Reuniting Lost Pets With Their Families

Last week's column mentioned ways to keep pets safe over New Year's and other holidays involving fireworks. However, pets can become lost despite our best efforts, especially during holiday festivities. This week's column will focus on helping to reunite lost pets with their people.

First Steps After Finding a Lost Pet

If you find a lost pet in your neighborhood, the steps to follow will depend on whether the pet is confident or skittish. If the pet is friendly, place the pet safely indoors or in an enclosed space with adequate shelter. If you have pets in the home, it's advisable to keep them separate from the found animal due to not knowing the pet's vaccination status, if they're friendly with other animals, and other unknown factors. Next, set up a time with a local vet office or shelter to have the pet scanned for a microchip.

If the pet is skittish, it's crucial to exercise caution and use a trap if needed. A frightened and disoriented pet may bite if a person sneaks up on them or grabs them. Alabama law requires that if a pet bites or scratches and draws blood, the pet either undergo a 10-day rabies quarantine, which is very expensive for the pet owner, or be euthanized. Also, cats and larger dogs can easily outrun humans, and attempts to chase them may drive them further away from home.

In cats, another consideration is whether they are genuinely lost, or rather, feral. A cat that is brand new in your neighborhood, especially after New Year's Eve, is likely to be a lost pet even if skittish, especially if they're vocal and approach your door. Lost indoor cats are typically unable to fend for themselves and need the help of their finders.

On the other hand, most feral cats are consistently wary of interaction with humans. A tipped ear indicates a known community cat that has been trapped, neutered, and released, meaning that no action is needed. For feral cats that are not ear-tipped, TNR is a humane solution to prevent the cycle of cat overpopulation from continuing. For more information, visit

How to Reunite a Lost Pet With Its Owners<