Missing Pet Tips

MARL is proud to provide these tips that can help guide your lost pet home. They are gathered from resources that have a very successful track record in finding lost cats and dogs. Please remember that time is of the essence, and every animal and circumstance is different. You know your pet best. Our hope is that by sharing these tips, we can help you bring your lost pet home.

If you’d like us to check and see if your lost pet is at MARL, please call our office at 248-335-9290 during business hours.

Click below to jump to specific tips for cats or dogs:

LOST CATS              LOST DOGS


Cat tips courtesy of Best Friends and Missing Animal Response Network

“Dogs run, sometimes great distances, while cats will hide. They not only hide, they do so in silence and typically stay close to home,” (Kat Albrecht, investigative pet detective).

  • If your cat slips out the door, start searching immediately. If possible, calmly follow them and keep them in sight. Many cats will instinctively hide once they are outside and overwhelmed. Use a can of wet food or treats to lure them to you or up to the front door of your house. If you think your cat may come to you, kneel down on the ground and call them gently. Never yell or make any sudden movements.
  • Search thoroughly around your property, inside as well as outside. Vary your search times, keeping in mind that cats tend to be most active late at night and early in the morning, when it’s quiet. Don’t forget to check trees!
  • Ask neighbors for permission to search their property and try to expand your search three to five houses in either direction. Make sure to look inside their garages or any other structures where a cat could get trapped.
  • Repeat your search and recheck the same spots. Cats may get spooked out of their original hiding spot and find another one in a place that you’ve looked already. If your cat is used to being outside, expand your search.
  • Post large eye-catching posters (e.g., use brightly colored paper) with your lost pet information around the immediate neighborhood. At the bottom of this page are several tips and a template for lost pet posters. Although the information comes from a dog-search group, it is applicable to cats as well.
  • Post your lost pet information on social media sites like Facebook (especially the page For the Love of Louie), Nextdoor.com, and PetAmberAlert.com.
  • Set humane traps in spots where you can check them frequently; shelters will often rent these traps to the public. You can also use your house or garage as a trap by leaving doors open.
  • Check all the shelters that serve your area, not just the one nearest to your home. (Make sure your cat has a microchip or wears a collar and ID tag, so you can be reunited easily if he or she ends up in a shelter)
  • Don’t get discouraged if your cat doesn’t turn up immediately. Many cats are found a few weeks or even months after being lost. In rarer cases, they have been found years later.
  • If you did not watch your cat run out the door, comb through every inch of the inside of your house. Cats have been known to “disappear” for weeks, only to be trapped in an unusual hiding spot right under your nose. Kat says, “Check areas where you think the cat couldn’t possibly be, like inside cupboards, under mattresses and behind dressers. Check, then check again, because cats may change their hiding spots over time.”
  • In a recent study, 75% of lost cats were found within 500 meters (about a third of a mile) of their point of escape. Even cats lost outside are consistently found hiding under the porch on their own property or hidden somewhere close by, within just three to five houses of their escape point. 18% were hiding directly outside an entrance to their home.
  • 2AM is a great time to (carefully) search – your cat is most likely to hear you, and you hear them. Call their name, open a can of food, and shake their favorite treats! You can even record these sounds and play them over, but don’t forget the value of the smell of real food and treats.
  • Indoor cats tend to stay closer to home, while cats familiar with the outdoors may roam farther. A good rule of thumb for indoor-outdoor cats is to concentrate your search on a 1-mile radius around your home.
  • It is critical to conduct an active, physical search. Walk through the entire area around where your cat went missing. Crawl through bushes, check any hiding spots you can find, and ask your neighbors to be on the constant lookout and check under their porches and cars. More cats are found alive through active searches rather than only using passive methods like posting signs and making calls.
  • Do not call off your search too early or assume it’s useless to search at all. “Use every possible search method immediately when a cat is lost,” Kat says, “including conducting a thorough physical search, distributing flyers and putting out humane traps. Go over the same ground multiple times and at multiple times of day.” And don’t discount the human factor, because cats do get picked up and taken to the shelter. They can also assimilate into a nearby cat colony, so get to know the people in the neighborhood who feed outdoor cats in case they spot a new arrival.


