a group of dogs sitting next to each other.
30% Off
for New Dog
Boarding Clients!
Valid thru 9/30/23. *not applicable during major holidays
Binoculars are optional.

What to Do When Your Pet Runs Away

Don’t Panic

If your cat or dog got out of your house or yard, don’t panic. There are many resources and techniques available to help you reunite with your cat or dog, but it’s important to take action quickly. Cats and dogs can wander quite far and may do things you wouldn’t predict. Here are the steps you can take to find your lost pet.

Search the Area

As soon as you notice your cat or dog ran away, head out on foot or in a car and search the surrounding areas. The longer you wait, the larger the perimeter you will need to search. While it’s important to get out and search for your pet, make sure someone is available to wait by the phone if your pet’s collar tag lists your phone number.

Before you head out, bring some bait with you. This works best if your dog got out as many will respond when they hear you shaking a treat box or squeaking their favorite toy. Always use a calm, happy tone when you call out to your pet. If you sound angry or upset, they may hide.

Binoculars are optional.

Contact Animal Control and Local Shelters

If your dog or cat got out and you don’t find them quickly, there’s a good chance they will be picked up by animal control or a shelter and kept safe until you can be reunited. It’s a good idea to file lost pet reports with every shelter within 60 miles of your home. Every day, visit the shelters closest to your home to see if your pet has been picked up.

If there are no shelters nearby, contact your local police department and provide a description of your missing pet and contact information.

The following are important resources to contact for a missing pet in San Diego County:

  • San Diego Humane Society — 619-299-7012
  • Rancho Coastal Humane Society — 760-753-6413
  • San Diego Animal Services — 619-767-2675 for North Shelter (Carlsbad), South Shelter (Bonita), and Central Shelter (San Diego)
  • El Cajon Animal Control — 619-441-1580
  • Helen Woodward Animal Shelter — 858-756-4117
  • The Barking Lot — 619-354-4825
call shelters
Leave your name and phone number in case your pet turns up.

Create Missing Pet Fliers

If your dog or cat got out, create fliers to post around the neighborhood, especially around pet stores, local vet clinics, coffee shops, Craigslist’s Lost and Found section, and local newspapers. Make sure the flier has current contact information, a recent photo of your pet, and a description.

Don’t forget to use social media platforms like Facebook to get the word out. This will also help neighbors and friends in the area have a visual reminder of what your pet looks like.

Check Finding Rover

Finding Rover is an app that uses facial recognition to reunite owners with lost dogs. If your dog has been admitted to a participating shelter, their photo will be stored in the database. When you post a photo of your lost dog, the app will scan its database and find possible matches.

Search for a Missing Cat at Night

Cats are nocturnal. If your cat ran away or your indoor cat got outside, there are certain hours when they are most likely to be active and nearby. Cats will hide during the day and walk around the neighborhood during the night (usually past midnight) and into the early morning. Use a flashlight to search up and down your street, watching for eyes reflecting the light. Unlike dogs, which may travel miles from their home, cats tend to stay nearby, even indoor cats.

Most people report that their cats return between 8 pm and 2 am or 4 am to 7 am. You may want to have a family member sleep somewhere they will hear meowing or scratching outside. You can even set up a baby monitor near the food to pick up sounds at night.

cat in dark
Hello… Is it meow you’re looking for?

Use Tricks to Lure a Cat Home

Because cats tend to stay close to home, but may be too skittish to come close once they get out, there are a few tricks you can use to get your cat to approach the home. One of the best options is scattering the cat’s used litter outside in a perimeter around your home. This helps your cat catch their own scent and may encourage them to come back. You can also heat fragrant, enticing food like tuna and leave it near your front or back door.

Use a Humane Trap

While this option is unlikely to work with a dog, cats tend to stay nearby and may be lured into a humane trap overnight. Most animal shelters allow you to rent a humane trap that you can set up in your yard or nearby wooded areas. The trap will not harm your cat and it will keep your pet safe from predators once captured.

Losing your pet can be devastating, but fast action and spreading the word has a high chance of success. Stay as calm as possible, contact local shelters and the Humane Society daily, and continue searching your neighborhood to increase the chances of a happy reunion.

cat in cage
Release me, human.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute veterinary advice. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information presented, it should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary guidance. Always consult a qualified veterinarian for specific advice tailored to your pet’s individual needs and health condition.

a group of dogs sitting next to each other.

