Having a pet go missing can be a serious worry for any owner. Pets are a beloved part of the family – and can even be on an equal footing with the two-legged members.
Unfortunately, two of the animals which are most likely to disappear are also two of the nation's most popular pets. Cats in particular can often have independent spirits, while dogs can also get caught up in the moment and wander off - or even be stolen.
Luckily, there are ways to guard against the problem of your pet doing a disappearing act - and actions you can take if the worst happens.
Dogs can get bored very easily, and in general prefer company to being alone. If left by themselves in the garden for too long, they can become curious and restless. It's therefore perhaps a good idea to make sure they have a selection of toys to play with, and your garden is secure – i.e. all fences and hedges are well maintained to avoid your dog wandering out onto the street. Checking on them regularly, and if possible, supervising them for at least part of the time can also help prevent your beloved pet feeling the need to wander.
Cats can be a little more prone to going missing, especially if they are an outdoor cat and have the freedom to roam unsupervised. In fact, it’s estimated that 3,200 cats go missing each week. One of the ways to try and prevent your cat from wandering too far from home, according to the Pets Bureau website, is to quickly establish a connection with home and food. Feeding your cat twice a day, at set times in the morning and evening, will help reinforce this link between coming home and being fed.
If your pet does go missing, what ways are there to help make sure you are reunited with them when found? For dogs, wearing a collar and an ID tag is a legal requirement, and even though this isn't true for cats, it is still advisable. Simple measures such as making sure the collar fits well, and can't be removed is very important, as well as ensuring all details on the tag are kept up to date and can be easily read.
However, there are also other more hi-tech ways that can help make sure both your dog or cat are easily traceable if lost and found. These include:
Microchipping is said to be a simple and safe procedure, with the chip itself being no bigger than a grain of rice. It can cost as little as £15 and can generally be carried out by your local vet. Microchips work by storing your name, address and contact details on a central database. Your details can then be accessed by your local authority, vet or animal welfare organisation, enabling you to be reunited with your pet. Of course, don't forget to contact Petlog, which manages the database, if your phone number or address changes.
We live in a world of real-time GPS tracking, and despite the fact that your pet isn't going to be pawing at a smartphone, they can be fitted with devices which will show you exactly where they are in the local area. While they have a limited range - and so are not going to be much use if your pet strays a significant distance from home - they will show with great accuracy via Google Maps where your pet is. You can also trace its journey to see what it's been getting up to while it's out and about - perfect for conclusively establishing whether it's your animal that has a penchant for the neighbours' flower bed or it’s been fed titbits by the elderly lady down the road.
If your pet has done a proper disappearing act despite all your safeguards, then you need to take action. This can be as straightforward as putting up posters in your area, or even asking your milkman or postman to keep their eyes peeled, according to the RSPCA, which suggests making contact on its 24-hour cruelty and advice line to give details of your animal. Meanwhile, you can also try contacting local vet practices and animal centres, the local authority dog warden and even the police.
Finally, some pet insurance policies may cover you for the cost of advertising for your animal's return, and for any vets' bills if you recover your pet, but find they have been injured on their travels.