  • Immediately search your area thoroughly. Inside and outside. Double check closets, basements, favorite hiding spaces, etc. Are there holes, gully’s, garages, sheds, etc., where your dog could be hiding? Advise all close neighbors your dog is missing, they can help by keeping eyes open and spreading the word throughout the area.
  • Put out food, water and your dog’s bed/blanket. Put out articles of your (or, the person with the most contact with the dog) clothing with scent on it. Dirty clothing, not freshly laundered. Hang it from a nearby tree/clothes line/off the back of a deck or porch. The idea is to get all familiar scents out and let the breeze take the scent. If a dog is confused, scent can help lead them back.
  • Always have your dog’s favorite “treats” with you, in case of sighting, to help lure him/her back to you.
  • Advise everyone you are in contact with not to “chase” the dog. If your dog is friendly and will respond to a gentle voice and calm actions, advise everyone of that. If not, advise to call the contact number immediately on a sighting and do not chase. It’s helpful if they can keep your dog in sight, until you arrive.
  • Post your dog on FLOL (For the Love of Louie) on Facebook and Craigslist. Contact local law enforcement, veterinarians (Your dog’s vet AND all local vets). Contact your county’s Animal Control. You will need to register your lost dog with your local Animal Control. If you are on the border of a county, register your dog at all that are near you. To register, a few AC’s have the ability for you to register online. If your AC does not offer this service, you will need to go to the AC to register your lost dog in person. Be sure to take pictures and/or a flyer with all of your dog’s specific information.
  • If your dog is microchipped, contact the microchip company. Be sure all information on file with them is accurate. Phone numbers and addresses must be current. If your dog has a collar and tags, make note of it (include color) on all flyers, posters and in social media postings.
  • If your dog was recently adopted from a shelter or a rescue, contact them immediately and advise them the dog is lost. Provide all details. Sometimes, they will have contacts in your area that can help.
  • Make flyers and posters. Large “posters” using ½ sheet of large, bright color poster board work best. Be sure they are posted at intersections and in the area where your dog was lost, post in a 2-4 mile radius. Posters help spread the word quickly, if your dog has traveled a short distance. Flyer your neighbors and neighborhoods in close proximity. Flyers cannot legally be placed inside mailboxes. Fold and place them under the red flag on the right side of the mailbox.
  • Recruit family and friends to help distribute flyers, put up posters, and search. Passing out flyers is a big task and needs to be done quickly. Assign areas & keep a record of where flyers and posters are posted. More hands involved on this task, all the better!
  • Deliver flyers to the post office, local law enforcement, veterinarians, schools (for bus drivers and for the school to share on their FB page/website, if they’re willing), gas stations, and local businesses. “Delivery” type businesses that have drivers (pizza, fast food delivery, etc.) are especially helpful and will be eyes on the road and in the neighborhood. All of these extra eyes can keep a look out for a lost dog and be an incredible help!

Now that you’ve done a great job “spreading the word” …… a few more tips:

  • Continue to search the area your dog was lost in, while waiting for sighting calls to start coming in, from your flyers and posters.
  • Visit your local Animal Control DAILY. Take a flyer with you every time and leave one, every time. Do a thorough walk through DAILY. Animal Control is a very busy place, it’s best to check for your dog in person with a walk through and not via phone.
  • Be prepared to respond to all calls immediately. Keep your phone battery charged. Have paper and pen ready at all times. You will want to record sightings in order of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. to help determine the direction or area the dog is heading in, if on the move.
  • If you have the phone technology, pull up Google maps of the area and start putting pins at the location of each sighting. This will help develop the pup’s travel pattern. If/when you receive calls, get as much information as possible:
    • Exact location of sighting, time of sighting.
    • Roads and a street address, if possible, is critical.
    • Direction the dog was heading in.
    • The caller’s name and phone number.
  • Have callers describe the dog completely, to determine if this is your dog. If the caller can get a picture and text it to you, even better.
  • Ask if the dog appeared to be injured or struggling in any way. Specifics such as limping on front/back, right/left paw, will possibly help with sighting calls later on, either to include or exclude them as probable sightings.
  • If you are able to confirm the sighting: The time of sighting is critical. If immediate and it is a confirmed sighting, be sure to respond to the area immediately. Your familiar voice, scent and actions are critical. If much time has passed between the sighting and the caller contacting you, advise them to keep eyes open and to help spread the word.
  • If that area does not yet have flyers or posters, they will be needed.
  • Post updates on Facebook & For the Love of Louie on confirmed sightings. This will help others to keep current on locations of sightings and spreading the word.


Sometimes your dog may not respond to you right away, possibly thinking they’re in trouble, or if they’ve been lost a few days, they may be frightened and in survival mode. Try gently coaxing in your normal voice, using familiar calling words and tones. If your dog does not come to you, but also does not run away… try the following:

  • Stand still or crouch down to the ground or sit down on the ground.
  • Do not yell or get excited. Gently call your dog. If your dog seems frightened, do not make direct eye contact by turning your head slightly downward, but try to keep a visual on your dog.
  • Gently offer treats, hot dogs, whatever food motivates your dog. Foods with a strong smell, such as fried chicken or canned meat (be sure there are no bones that the dog can choke on. Boneless chicken or pieces torn off that are “bite size” are best), can help lure the dog in. If necessary, gently toss them out in your dog’s direction, to draw them in. Pretend you are eating, without direct eye contact. If your dog is hungry, they may show interest.
  • If your dog tries to engage in gentle play, participate, but do not make a running game.
  • If your dog runs away, do not chase. They may run a few hundred feet, but will most likely try to keep you in their sight.
  • Sometimes, if you start walking away, your dog may follow. Try to keep a visual on your dog at all times.
  • Of course, all of this depends on your personal relationship with your dog. You know their behavior best.

