Pet Connection: Websites and the 5 + 55 rule help you find a lost pet

My stepmother called me in a panic. She had left the sliding door open in the guest room so a visiting cat could get some fresh air, and the cat clawed a hole in the screen and disappeared. Anyone who has lost a pet, including me, knows that boulder-in-the-stomach feeling.

One of our cats got out of the house when we had workmen there, and our cavalier Darcy also made an unauthorized excursion. Fortunately, both came back on their own (the cat after three days, and Darcy after a couple of hours), but not without frantic searching on our parts.

If your pet has gone AWOL, don’t wait around hoping for a “Lassie” return. The quicker you take action, the better your chances of finding your pet. Here’s what to do. As soon as you discover your pet is missing, put up large fluorescent-colored posters big enough that people driving by can see and read them. Use what missing-pet expert Kat Albrecht calls the 5 + 55 rule: five words that people driving by at 55 miles per hour can read.


“Those are five words that a passerby driving on a major road can interpret, visualize, remember and convey to others,” Albrecht says.

Check the website for information on making an effective poster and flier. Other online resources include Fido Finder (, K9 Alert (,, Missing Pet Network (,, The Center for Lost Pets ( and Pet FBI ( Go door to door and let neighbors know that your pet is missing.

Bring a photo so they’ll know what your pet looks like. If you live in a guard-gated association, notify security staff so they can keep an eye out for your pet as they make their rounds. The mail carrier is another person who travels through your neighborhood daily and can watch for your pet. Check the shelter right away. If there is more than one shelter in your area, check all of them – more than once.

Leave a description of your pet and your contact information. Search your yard and the surrounding area thoroughly. Cats, in particular, may hide underneath shrubbery or decks, or squeeze into spaces where you think they can’t possibly fit. Dogs may simply be shut up inside a shed, garage or closet, waiting patiently to be released. Ask neighbors for permission to search their yards as well. Leave out food and water to encourage your pet to return. The familiar smell – and hunger – may draw him out of hiding.

Pets are highly attuned to sound. Walk around the neighborhood calling them. Stand in the yard and make sounds associated with mealtime, such as shaking a food bag or running the electric can opener. Use social media to spread the word. Your neighborhood or city may have a website or Facebook page where you can post the information.

Accidents happen. You can never guarantee that your dog or cat won’t become lost, but you can take easy, inexpensive steps to increase the likelihood that he’ll come home safely. Microchip him. License him (cats, too). Keep a collar with an up-to-date ID tag on him. Register him with a microchip registration company and keep your address and phone number updated. Keep a good, up-to-date, full-body color photo on hand for use on fliers.

My stepmother’s lost cat? As my stepniece stood out on the deck at twilight calling for her a few days later, Miss Kitty came flying across the lawn and back into her arms.

The buzz

A group of six San Diego veterinarians traveled to Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, earlier this month to perform dental work on 32 dogs, 32 cats, one potbellied pig and one rabbit. Their goal? To help improve the pets’ adoptability. “It is unrealistic for most potential adopters to take on a large health care investment when adopting a new pet,” says board-certified dental specialist Brook A. Niemiec, DVM. “This makes shelter or sanctuary animals with dental disease significantly less adoptable, which means that these pets tend to have long shelter stays or require placement with rescue groups vs. an adoptive family.”

What’ll they think of next? Cool pet products introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show include a smartphone for dogs, a smart feeder and a camera that lets owners communicate with pets. The Scout 500 Collar allows you to keep tabs on your dog with live video streaming, send voice commands and check his location with GPS tracking. The Petnet(io) feeder tailors portion sizes to a pet’s age, weight and activity level, and automatically dispenses it. And with a PetCube Camera, you can watch and talk to your pet remotely via smartphone. Me? I’m still waiting for a robot that will brush the dogs’ teeth.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Dr. Becker can also be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.