Graphic:  JCHS logo.


Grafix: JCHS Banner


rescues  •  spays/neuters  •  saves lives  •  finds homes




















Lost (& Found) Pets

If Your Animal Becomes Lost    •   Make a Poster    •   Advertise Your Animal as Lost    •   Don’t Give Up Hope     •     Found Someone Else’s Pet?    •   Be Proactive    •   Lost & Found Links

If Your Animal Becomes Lost

Photo: Tinker the cat hiding under a bed in the basement

First...calm yourself. Unless your pet was actually last seen outside, a systematic search-and-seal of your home is one of the first things that should happen. Since we know that most animals respond to the sounds of eminent dinner (can opener; kibbles hitting the food dish; etc.), go through your typical mealtime routine immediately, regardless of what time it is.

Search Your Home

The point of a search-and-seal is to thoroughly check and seal off the upper- and lowermost rooms and hallways of the building until you’ve worked your way out a ground-floor door.

Depending upon your temperament, you might want to do this by yourself (thus assuring yourself that every inch of the place has been searched) or you might want help.


Let the size of your missing pet be your guide, but remember that small animals (cats in particular) can curl up in very tiny spaces.

•  Lock all doors to the outside (so you know they will not inadvertently open). If you have a pet door, don’t lock it but secure the room it opens into so your pet will be limited to that room.

Grafix: a mouse with a flashlight

•  Get a flashlight and some masking tape and turn on all the lights in the first room you want to search.

•  Have a helper stand in the doorway leading to the rest of the house, or close that door. Beginning in the closet, check every shelf, recess, the floor, drawers, boxes, racks, etc.

•  Call your animal as you search every room and listen carefully for a response.

•  Check inside and all around the furnace; washer; dryer; refrigerator; freezer; and other appliances. Shine the light on rafters and beams.

•  Shine the light behind and under every piece of furniture. Open and shut all the drawers. Check behind books in bookcases. Look under pillows and blankets. Go through laundry baskets and hampers.

•  When you are convinced the animal isn’t in the closet, shut the door (if it doesn’t latch securely, tape it shut with masking tape) and continue searching other areas and closing them off.

•  Pay special attention to places in your house where your pet could gain access into a wall or the ceiling (e.g., extra space around pipes; holes in surfaces; venting ducts; etc.).

•  If there’s even the slightest chance that your animal could be trapped between walls or in a false ceiling, borrow a stethoscope from your veterinarian to check it out.

Photo: Brosia in the backyard porch
Photo: Fred the siamese mix in his bed asleep

•  Check inside and all around the furnace; washer; dryer; refrigerator; freezer; and other appliances. Shine the light on rafters and beams.

•  If there is an attached garage, search it and any vehicles too.

•   Make a thorough search around nearby uninhabited houses (for sale, owner on vacation, etc.) to make sure your pet isn’t trapped in a window-well, fenced-in area, shed, garage, or other areas of the property where an animal could become confined. Call out to your animal as you search.

•  Try to “think like a cat or dog, etc.” and act accordingly.

Make a Poster

Use the following prompts to make a list of physical descriptors that portray your animal.

• species

• animal’s name or nickname

• unique visual attribute(s)

•  colors (primary and secondary)

•  markings (be visually precise, if she’s a striped cat, use the word “striped” rather than tabby)

•  coat length

•  sex/reproductive status

• collar type/color

•  location (or address) last seen

•  date & time last seen

•  medical conditions alert

Photo: Lost Cat poster example

Find a photo of your animal and double check your descriptors—it’s amazing how difficult it is to describe even the best of friends when you’re not looking at them. Use this information and a photo to create a poster (or ask for one of our poster templates).

Offer a reward (don’t mention a dollar amount, right away), and list your phone number, but not your address.

If you don’t have an answering machine, make arrangements to borrow one for awhile.