These are tips that have been used in the past with some success and with both familiar and unfamiliar dogs.

If your dog does not respond to you, don’t give up, it may take several tries to get your dog to come to you.

If you have multiple sightings and your dog is staying close to one area, but you cannot get them to come to you, it may require different steps, such as a live trap situation. That is a more involved step that requires conversation on how to handle. Please feel free to call the MARL front office at (248) 335-9290 and we will be happy to help you figure out options.

Once your dog is found, be sure to update all social media sites, law enforcement, schools, vets offices, businesses, etc. that were given flyers. They appreciate knowing your dog has been found.

All posters will need to be removed as well. This is why it is important to keep a “map” or log of locations for posters. Makes for easier removal!


Download a printable template

Distributing flyers and posting posters quickly after your dog is missing are 2 of the most effective things you can do to help bring your lost dog back home. Below you’ll find a few tips we hope will help you to create and place effective posters.

  • Find a color picture of your dog. Be sure it’s clear and shows them in a way that would help someone quickly recognize your dog. We recommend avoiding having anything or anyone, other than your dog, in the picture. An example: It’s best NOT to have children’s faces or your home address in the picture. If needed, crop your picture to include your dog’s pic only. Make one 8×11 color copy of your dog’s picture, for each poster you will be making.
  • Purchase/gather the following supplies. All will be needed to make and post an effective poster:
    • Large bright/dayglo color poster boards. At least 22”x28” size. This will allow you to fold and cut them in half. If you want to make 20 posters, purchase 10 large poster boards.
    • Clear mailing tape.
    • Clear 8×11 “sleeves” or sheet protectors
    • Black PERMANENT marker (Only permanent marker)
    • Staple gun and Staples
    • Heavy Duty Silver Duct tape
    • Scissors
  • Fold and cut each poster board in ½.
  • Write “LOST DOG” in large print at the top of each poster board.
  • Place the picture of your dog in the sleeve/sheet protector. Place the picture directly under the “Lost Dog” wording with the sleeve/sheet protector opening facing down & at the bottom of the picture. The reason for this is that if it rains, the sleeve/sheet protector will not fill with water, protecting your picture. Using the clear heavy duty mailing tape, tape all 4 sides to seal it to the poster board.
  • Write “Do Not Chase”, below your dog’s picture.
  • In large print write your contact phone number (include area code) under your dog’s name. Best to have 2 contact phone numbers that will accept calls on sightings 24/7.
  • Seal all sides of the poster board with clear mailing tape. This will help to extend the life of your poster in rain or snow.

Now that you have created an effective poster to help spread the word on your missing dog, it’s time to start posting and getting the word out. Flyer distribution and posting posters quickly is critical. Be sure to recruit the help of family & friends to help, all extra hands are a tremendous help!

  • Put a sign in your front yard so it can be seen easily by passers-by.
  • Print a map of the area where your dog went missing that covers a 2-4 mile radius. Secure poster signs at all intersections within the 2-4 mile radius.
  • If there is a wood telephone or electrical pole at the intersection, using caution, secure the poster (at eye level for a vehicle driver passing by) with a staple gun.
  • Staple all corners and additional staples through the poster, to be sure it stays secure, in windy conditions. If there are only metal poles at intersections, secure to the pole (again, at vehicle driver eye level. Tip: Posters placed at eye level and at stop signs and/or stop lights get most visibility as drivers/passengers wait for the light to change.
  • Record location of each poster put in place. After your dog is found, you will want to remove the posters.
  • After each sighting, if no posters are in the area of the reported sighting, be sure more posters are put up to help spread the word in that area. This will increase the possibility of more sightings.
  • Last, but not least, before posting any posters on private property, be sure to secure permission from the property owner. Review city & county guidelines on signing ordinances before posting posters.
  • If for any reason, there are ordinances that prevent you from posting on public City/Village/Township property, you can try knocking on doors and asking private citizens if they would be willing to post on their private property.

You could then post on yard signs (much like garage sale signing or political yard signs) or on their fence. Some private citizens have allowed posting on trees in their front yard.

Metal frames and wood stakes for this purpose can generally be purchased at your local hardware store. Always use bright color poster board for your sign and write clearly enough for all to be seen from passers-by.

The goal is to spread the word far and wide in the area your dog was lost and last sighted. Getting calls for a “sighting” is a major step in bringing your dog home.

You can reach MARL’s front office at (248) 335-9290 between the hours of 12-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays. We’d be happy to check if your pet is here!

We hope these tips will help bring your pet home quickly and safely.



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