20% Off
for New
Boarding Clients!
*not applicable during major holidays

a blue rectangle with a blue background.

Petcare articles

view all articles
A group of dogs and cats on a pink background.
August 31, 2023

The Benefits of Pet Socialization: A Guide to Safe and Effective Practices

Introduction Pet Socialization is an often overlooked yet essential part of pet ownership. No matter what age you got your pet, it’s important to teach them to learn to get along with other animals and people. Let’s explore the value…

A boston terrier dog yawning.
August 31, 2023

Understanding Pet Body Language: A Guide to Reading Your Canine Friend

Introduction Every day, without saying a word, our pets tell us what they’re thinking and feeling through their body language. Animals, like people, have their own distinct ways of communicating feelings, wants, and even danger. Understanding these nonverbal signs is…

dogs running on a grassland surrounded by fence
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
July 18, 2023

10 Essential Tips for Choosing the Right Dog Boarding Facility

When it comes to finding the right dog boarding facility, it’s essential to select one that ensures the well-being and happiness of your furry friend. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to make the best choice. However,…

a dog is petting a person's hand.
July 18, 2023

​​Making the Separation Easier: Pre-Boarding Tips for Dog Owners

Preparing your dog for a boarding stay is of utmost importance to ensure their well-being and reduce separation anxiety. Dogs are social creatures that thrive on routine and familiarity, so being separated from their owners can be stressful. However, with…

a dog eating out of a bowl with a frog on it.
July 18, 2023

What to Pack for Your Dog’s Boarding Stay: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to your furry friend’s boarding stay, thorough preparation is key to ensuring their comfort, safety, and well-being. Just like when you’re packing for your own trip, having a comprehensive packing list specifically tailored to your dog’s needs…

Gray Tabby cat in cat boarding house
July 1, 2023

Meow-tastic Escapes: Exploring the Benefits of Cat Boarding

We’ve all been there, right? Picture this: The palm trees are swaying in the images of the sun-soaked beach on your screen, beckoning you towards that much-needed vacation. But just as you’re about to click “book,” a set of gleaming…

a woman putting a towel on a cat.
July 1, 2023

Summer Bathing Guide: Keeping Your Cat Fresh and Clean in the Heat

As summer rolls in, a familiar scene unfolds for many cat owners. Amidst the swaying backyard foliage bathed in the golden sunlight, you spot your cat, gracefully stretched out, basking in the warm glow. Their fur, a magnificent coat that…

a group of dogs being walked on a leash.
June 5, 2023

Good Dog Etiquette for Happy Outings in Public

Good dog etiquette? It’s all about how we, as dog owners, make sure our furry friends behave nicely, especially when they’re around other folks or animals. We’re talking about things like keeping our dogs under control, making sure they’re not…

a dog running through the water with a tennis ball in its mouth.
June 5, 2023

Summer Fun with Your Dog: Beat the Heat and Keep Your Pup Happy

The season of sunshine, beach days, and ice cream cones has arrived, and what better way to enjoy it than with your beloved canine companion by your side? Let’s unleash the summer vibes and venture on a tail-wagging adventure! We’re…

a group of dogs standing next to each other.
June 2, 2023

Pawsitively Happy and Healthy Expert Care Tips for Your Canine Companion

Welcome, dog lovers, to a tail-wagging adventure filled with tips and tricks to keep your four-legged buddies pawsitively happy and healthy! We all know that our canine companions bring boundless joy to our lives, so it’s only fair that we…

a group of dogs standing next to each other.
May 16, 2023

Why Daycare Socialization is Pawsitively Good for Dogs

As a pet owner, you want nothing but the best for your furry friend. One of the ways to ensure that your dog lives a healthy and happy life is to provide them with opportunities for socialization. Daycare socialization for…

a dog is being examined by a veterinator.
May 2, 2023

Identifying And Alleviating Your Dog’s Seasonal Allergies

Common Allergies Affecting Dogs In Spring As the world comes back to life after winter’s slumber, there are a few pesky allergens lurking around that can make our dogs lives a little less enjoyable. Let’s dive into some of the…

Have a

Get a response within 24 hours

50% Off For New Special Clients!

Request Your Boarding Dates

20% Off For New Boarding Clients!

Request Your Boarding Dates