Being a pet owner doesn’t prepare you for when your pet gets lost. Unfortunately, the predictable and lovable pet you know will act very differently when lost or frightened. This may make it very hard for pet owners to reunite with their four-legged friend, even if you or the search party has gotten a glimpse of the animal. Here’s what you and the rest of your search party should know about reuniting with your lost pet if you find them.

Injured Cats

Cats the are injured or otherwise panicked will hide without moving or making a sound. They will typically not respond to their owner’s voice and may not even feel confident enough to seek out food for days. This is most commonly the response of indoor-only cats who get disoriented outside, and outdoor cats who accidentally find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

Cameras can help you spot lost cats, and humane, baited traps are also a good option.

Your Dog’s Temperament

Your dog’s behavior when lost will depend a lot on his or her temperament. Ask yourself which of these best fits your dog:

  • Gregarious: This is a dog that loves all humans they meet, even if they have never seen them before. These dogs are always wagging their tails and are highly approachable.
  • Aloof: This is a dog that may like the humans they are familiar with but isn’t too interested in the humans they don’t know. They may be very attached to one person and not as fond of pets as other dogs. However, this dog is confident, even when around strangers.
  • Fearful: Potentially through poor socialization or just very unfortunate base personality, then they may be afraid of new people and new situations.

Your Approach

Your approach should be different for each kind of dog. Once you know what temperament your dog has, you can adjust your approach or get your search party to adjust their approach to get the best reaction from your dog. Here’s how you should do it:

  • Gregarious: You may not have to approach a gregarious dog. Most likely they have already approached a person and have been taken inside. Or you may find them very close to where they were lost.
  • Aloof: Aloof dogs typically will not be picked up by someone other than the owner unless they are very hungry. They should be approached very cautiously, with food. Do not look directly at the dog and do not move toward it. Hopefully, it will come to you. Traps may work on aloof dogs.
  • Fearful: Fearful dogs are potentially the most challenging to recapture. They are unlikely to recognize their owner, even by scent, until they are calm. It is essential to have food and to focus on being as non-threatening as possible. Along with the tips for aloof dogs, you should also try lying down, making soft lips smacking noises, shaking the food container, and simply being patient.

Humane Traps

You can avoid the trouble that comes from your initial interaction with your lost pet by setting out human traps. Then you do not have to worry about how your dog or cat may react to your presence.

However, be warned that many cats will not attempt to enter a human trap for several days, sometimes even weeks. You’ll have to be patient to catch any lost pet, but cats in particular.