Winter can be an especially scary time to have a pet go missing. With the cold and wet weather, it’s hard to imagine your pet lost and on its own. Here are some tips to help you keep your pet home and safe this winter.
Avoid Losing Your Pet
Pet personalities vary greatly. While some animals want to snooze and hibernate away the winter safe in your warm home, other can get “cabin fever” and attempt to get loose outdoors. Make sure to keep an eye on your animal at all times!
When walking outside, always keep your dog on a leash. You may think your dog listens well to voice commands off of the leash, but you never know what to expect when it sees another animal or a different interesting smell.
Use a proper leash and collar setup or harness to keep your pet from pulling away from you during outside activities. If a dog decides to chase something they can sometimes pull the leash through your hand or slip out of an ill-fitting collar. This can be even worse on winter ice and snow. Keep leashes looped on your hand and always grasp it firmly. Pay attention to your dog so if it yanks the leash, your wrist or shoulder will not be hurt and you won’t slip on ice.
If you let your dog out into a fenced-in yard, now is the time to check the fence for damage. Check gates for proper latching and the fence perimeter to make sure dogs aren’t digging under. Continue regular checks throughout the year. Make sure the fence is tall enough to keep your dog in and other animals out.
Get your pet microchipped! Microchipping is a cheap, quick, and permanent way to always be able to identify an animal. It is about the size of a grain of rice and does not hurt the animal. Animal shelters and veterinarians always check for a microchip when a stray animal is brought in. Microchips are loaded with pet information, owner’s name, and contact info so the pet can quickly be returned. Ask your vet or shelter if they offer microchipping service.
Keep a collar on your pet at all times if you are worried about it getting loose. Make sure there are identification tags on the collar including your contact information and the pet’s rabies vaccination tags. Collars are one of the first things that clue people in that an animal is a pet and not just a stray.
When You Lose Your Pet
Check with local animal shelters as soon as you know your pet is missing! Timing is key, and there is no reason to wait. Call in to give a description of your pet, where it went missing, when, and how to contact you if it is brought in. Make sure to do this with all of the local shelters. In our area that would include Cedar Rapids Animal Control (319-286-5993) and Cedar Valley Humane Society (319-362-6288). Contact your local law enforcement who are a good resource in the community and also work closely with animal control agencies. A loose pet during the winter often gathers attention from the public or law enforcement. Check back with all of these places regularly until the pet is found.
Check online groups like facebook lost and found pet pages and craigslist posts. These are usually active groups that bring you up to date with pets that local private citizens find. Make sure to post your pet, with pictures, as missing. It is also a good idea to distribute missing posters throughout the area that your pet was lost.
Cold weather and snow cover can both make it harder for an animal to use its sense of smell to find its way home. If you lose your cat, put a used litter box out on a porch for them to find their way home. A used dog bed or some of your worn clothing can help a dog sniff its way back also.
A warm spot such as a heating lamp in a garage may also draw the loose animal back home. It’s also a good idea to put water and a favorite food nearby. Always check your car before starting it if your cat is loose. They often try to get under car hoods and in engine bays to seek out the warmth. A few good knocks on the hood will often scare any snoozing kitty out of harm’s way.
After You Find Your Pet
When you find your pet, check for injuries right away. Make sure they are standing and walking without a limp. Scour through their fur to check skin for cuts or rashes. Brush through fur to find ticks. If a tick is found remove it with a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool by gripping as low as possible and pulling straight out. Pay attention when you take them out to use the bathroom to make sure everything is “normal” –you never know what they could have gotten into and eaten when they were loose, and how that could affect their digestion. Look for signs of frostbite, red or dark areas on the exposed area of the skin or a waxy feeling around ears, nose, and feet. Take your pet to a vet immediately if you find something wrong with them.