Home > Animal Rescue, Cats, Dog Behavior, Little Lady Lost, Lost Dogs, Missing Pets, Pet Adoption, Pet Safety, Pet Topics > An Insightful study into Lost Cats and Dogs

An Insightful study into Lost Cats and Dogs

Once you have lost a dog – for any length of time, you start to look at life with a whole new set of lenses.

  • You start to notice how many more lost dog signs there are in your community than you had ever notice before.
  • You start to pay more attention to those dogs you see wandering around unaccompanied by a human.
  • You become motivated to help others with lost pets – whether it be through support, encouragement or advice.

I have found myself doing all of these things and more since Lady was lost and found.

When someone posted this piece on Facebook recently,  What You Don’t Know About Lost Pets Can Hurt Them (by Kat Albrecht on the Maddie’s Fund website) I knew I wanted to read more. I couldn’t help but wonder if the study would mirror what I had already learned in the past seven months. It did. But it also contained some new information I had not known before.

I encourage you to read the whole study, there’s a lot of great information that can be gleaned from what Missing Pet Partnership has gathered here, but here are some of the more interesting bits of information covered in the report:

Lost Cats

Sick, Injured, and Panicked Cats Hide in Silence. They will not meow.

Displaced cats will behave differently when displaced. Their temperaments can determine how they will act.

One of the primary methods recommended to recover displaced cats is the use of digital wildlife cameras and baited humane traps.

Lost Dogs

Gregarious dogs are more likely to go to the first person who calls to them. They are also more likely to be “adopted” by their rescuer who fears the dog will be “put to sleep” if dropped off at a shelter.

Dogs that are wary of strangers are reluctant to approach them until they are able to overcome their fear enough to approach, usually when they become hungry. They are also more likely to be lost for weeks or months. People often assume they have been abused because they will “cower” in fear.

Skittish dogs are more inclined to travel farther and are at a higher risk of being hit by cars. They will also cower in fear making people think they may have been abused.

Pet Owners

Some pet owners develop “tunnel vision” and fail to find their pet because they focus on wrong theories. They assume their dog was “stolen and sold to research” when in fact their dog might have been rescued and put up for adoption through a local adoption event.

Cat caregivers are often discouraged by others who tell them “your cat was probably killed by a coyote,” when their cat may actually be hiding close by, like under a neighbor’s deck.

The study concludes with some great tips to rescuers and pet owners on how to go about finding a lost or missing pet. I have shared some of those in a previous post, but I encourage you to read some of the suggestions provided. Sometimes what works for one dog or cat doesn’t work for another. The more tools you have in your toolbox the better prepared you will be.

A few additional suggestions of my own?

  • Have a support network to help support you when you do lose a pet. Surrounding yourself with people who have experience in looking for lost dogs can make all the difference and help to keep you focused on continuing your search.
  • Share your pet’s picture, story and last known location on Facebook, Twitter and in email to friends and family. Ask them to share.
  • Call all the local shelters, rescue groups, animal control agencies and police stations so they can alert you if your pet is brought in.
  • If you find a lost pet, don’t assume they were abused or abandoned. They were most likely lost and every attempt should be made to find the owner. Stop thinking stray and start thinking “lost.”


  • Don’t EVER tell the owner of a missing pet that their dog or cat was likely eaten by a coyote. It is probably the most disheartening and discouraging things someone can say to the owner of a missing pet (I should know, I heard it several times), and it may lead someone to give up their search just when their pet needs them most. Think it if you must, but just don’t say it.
  1. June 26, 2012 at 5:14 AM

    What kinda friend tells a friend THAT about their cat? This is all great advice. Jen had a cat that got out and got lost once. She was a spayed female that was missing for 2 weeks. Jen finally found her a block away hanging out in a neighbor’s yard with their other cats.

    I know I will be thought of as bad when I say this, but I think the best thing to do for a “found” animal is take it to animal control. That also should be the FIRST place you contact when an animal is missing. That’s their job, and all this stuff about them killing your pet is fear-mongering. While I can’t say it hasn’t happened, the vast majority of animal control folks are animal lovers and are not gunning to kill your pet.

