If you have lost a pet before, you will know how devastating it is not to know where they are and whether they are injured, stolen or hurt. But hundreds of pets do go missing every year. How can you make sure it's not yours?
Tag it. A collar with your phone number on it will make it easy for people who find your pet to contact you. Consider having a microchip implant done. This provides reliable identification for your pet in the event of its getting lost.
Prevent a fireworks frenzy. You know beforehand when there is likely to be fireworks in your area. Most likely days are Christmas Eve, New Year and Guy Fawkes. Make sure your pets are locked securely inside your home. Many pets go missing when fireworks go off in the area.
Fence your garden. This might not keep cats inside, but it does keep dogs inside. If the dogs cannot get out, except if they are on leashes, or going somewhere with you for a walk, they cannot get lost. Keep gates locked at all times. It is not a good idea to let your dogs roam in the neighborhood – they can be attacked by other dogs, they can be stolen or they can be run over. Also, if they bite someone, you could be held liable.
Leash dogs at all times. Many public places, like parks, require dogs to be leashed for obvious reasons. If your dog is on a leash, it cannot run away. If you are in a strange area and your dog is roaming around unleashed and gets lost, it is unlikely to find its way home on its own.
Neuter and spay your pets. One only has to look at the excitement that a bitch on heat causes in a neighborhood, to see why spaying and neutering is a good idea. Pets who have had the "op" are much less likely to roam the neighborhood looking for potential mates.
Use a cat carrier. Most cats hate the car and get quite upset when being taken to the vet. Make sure they don't bolt on arrival by carrying them in a proper cat box. Cardboard boxes can be surprisingly flimsy when facing a total onslaught of a panic-stricken cat. Ask CyberVet a question.
Get a good pet sitter. If you go on holiday, make sure that the person who looks after your pets knows them, likes them and looks after them properly. Pets can feel disorientated when you are not at home, and can get lost more easily than usual.
Form a neighbourhood watch. Make sure all you neighbours know what your pets look like. If they do go missing, neighbours will know who the pet belongs to if they find it.
Letting the bird out of the cage. Many birds get lost when they are let out of their cages and escape through windows that are not secured properly. If their wings are not clipped, it is also easier for them to escape. Hamsters and rats also find their way into drainage pipes and cupboards very easily. Before you take small animals out of their cages, make sure that there are no escape routes out of the room.
(Originally reviewed by the SPCA, Plumstead, Cape Town)
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated March 2011)
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