Photo: Josie the striped cat

Also note

•  breed (if he’s visually true to his breed)

• size (small or medium or large) for breed

•  height/weight (approximate)

•  probable behavior toward strangers

•  size and shape and color of any ID tags

•  favorite food treat

Advertise Your Animal as Lost

•  Contact the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center (356-5295). Their website allows you to report a lost or found animal online. (Yes, pets should be licensed, but if yours isn’t, don’t let that keep you from contacting the shelter! The higher reclaim fee will be worth it if it means the safe return of your companion.)

•  Call the police or sheriff department dispatcher with a brief description.

•  Consider an animal communication consultation. We are fortunate that one of our members, Sondy Kaska, is an animal communicator. She can be reached by phone at: 319-354-7428.

To learn more about animal communication and how to schedule an appointment, download her brochure.

Sondy’s Brochure is a PDF file.
If you don’t already have Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, download it for free.
Graphic: Get Adobe Reader
Photo: Pugsley the Cat drinking from the faucet

Post copies of your poster where you think they will be easily seen by people on foot and in cars. (Remember to be a good citizen of the world and retrieve posters later.)

•  Go to stores, supermarkets, parks, laundromats, schools, churches, city kiosks, etc.

•  Take enough posters to area veterinary clinics so one can be posted in each exam room.

•  Also give posters to neighbors (and neighborhood kids, seniors, lawn-care professionals, street crews, joggers, schools, businesses); the mail carrier; the paper deliverer, etc.

Check with local radio stationssome will broadcast “lost animal” messages.

Using your list, write a brief advertisement and place a classified ad:

•  Iowa City Press-Citizen   339-7355

•  The Cedar Rapids Gazette—Iowa City Edition   339-3160

•  Solon Economist (624-2233)

•  North Liberty Leader (624-2233)

Photo: Abby the cat giving her face a cleaning
Graphic Animation:  German shepherd dog running.

If your animal became lost in a park or out in the country, consider making a two- or three-minute cassette tape using your voice calling your animal to you. A radio station may be willing to record a tape for you with good enough acoustics to be played at high volume.

•  Report your animal as lost to:

•  Missing Pets

•  A free service sponsored by the USDA Animal Care OfficeUSDA Missing Pet Network (MPN)

•  A commercial service that also offers good free adviceSherlock Bones

Don’t Give Up Hope!

•  Visit (rather than call) the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center at 3910 Napoleon Ln, Iowa City, Iowa every day to see for yourself whether your animal is there. Don’t take a chance—shelters handle many animals and the person you speak with may fail to recognize your pet from the description you provide.

•  Have friends help you scan the “found” classified ads each day in local papers.

•  Leave something that smells like your animal outside the house as a “scented signpost.”

•  Provide shelter and water if the weather is inclement (food may simply draw other animals).

•  Check around your neighborhood often, especially at dusk and dawn.

•  Follow up on every lead you get as soon as possible.

Grafix: Di I hear the can opener?
Photo: Taj the wite and grey kitten

If after a week has passed and your animal is still missing, redo your poster—change “LOST DOG” to “DOG STILL MISSING” and specify a dollar amount for the reward. Think of ways you might be able to get one of the newspapers to do a “human interest” story on your lost pet.

If you (or a close friend who knows your animal) get a sudden, inexplicable urge to alter or vary a long-held habit (e.g., take a different route on a daily walk), be intuitive and follow the urge. Countless animals have been “serendipitously found” in this manner.

You’ll reach a point when the only thing left to do is wait. Don’t despair. Concentrate on all the lost animals who have found their way back home. And remember that there really are some compassionate humans out there who will go out of their way to help an animal in need.

Once your animal has been found, don’t forget to retrieve all your posters.

If you have questions (or need some moral support), e-mail us.

Found Someone Else’s Pet?

Remember to use caution in approaching any animal you don’t know, especially if she’s injured. When in doubt, consult a veterinarian, the animal shelter, or law enforcement.

Call the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center (356-5295) any time you find (or even see) a companion animal who appears to be lost. With any luck, the owner has already called there looking for him. Even if the animal you’ve found has not been reported as missing, please get him to the Center.

Hours are weekdays—10:30am to 5:30pm and Saturdays—10am to 3pm. After-hour calls are transferred to the Iowa City Police Department, which can arrange for strays to be picked up and deposited in a safe place at the shelter.

