Girl posting a sign offering a reward for a large lost white dog

Pets are like little four-legged escape artists. One minute they appear contained in the garden, the next they’ve slipped through a tiny gap in the gate in hot pursuit of a squirrel. They’re out of sight before you get a chance to call its name.

Let’s not even get started on cats, who can often disappear for days without the decency of letting you know where they’re going.

With thousands of cats and dogs lost in the UK every year, it’s a good idea to follow our top tips to stop your pets from getting lost.

Tag your pet

Make sure your pet has an up-to-date ID tag on its collar. Use a telephone number that you can be easily reached on, and make sure the collar is a good fit and won’t slip off.

Ginger cat being microchipped at the vet

Ginger cat being microchipped at the vet

Microchips are a must

A collar and tag could be removed or fall off, but a small microchip placed under the pet’s skin is permanent. When the microchip is scanned your contact information will be flagged on a national database, such as Petlog. In order to ensure a lost pet can be returned, keep you contact information up to date.

Petlog goes a step further with its Bauwow app, giving pet owners the ability to register their pet as lost, notify friends and send a lost pet alert to vets in a 30-mile radius (for a one off fee).

Moving home

Moving house with a pet increases the likelihood of them getting lost. Keep cats and rabbits in suitable boxes or carriers, and ensure they’re warm enough with plenty of food and water. Then put them somewhere safe and quiet while you finish packing.

At the new house, it’s a good idea to keep your cat inside for a few days, so they can familiarise themselves with their new surroundings. You can then go with them to explore the garden.

Dogs do best in a quiet room with the door closed. Give them water, familiar bedding and toys to help them settle in. Check the fence is too high for them to jump over, and look for gaps in fences or walls before you allow them out and about in the new garden.

Travelling in the car

Cats: Boxes are ideal — especially if partly covered with a blanket to calm them down.

Dogs: Should be correctly restrained in the back of the car, or in a travel cage.

Take extra care when leaving the car, ensuring pets are secured at the time of opening a door. It would only take a few seconds for a cat or dog to scarper out of a car door.

Check your fence is too high for your dog to jump over and look for gaps in fences or walls before you allow them out and about in the new garden

Beagle being taken for a walk in the woods

Beagle being taken for a walk in the woods

Going for a walk

Can you trust your dog off the lead? If you’re not confident they’ll come back to you, try walking them on an extendable or flexible lead instead. These keep the tension tight at all times and allow you to lock your preferred length. Even the most well-trained dog could be spooked into running off when out walking without a lead.

If you really want to let them have a run, find a safe and enclosed field and then practice some recall training. A pocket full of treats normally brings them running back to you without much persuasion.

Insurance

Make sure your pet insurance provider includes cover for the loss of your pet in their policy – this can help pay towards advertising costs (producing ‘Missing’ posters, for example) and a reward.

If you take these preventative measures, your pet will have fewer opportunities to go missing — and if they do wander off, you stand a better chance of being reunited.