What to do if you’ve lost a pet

If your pet is missing follow the steps below:

  1. Check potential hiding places around your house: such as underneath the sofa or in wardrobes.
  2. Check the local area and ask neighbours: take treats with you and make the same noises as when you give them a treat at home (for example shaking the treat bag). Ask your neighbours to check their garden, garage, sheds and greenhouses. If you’ve recently moved home and your old house is nearby, pop over to make sure your pet hasn’t gone back.
  3. Call local vets and rescue centres: Even if your pet hasn’t been handed in, give them your number so they can call you if they are.
  4. Call your pet’s microchip database: If your pet has a microchip, report them missing to your microchip company and make sure all details, such as your phone number and email address, are up to date. This will help you get reunited quickly if your pet is found. Read more about microchipping.
  5. Notify your local dog warden if you’ve lost your dog.
  6. Missing pet websites and social media: There are lots of websites designed to help reunite pets and owners. You may want to add your pet to one of these sites for example Animal Search UK to help raise awareness.
  7. Check local social media groups: Check local ‘lost and found pets’ social media groups and create a post for your pet. If it’s your cat that’s gone missing, encourage people to check their sheds and garages. Be prepared to take proof of ownership to anyone who has found your pet.
  8. Consider contacting a missing pet service: There are private companies that can help you try and locate your pet using various methods including scent markers and drones.
  9. Posters and flyers: Put up posters and hand out flyers in the local area. Some pet insurance policies will even contribute towards poster printing costs.
  10. Let people know once you’ve found them: Once you’ve found your pet, take posters down and update your social media posts, as well as telling your microchip company, insurance company and any other relevant people.

What to do if your pet is stolen

If you think your pet may have been stolen, you need to follow the same steps as if they had gone missing (above), but also notify the police.

What to do if you have found a pet

What to do if you’ve found a stray/lost dog

An injured dog

  • Only approach them if they appear calm.
  • Give any necessary first aid, keep them as still and warm as possible, then transport them to the nearest vet (always call ahead). All vets will provide emergency care to a pet or wildlife in need. Read more about moving an injured pet.
  • Contact your local dog warden to inform them about the dog.

The dog is unapproachable

  • If the dog is showing any sort of aggressive behaviour, stay away and contact your local dog warden.

The dog seems friendly and uninjured

  • If the dog is wearing a collar with a number on it, try to get in touch with the owner.
  • If they have no identification or you can’t reach the owner, contact your local dog warden, they will scan the dog for a microchip, and do their best to reunite them with their owner.
  • Vet practices, rescue centres and grooming parlours may also have the ability to scan for a microchip, but are unlikely to be able to take the dog in to their care (except in certain emergency circumstances).
  • Posting on local ‘lost and found’ social media groups can be extremely effective at reuniting pets with their owners. However, these groups should be used with care, and it’s important to ask for proof of ownership from anyone claiming to be a lost pet’s owner.

What to do if you’ve found a cat

Injured or unwell cat

  • Give any necessary first aid, keep them still, warm, and put them in a pet carrier (or box with plenty of air holes). Read more about moving an injured pet.
  • Call the RSPCA – they will give advice on what to do next which is likely to include taking them to the nearest vet (always phone ahead). All vets will provide emergency care to a pet or wildlife in need.

Uninjured/healthy cat

  • Cats often choose to wander quite far away from home so it’s important to be absolutely sure that a cat is a stray before taking it to a vet, rehoming centre, or taking it in yourself.
  • If the cat appears healthy and well-groomed, it’s likely to have a home. In this scenario, it’s fine to give the cat a stroke and some love, but don’t feed them or encourage them into your home.
  • If you are concerned the cat doesn’t have an owner, try putting a paper collar on it with your phone number asking the owner to contact you. If you don’t get a response follow the next steps.
    1. Ask your neighbours if they recognise the cat.
    2. Put up ‘found’ posters in your local area - there may well be someone frantically searching for their much-loved pet.
    3. Call around your local vets – many keep a lost and found list for their area.
    4. Post an alert on any local social media groups.
    5. If the cat has no identification, take them to your local vet to be scanned for a microchip - this service is free of charge.
    6. If the cat is unapproachable, or you can’t transport them, contact Cats Protection, RSPCA, or a local rescue centre.

Helping your pet readjust to home life

A grey and white cat sat on their owner’s lap.

Give them time and space

  • Spend time with your pet, but don’t crowd them - give them their own space and wait for them to come to you.
  • This is especially important if your pet has been missing for a number of months or years – you'll both need some time to readjust.

Get them vet checked

  • Unless your pet returns quickly, and seems completely normal in themselves, it’s important to have them checked by a vet when they return so they can get any treatment they might need (including any necessary wormers and flea treatments).

Limit visitors for a few days

  • Limit visitors when your pet first returns home as being reunited with lots of people at once can be overwhelming.

Find a routine

  • Pets love routine. The sooner you can get into a regular routine with feeding and regular walks, the better.

Keep cats indoors

  • Even if your cat usually has free reign of the outdoors, keep them inside for a couple of weeks so they can familiarise themselves with being home again – but only if they can cope with it. If they’ve been lost for a long time, or if you’ve moved since losing them, this might need to be for longer, but it’s best to speak to your vet or vet nurse if you’re not sure. Some cats will tolerate being indoors for longer than others.
  • Start by giving them one room with access to everything they need (food, water litter trays, and toys/climbing frame/scratch post if possible) and gradually build up to giving them the run of the house once they're settled in.
  • When you let your cat outside again, use their feeding routine to your advantage – by letting them out shortly before dinnertime, they are less likely to roam too far as they’ll usually hang around for food.


  • Even if your cat or dog was well-trained before they went missing, you might find they need a bit of extra training on their return.
  • Be patient with them if they’ve forgotten some commands, or have accidents in the house. You’ll just need to brush up on their training.
  • Read about reward-based trainingtoilet training dogs and litter training cats.
  • Contact a certified behaviourist if you need some extra help.

Preventing pet loss and theft

A cream-coloured dog sat next to a man in a field

Here are our top tips to prevent your pet from getting lost:


  • Microchip your pets and keep your details up-to-date.


  • Alongside all the other health benefits of neutering, it also reduces the risk your pet will wander off in seek of a mate. They are also less likely to fight with other animals and get injured.

Secure your garden

Bad weather and fireworks

Recall training

  • It’s important to make sure your dog will reliably come back to you before letting them off the lead. Read more about reward based training.
  • It’s also sensible to keep your dog on a lead when walking them in unfamiliar areas.
An infographic titled “Preventing Loss of a Pet” – with details steps on how to prevent your pet going missing


Will my pet still recognise me?

Dogs have great memories, and studies have shown they can clearly recognise their owner’s face and scent, so chances are they’ll still recognise you even if they have been missing for years.


Should I offer a reward for my lost pet?

You shouldn’t have to incentivise people to look for your lost pet with money or rewards. Posting a reward may encourage untrained people, only interested in financial gain, to get involved in looking for lost pets and may lead to unfortunate situations such as putting themselves or your pet in danger.

Can you call the police for lost pets?

No, only contact the police if you believe your pet has been stolen.