Help a found cat or dog

Found a pet? If a cat or dog is outside on their own, they may be lost, and their family is probably worried. Here’s how to figure out if the pet needs your help—and what steps to take if they do. By looking out for lost pets in your community, you can help them get home safely.

What to do if you find a dog or cat

  1. Determine if the cat or dog needs your help. If the pet looks healthy, help them find their family. If the pet looks sick, injured, underfed, dirty or in pain, they probably need help. If they appear to be in danger or in need of immediate assistance, call your local animal services agency.

  2. Check the pet's collar for tags. If it’s safe to do so, approach the cat or dog to check their collar for tags. If there is a phone number for their family, let them know you found their pet. A majority of found pets lives nearby.

  3. No tags? Ask around. A neighbor, mail carrier, delivery person or gardener may recognize the pet and know where they live. Knock on neighborhood doors to ask the neighbors if they know the pet and where the pet lives. Take a walk through the neighborhood and look for "lost cat" or “lost dog” signs.

  4. Find out if the pet has a microchip. Contact a local veterinarian, fire department, pet store or animal shelter to see if they can scan the cat or dog for a microchip and contact information for their family.

  5. File a found pet report with your local animal shelter. If the cat or dog has been reported missing, the shelter can help them get home safely. If you are able to care for the pet temporarily, do so and provide the animal shelter your contact information. Do not take the pet to the animal shelter as it will make it harder for the family to find them. This is especially important for cats, as only 2% of cats brought to shelters are reunited with their families. If you can't care for the pet yourself, consider finding them a short-term foster home and notify the animal shelter in case they are contacted.

  6. Take clear photos of the cat or dog. Print flyers to hang in the area and share the photos online. Include when and where the pet was found, along with your contact information. Post the photos to Petco's Love Lost database, PawBoost, Pet FBI, Nextdoor, Craigslist, local lost-and-found pet groups on Facebook and your personal social media pages. While you're online, check for "lost pet" posts that could be about the same cat or dog.


Who can scan for a microchip?

Pet shelters and animal services officers have microchip scanners and can scan a found pet for you. Veterinarians, fire stations and pet supply stores such as Petco and PetSmart may also be able to scan for a microchip.

How can I tell if a cat is a neighbor’s outdoor cat or a community cat?

If the cat is friendly, well-fed, and appears healthy, leave the cat where they are. Your neighbor may have an indoor/outdoor cat. They may or may not have obvious identification, however, some may be microchipped.

If the tip of one ear has been clipped, it’s likely that the cat is a community cat. These cats live outside, are cared for by neighbors and may be friendly or unsocialized. The clipped ear signifies that the cat has been spayed or neutered. Learn more about helping community cats.