The only thing better than a found pet is one that’s never been lost! I am lucky enough to have much more experience with the latter, but I have successfully found a lost cat on the road before! Here, I’ll share my tips for keeping cats from getting lost in the first place, and finding them if they do. Most of these rules can be applied to whatever kind of animal you travel with.
Related Read: RV Travel Cats: Vehicle Safety
Keeping your pet from getting lost while traveling starts long before you load up for your journey. Scared animals are more likely to make a break for it and less likely to come back, so make sure you take plenty of time to ensure your pet is confident and happy when in the vehicle and while using your chosen method of restraint. A solid recall will save you a lot of heartache, regardless of the type of creature you call a travel buddy.
HAVE A SYSTEM
The most likely time for a cat to get lost on a trip is when a door is open. Head this problem off at the pass: create a system of rules to prevent escapes. Here are some that make good sense:
Never open the door to a crate outside.
Ensure that leashes are tightly clipped before removing seatbelts.
Double-leash escape artists: secure a leash to both a harness and a collar.
Make your pets wait for “permission” to go through doors of the RV, truck, or car – every single time.
If you have a bunk in your camper with a door that closes, consider setting up food, water, and a litterbox there so that you can simply shut the door during times of high traffic in and out of the RV.
Related Read: Bring Along Your BFF-Best Furry Friend
PREPARE FOR THE WORST
Ensure your pet always has identification.
ID tags are a great idea because they can be easily read by anyone who finds your wayward friend. Be sure that ID tags include a cell phone number where you can be reached if you’re not at home. The drawback to tags is that they can easily fall off or be removed.
Permanent forms of identification include microchips and tattoos. Microchips are easier and faster to obtain and are more often checked if an animal has been found, while tattoos cannot be removed and are the only type of identification which protects your pet, under federal law, from being sold to a testing facility if you are never reunited. Both have the disadvantage of requiring a finder to undergo an additional step to acquire your contact information.
Always check the regulations in each place you visit to determine if your pet is legally required to wear a rabies tag or be licensed with that municipality to ensure a return from the shelter.
Keep a clear, recent photo of your cat – or better yet, a template for a “lost” flyer including the photo – with you, either digitally or in hard copy, while traveling.
IF YOUR ANIMAL IS LOST
If, despite all your training, systems, and preparation, your cat gets out, there are some things you can do to increase the chances you’ll find him in your arms again:
Stay calm. Do not chase a loose animal. Your pet’s natural reaction, just like yours, is to run if someone is chasing.
Stay where you are. If at all possible, do not leave the area until you find your pet. Leaving your vehicle or trailer where your pet remembers it will offer a chance for them to find their way “home.”
Try leaving a bed or litterbox outside your door so that the familiar smell encourages your animal to return.
Check shelters in person. The golden, striped cat you describe on the phone may be someone else’s idea of an orange tabby. Checking a shelter in person ensures that you’ll see your pet yourself.
If your cat doesn’t return on its own within a few hours, begin posting your flyers, with the highest concentration nearest to where your pet was lost. Find local websites, like the animal shelter’s page, Craigslist, and Facebook groups to share your flyer online as well. Include keywords like your cat’s breed and color or pattern in the text portion of each posting to ensure searches of the page return your information.
Change your voicemail message. Mention your lost pet and encourage anyone calling the number they’ve found on your pet’s ID tag or your poster to leave a message if you can’t get to the phone.
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