What do you do when you are away from home and your pet goes missing?!

This is what most pet owners dread. You have organised everything for your pets while you are away – food, care, cuddles but then you get the dreaded call that your sitter has not seen your pet for a couple of days!

So this is what happened with my cat Wildfire this week. My son was looking after all the pets. We have a lot, including chickens, so it would really be impossible to board them. Wildfire is the most recent addition to our family. He was adopted at 9 months of age from Animal Welfare League, having previously been found in a car engine. After desexing and being rejected by many potential adopters (he was rather wild!), we brought him home. Months of careful handling have him now being able to be picked up and he loves a head rub!

Where Wildfire disappeared to, we have no idea. My son heard meows from a neighbouring vacant house/garden but could not locate them when he went closer. He and his friends searched the streets, day and night, but no sign. I sent home sound recordings of me calling Wildfire, as he usually always responds to me. No joy! We put up posters and knocked on neighbours’ doors.

We joined up with Lost Pet Finders, who contact their members, and also members of the public, in a target area, which you determine, for a small fee. This gives you peace of mind that you are trying everything. But still you worry!

Here are some tips for when you lose your cat or other pet:
1. Search, search, search: Search your home and garden thoroughly, many times, day and night. Most missing cats stay very close to home and may hide during the day, so calling them at dawn and dusk may be your best option. Open every door, including cupboards.

2. Neighbourhood: Ask your neighbours to search their homes and gardens and offer to help them. Return at different times of day. Look around any vacant blocks, parks and alleyways.

3. Posters: Put up posters in your neighbourhood which include a photo of your missing pet. Offer a reward and give a telephone number where you can be contacted day or night.

4. Pounds and vets: Update your pet’s microchip to missing. Depending on your location, this may be able to be done manually by you or may need to be done by your vet or council officer. Let your local vet’s know that your pet is missing. Someone may contact them. Contact your local pound each day that they are open. Do not rely on them contacting you, even if your pet is microchipped.

5. Services and social media: Sign up to a lost pet finding service such as Lost Pet Finder or Where Pets are Found. They will link to their social media accounts which spreads the message. You should also share with your accounts. Your friends will empathise and share too. This spreads your message and ensures many pairs of eyes and ears are looking for your pet.

6. Smell: Your pet may be too frightened to come out of hiding. Walk the streets with your dog, if you have one. Their smell may linger and your lost pet may follow your or your dog’s scent home. Leave a bed, blanket or something that smells of your lost pet outside your home. Also leave some food, in case your pet returns overnight.


Reunited and it feels so good
We are lucky! Wildfire returned home. He wandered in, some 4-5 days after going missing. He was hungry but not too thin. His coat was in good condition and he had no injuries. He was very pleased to be home, rubbing against everything, scratching his scratching posts and demanding attention.

We may never know where Wildfire was. Did he wander too far and get lost? Was he trapped somewhere? Did he return to a previous, stray life for a few days? I guess we’ll never know. We’re just glad to have him home.

A message from Dr Jo
I would like to thank everyone, friends, services, neighbours, colleagues who looked, who shared, who worried and who shared our joy at Wildfire’s return. Thanks to my son for looking, trying, worrying repeatedly and who shared my relief at Wildy’s return!

Have you ever had a missing pet? Did you find them?

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