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What To Do If You Find A Lost Pet

Red cat
As someone who cares about animals, you can imagine how distressing it is to be separated from a beloved pet. Not only is it a stressful time for the owner but a terrifying and dangerous time for the pet. There are vehicles, predators and no food, water or shelter from the elements.

Table of Contents

So, what do you do if you come across a dog or cat running loose on the side of a busy street or find a ferret playing in a park all alone? Your safety is most important – you can’t help the pet if you get injured in the rescue attempt. If you are driving, pull over when safe to do so and put your hazard lights on. If you don’t feel prepared or equipped to help, call a local rescue group or city bylaw officer at:


Ferret Rescue & Education Society (FRES)………………. ……………….…403-483-6111


MEOW Foundation……………………………………………………………….403-554-4607

Dogs & Cats

City of Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services………………………………………………….311

Catching A Lost Dog – Don’t Chase!

All dogs, regardless of their personality, will likely take off in the opposite direction if you start running towards them. Either, because they are terrified or think you are playing a fun game of chase. If you suspect the dog is in a playful, curious mood, we recommend running away from the dog to entice them into approaching you. If you suspect the dog is terrified, we recommend facing away from the dog and laying out some smelly, tasty food next to you. For more tips on how to safely catch a lost dog click here.

Catching A Lost Cat

Unless the cat is friendly and approaching you or injured and not moving, the easiest way to capture a cat you’ve found is with a humane trap. Traps can often be rented from your veterinarian, local animal rescues and/or humane societies. You can also purchase humane traps from stores like Home Depot.

Setting the trap

1. Set up the trap in a quiet, safe location, ideally with some shelter from the elements.

2. Blend the trap in with the environment as much as possible. Place it in some bushes or trees and cover the back/top/sides with a neutral coloured sheet or towel leaving only the front opening uncovered.

3. Place some smelly, tasty food as far back as possible inside the trap (we recommend canned fish such as sardines or tuna).

4. Check the trap regularly – remember, once the cat is caught, they will only have access to the “bait” and won’t have other food or water. They will also be subject to the weather (ex. heat, rain, snow, and/or extreme temperatures).

5. Once you have captured the cat see the instructions below for next steps.

You’ve rescued the pet… now what?

Congratulations on safely capturing the lost pet you found! Now it’s time to reunite them with their owners.

Are they injured? If you know or suspect them to be injured or sick, take them immediately to the closest veterinary hospital.

For healthy pets, check for a collar – the tags may contain owner contact information. If they do not, you are unable to reach the owner, or are short on time, you can take the animal straight to the closest veterinary hospital.

Keep in mind, not all veterinary hospitals accept stray animals – call your local veterinarian or take the pet to the closest 24-hour hospital.

The veterinary hospital will now take over the animal’s care and work on locating the owner. You can rest easy, knowing the pet is in great hands.

You’ve dropped off the pet at a veterinary hospital… now what?

Let us be the first to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to rescue an animal in need. If you’d like to do a little more to help the pet’s owners, you can:

1. Post flyers around the neighborhood you found them in.

2. Post online – there are social media pages dedicated to reuniting pets and owners such as YYC Pet Recovery on FaceBook. You can also place Kijiji “found” advertisements to circulate the pet’s picture.

Finding a deceased pet

If you come across a deceased pet, you can call 311 or if comfortable, you can collect the pet’s body and bring them to the nearest 24-hour veterinary hospital. The veterinary hospital will work on locating the deceased pet’s owners and help them find closure.

Have you lost your pet?

If you have lost your pet, or want to learn about prevention, check out our Tips to Find Lost Pets resources.

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