Iowa animal sheltering facilities are required to keep animals impounded as strays for a certain number of days (including a Saturday) to allow owners time to reclaim their pets.

Yes, there is always a chance that an animal taken to a shelter may be euthanized. However, some shelters have a Red-tag Policy, whereby animals/cages are marked with red tags to indicate that someone is seriously interested in adopting the animal if the owner never shows up.

Photo: Ben the cat with turquoise eyes

Be Proactive and Keep Your Animal Safe!

Graphic: An inside cat is a safe cat

Of course animals love the was once their natural habitat. But that was then. Today there are plenty of reasons to keep pets indoors:

•  Cars and bikesmost “hit-by-vehicle” animals are killed by the trauma. An accident will be painful for your pet and expensive for you, even if it isn’t fatal.

•  Viral and parasitic diseasesheartworm, Lyme disease, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), distemper, feline leukemia (feLV), fleas, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), worms and flukes, rabies—some of these are fatal, some have preventive vaccines, and some fall into both categories! Why take a chance?

 Traps, predators, heatstroke, frostbite, etc.

•  Unethical, rude peopleunfortunately, there are some who make a living through pet theft (mostly dogs). According to the National Humane Education Society, out of 5 million family pets reported missing each year, as many as two million are stolen!

The majority of these pets end up at research laboratories because the multi-billion dollar animal research industry creates a supply and demand market for stolen dogs and cats.

Photo: Forrest, Stuart, Anabel,Skeeter, and James the cats looking out the patio door

If there are indications that your pet was stolen, call the police or sheriff.

•  Poisonsantifreeze (as little as a half teaspoon is fatal), toxic garden plants, spoiled garbage, chemically-treated lawns, street salt and chemical de-icers.

Identification Tags

Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with identification. There are “break away” collars especially designed for cats. You never know when a house guest might leave a door open!

If you travel with your pets, make sure they are wearing identification. If you and your pets plan to be away for awhile and no one will be home to answer the phone, consider getting tags made up with your vacation address.


Talk to your veterinarian about inserting a computerized microchip underneath your pet’s skin. Animal shelters, research laboratories, and other veterinarians scan “strays” for microchips, thus identifying rightful owners. This can be of indisputable help if your pet slips her collar!

Photo: Buc the cat outside
Photo: Bing the orange and ivory kitten with bright blue eyes

Other Proactive Ideas

•  Every time you leave the house (and at bedtime) check to see where your pets are.

•  Take extra precautions during thunderstorms, parties, or fireworks, when pets may become frightened by noise.

•  Be especially careful when opening/closing doors leading to the outside. Everyone in the family needs to be aware of the doors when visitors arrive and depart.

•  Make sure that repair persons know you have pets before they arrive. Confine pets to a closed-off room.

•  Have your pet spayed or neutered to reduce its tendency to wander.

•  Use a pet carrier to transport cats and small dogs (even for short trips to the veterinarian) rather than carrying them in your arms.

•  Make sure your home’s windows are securely screened.

•  Do not leave your cat or dog out in the yard alone. Unless you are there to watch over her personally, you’re inviting a thief to take her.

•  Just any old fenced yard won’t always confine your dog to your property. Dogs are adept at digging under, leaping over, and squeezing through fencing you thought was secure. A passerby could easily open a gate to let your dog out.

•  See your veterinarian and license your pets annually.

Photo: Saki, a very photogenic cat

Lost & Found Links

Graphic Animation:  Lost dog looking confused.

Outdoor Cat Controversy: is it ever ok to let them roam?understand the “indoor/outdoor” risks

Pet Rescue—lost & found pets by state

Should You Let Your Cat Roam Free Outdoors?

Last update: 07/15/19.1105pm


Contact Us at

JCHS  •  P.O. BOX 2775  •  IOWA CITY, IA  52244-2775

NOTE that we are a small group of volunteers, most of whom work during the day. We will get back to you as soon as we can.



Graphic:  Facebook logo.



Graphic: Iowa Shares logo.


Grafix: PayPal Logo