
However, if you don’t have anyone locally who is able or willing to help you search, still reach out online and seek support and encouragement from friends and from your social networks in between periods when you are searching.
You may also want to consider inviting supportive professionals to join in your search effort.
I am an animal communicator and so of course I am going to recommend that you reach out for support in this area. I have seen the good it can do from both sides – as a pet parent myself and as a professional animal intuitive.
The truth is, there is no substitute for a frank and honest conversation with your animal about why they is currently missing and what they need to be willing and ready to return to you quickly.
You might discover the reason they are lost is as simple as when a friend’s dog got her leash caught in some brambles and was trapped there waiting for somebody to come close enough to hear her bark. Or you might find out your pet went missing due to something else entirely – upset over a new pet in the family who is bullying them, grief over a family member who is leaving for college, unease over the overall family dynamic or even a wish to make their end-of-life transition alone.
But here, I will add a caveat: you want to work with an animal communicator who is skilled in the area where you most need assistance.
For example, if you want assistance with physically tracking a lost pet, you will need an animal communicator who specializes in map dousing or remote viewing or similar (this is vital if you are working long distance with a lost pet animal communicator!)
You may also want to work with an animal communicator who specializes in pet therapy – getting to the root of why a pet may have decided to leave, facilitating those difficult conversations, creating healing through Reiki and other energy release methods like EFT and scalar wave, easing the path to a happy reunion in these ways.
Often it takes a combination effort by a group of loving, supportive humans to help a missing pet make their way home.
I also want to point out – just in case you are not aware – it is worth placing a call to your local animal control to find out if they have professional missing animal trackers who can come to your location to help you search. There are also a number of professional animal tracking consultants who work as lost pet detectives using bloodhounds or other dog breeds trained to track by scent.
The one assurance I can give you is that embarking on this search for your missing pet is going to open you up to new experiences at deeper levels than you ever thought possible. Every interaction between a person and their pet has this potential and is always for our shared highest good.
This may not be at all comforting to hear right now. I get it. After many lost pet experiences, and with one pet who remains missing, the heartache is real. But so is the hope.
Stay hopeful. Calm. Open. Assemble the best lost pet search toolkit and ask for support. Trust in the best possible outcome for you and your pet.
Finally, here are some super practical tips to tend to in between the times when you are actually out physically searching for your lost pet love:
- If your pet is microchipped, be sure your contact information is updated in the central microchip database.
- Pawboost Rescue Squad, Next Door, Craigslist and Facebook are all excellent resources for posting and sharing about lost pets locally.
- The Missing Animal Response Network directory is a good place to start searching for a lost pet tracker or pet detective.
- Call the local zoos, animal parks, veterinary clinics, animal emergency clinics and hospitals and animal shelters that handle your species of pet and alert them that someone may bring your lost animal to them. Call them every few days to check in (do NOT wait for them to call you – they likely will not have the staff to do it).
- Consider visiting local schools and faith centers in the area where your pet went missing to ask them to keep an eye out for your missing pet.
- Keep posting missing pet fliers in any area where your pet might have been sighted (when in doubt, put more fliers up) and keep reminding your neighbors as well.
Remember, miracles happen every single day. Is a week, a month, a year, two years too long to search? Not if it results in a happy reunion!
Is your pet missing? I can help!