    • Mel
      June 26, 2012 at 6:50 AM

      Thanks Rumpy Dog! Clearly, Jen can validate that cats can be found close by. I also think that animal control can be a place to take an animal so the owner finds it sooner. That is actually how a few dogs were recently found. The shelter or animal control officer posted on Facebook on Lost Dogs-MN. Thanks for sharing your (ahem! Jen’s personal experience). 🙂

  2. June 26, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    I agree, Rumpy dog as I described a couple of weeks ago, the animal control guy had the chip scanner with him. Doggie’s home found in 20 minutes. But yeah, how many others will say “probably killed by a car”, sheesh. I read years ago in Dear Abby of all places, that an escaped house cat has no idea where they live, and putting out their bed, blankets, things that smell like you is all they need. When I’ve seen Lost Cat signs I have called the number and suggested this even though that may be common knowledge. My Russian Blue got into the basement without my knowing. When I started searching he was hiding, really freaked out and didn’t answer till I was looking right at him.

  3. June 26, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    When Lady was missing, some people said to you that she was probably eaten by coyotes?!?! How rude!

  4. June 27, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    The few times our cat has gotten out and not returned, the first thing I assume is that a neighbour has taken him in, thinking he was a stray. Maybe I am just an optimist? There are hundreds of stray cats in our area and I know many people take care of them. I always immediately contact Animal Services and the shelters to let them know.

    Thanks for sharing this study. It’s awful that so many people think there is no hope of ever seeing their pets again.

    • Mel
      June 28, 2012 at 1:25 PM

      I think you would be closer to the truth than you think Kristine. My friend lost her cat and it turned out he was one block over being fed by a neighbor. I also saw a story on Lost Dogs-MN on FB from a woman who had been looking for her dog everywhere and then as she was about to head out again she saw her dog looking out the window of the house across the street! No one had reported they had found the dog.

  5. June 27, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    My mother lost her cat almost eight years ago, I wish I’d had all this information available to me then. I still miss that cat. 😦

    • Mel
      June 28, 2012 at 1:22 PM

      I wish you had too Jodi. I am so sorry. 😦

  6. June 28, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Great information – we’ve found 4 Dogs in the last 2 years and luckily all of them have had the owners contact details on the tag and we’ve been able to get them home safely, I just wish all animals had the information on their collars, it would save a lot of heart ache when someone finds them 🙂

    I hope you’re having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

    • Mel
      June 29, 2012 at 8:28 PM

      Wow! Snoopy you are amazing! 4 dogs?? I wish all animals had a microchip too. Lady escaped her collar, but luckily she had a microchip. Upu are a hero!

  7. June 28, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    I found a dog in Central Park and lured her to me with a cookie. She had her tags and the owner had put her cell phone number on a tag. That was how the owner and dog were reunited.

    It was a funny thing. I almost left y cell phone home that day.. In fact I ran back to get it. I was glad I did.

    A message, put your number on the tags AND get her a microchip. Put the microchip tag along with the others.

    • Mel
      June 29, 2012 at 8:25 PM

      Wow Lynda! You were her savior! Funny how something so small as going back for a cell phone can make all the difference. Thank you for sharing!

  8. July 9, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    I am bookmarking this post. First time dog owner, I thought reading this, that I wouldn’t have the first clue how to begin if I ever lost my dog. Great post.

    • Mel
      July 9, 2012 at 10:49 PM

      So glad you found it helpful Poochie. I learned a lot when my girl went missing. If I didn’t share I would feel like I had learned nothing from what I went through. Helping others find their pets drives me more now than it ever did before. I also recommend the tips on Lost Dogs-MN. They have way more than I provided. You made my day. Thank you.

  9. September 13, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing this. #1 almost killed my cat. I had the information first night, but didn’t believe that my cat could be so close and not answer me. I scoured the neighborhood and shelters. It was -27 C the first night.
    3 days later, I taped my phone to a broom handle and videotaped under the front step believing I might find his body. I found him alive and he has recovered, but not without a lot of painkillers and antibiotics for frostbite. I try to share this with people who are missing their indoor cats. They often don’t believe me and a couple people have commented that they are closer to their pets than I must be to mine. I don’t blame them because I might have thought along the same lines, but I worry that if they don’t understand displaced cat behavior, they will not find their babies soon enough.

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