In the rescue world, we all know this call all too well, “I found a stray, can I bring it to your rescue?” Well-intentioned people find what they believe to be a stray or a lost pet and don’t know what to do when they find this animal. They may call your rescue, take it to their city’s closest shelter, keep it, or try to rehome it on their own. In any of these cases, there is a good chance there is a frantic pet owner trying to find their beloved family member.

This just happened to our CEO, Lizz, while she had to be out of town. Her adorable kitty, Stoner, got out and did not come home while her pet-sitter watching her animals. After getting home, Lizz did everything on the list below and was starting to knock on every house in her neighborhood. It was Lizz’s next-door neighbor who recognized the cat’s picture. He realized his family’s babysitter had taken Stoner home with her. Usually not a super friendly cat, Stoner went right up to the next-door neighbor’s babysitter, possibly looking for a treat. This babysitter thought Lizz’s cat was a stray and took it to her home on the other side of town. She was trying to rehome it on her own Facebook page. Lizz got in touch with the babysitter, and thankfully Stoner is safe and sound back at home.

If you get this call at your rescue or have anyone ask what to do if they find a stray or lost pet, check out and share this quick guide on what they can do to try and unite it with its family!

Steps to Take if You Find a Lost or Stray Animal

  1. Call Animal Control – If you find an animal that is friendly enough to catch it or just see one running loose, first call animal control and make a report. There is a good chance the person who lost the pet called animal control to report their pet missing. The local animal control or humane society will work to match up the description with the animal you have found with any missing pet reports. If matched, they’ll help ensure the pet gets back to its family.
  2. Knock on Neighbors Doors – Most pets are not going to go further than 1-2 miles of where their home is. If you find an animal that lets you get close, pet it, or even pick it up, it is more than likely not a feral animal and possibly belongs to someone not too far away. If the pet is not in distress and does not need immediate help, take the time to knock on your neighbors’ doors. You may be able to find its owner or someone who knows its owner and can help get it home.
  3. Check for a Microchip – Take it to the closest vet, as they will have a microchip scanner and will scan for a microchip for no charge. If the pet has a microchip, you will be able to get the information needed to try to contact the pet’s current owner. If their current owner is not on the chip, the rescue they came from might be, and they can be contacted to see who the pet belongs to now. If animal control comes out, they will also always check for a microchip.
  4. Post in Social Media Groups – Post any pet you find in any groups that you can find. Take a good picture and write a short description and post, post, post! The Nextdoor App is for people in your neighborhood, so this would be a great place to post the pet to reach people in your area. Facebook has multiple local ‘found pet’ groups that you can post a picture and description of the pet to get the word out. There are also websites, like PetFinder where you can post found pets as well. There is a good chance the owners are searching around in those groups as well, and will hopefully see their pet!

Remember, an animal you find might be one of the most important members of someone’s family. We hope this empowers you to help them get back home!