Organizing pet information in case of emergency

My friend Elspeth recently lost her cat. The kitty is home safely now, but in the process of looking for her my friend learned a thing or two about how she could have been a better organized pet owner.

After her experience, Elspeth put together a list of emergency information and resources you should have on file if you have a pet:

  1. Have your pet microchipped and have on file the name of the company, the microchip number, and contact information for the company.
  2. Know the number on your pet’s rabies tag.
  3. Have documentation on all of your pet’s vaccinations and surgeries. Shelters and vets that take in lost pets will conduct blood tests to identify strays from non-strays. Knowing which vaccines are in your pet’s blood and locations of scars can help in identifying your pet.
  4. Take pictures of your pet at many different angles and of all unique pattern markings. Have these images in digital format. Many states and shelters will post pictures of lost pets online and you’ll want the pictures to print fliers.
  5. Most agencies will only allow you to report a pet that has been missing for more than 24 hours. Find out which agencies take these notices (usually shelters and animal control) and have their contact information in your address book.
  6. Even if your pet lives primarily indoors, you still need to have a collar on your pet with identification. Break away collars are best for constant wear so that your pet doesn’t accidentally choke himself/herself.
  7. Keep contact information for how to post messages to your neighborhood e-mail listserv and Craigslist community.

Ultimately, it was a couple who found the cat and also saw one of Elspeth’s posters on a bus stop in the neighborhood. We hope that you never lose one of your pets, but if you do, you’ll be prepared by having the above information at your fingertips.

12 Comments for “Organizing pet information in case of emergency”

  1. posted by ClickerTrainer on

    You can also post lost dog info on email lists such as: (must be a member to post) or for cats:

  2. posted by Minnie on

    I have some advice too: put your emergency vet phone number in your cell phone! KNOW where the emergency 24 hour vet IS! My sweet pup got hit by a car, and luckily I had the phone number written down, grabbed it, and took off. I was pretty sure I knew where to drive, but I was lucky.

  3. posted by Bruce on

    Item 3 is incorrect. Yes, scars can help identify pets but no shelter or vet will test a stray animal’s blood for vaccines. Titers cost real money and have to be sent to a lab. And the presence of antibodies can’t tell you if the animal was lost yesterday, abandoned 3 years ago, was a feral that someone adopted and never bothered to get vaccinated, etc. You *do* want documentation of your pet’s vaccines so when you claim them they won’t have to give vaccines (mainly rabies) before releasing the pet to you.

    Bruce, CVT

  4. posted by DeniseNZ on

    This is timely. One of my cats is currently missing and I’m getting some posters done today.

  5. posted by Jessica Eastman on

    Good post. Inspired me to take five minutes to post a list of addresses of emergency vets in my area in the closet above our litter box. I don’t want to have to boot up a computer to find an address when there’s an emergency.

  6. posted by Aimee on

    Choose wisely when microchipping your pet. There are several different microchip manufacturers that each require different readers. Most shelters do not have the money to get one of each reader and will therefore pick one. Generally, the vets in the area, if responsible, will use the microchip that the local shelter has a reader for. It is good to double check though.

    If you have microchipped your pet, do not forget to register the microchip with the company and regularly update that information. Also, if you move to a new city or state, you should check with your new vet to see if the microchip you’ve put in your pet can be read by the local shelters. You may want to get another microchip.

    It is a VERY, VERY good idea to microchip your pet. When I worked in a clinic, the first thing we did when someone brought in a stray was to check for the microchip.

  7. posted by Courtney on

    I have flyers pre-printed in my emergency notebook. They list my pet’s name, my contact information, and have a photocopy of photographs from different angles. I take them with me when I go out with my pets – who knows if your pet suddenly runs off while on a walk? You may want to have copies of flyers to give people in the immediate area, instead of just asking “have you seen this dog?”

    Also, look up hotels in and just outside your immediate area that take pets. People in New Orleans had to flee without pets because the emergency shelters wouldn’t take them in, and we are still seeing those pets in shelters up for adoption because the owners could not be located. Even worse, those were the lucky pets. If you get stuck in an emergency, and you care about your pet, take him with you!

    One more thing – I have a dog first aid book in the toy box on top of my dog’s crate, and it has come in handy many times. The book instructs you when you need to get to the vet NOW, when you need to talk to the vet within the next day or two, and when you can take care of a minor injury or illness yourself. It pays for itself in vet visits and time.

    Just curious, what do you mean by “break-away collars”? I would think any collar that could break away by pulling could be broken when you try to apprehend the dog?

  8. posted by Marie on

    Here’s a really helpful site for finding lost cats. My neighbor used it successfully to get her boy Dylan back after more than a week.

  9. posted by larochelle on

    Breakaway collars are for cats and are designed so that the fastener opens if the cat gets caught on something. Its particularly good for those who tend to be climbers or outdoor.

  10. posted by Pamela on

    I am commenting on item 1 and a comment about microchips in general.

    I work in a shelter in animal intake and when an animal comes in we do scan for a microchip, but there are not different scanners for the different types of microchips. The two largest microchip manufactuers, AVID and HomeAgain have different number sequences, but they can both be read by the same scanner because they both emit the same radio frequency. In my many years of working in a shelter, I have never seen another type of microchip.

    Also, because microchips are implanted under the skin, they do move around a bit. Each time you take you pet to the vet, have them scan for the chip to ensure it hasn’t moved. This doesn’t happen very often, but it is worth the precaution.

  11. posted by Robin L. on

    I’m a little late to this party but I just read this post! My tip is to put the microchip numbers and rabies tag numbers into the notes section of your cell phone. Along with the phone numbers for your vet you should program the phone number for the microchip company. If your pet is lost you want to be able to call the chip company immediately from wherever you are.

  12. posted by Chris on

    Lost pet? See behavior-based lost pet recovery tips!
    (the best ones I know of!)

    “Missing Pet Partnership is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting lost companion animals with their owners/guardians. Our website offers behavior-based lost pet recovery tips and referrals to lost pet services. We operate the first-ever volunteer lost pet search-and-rescue team (in Seattle, WA) that offers cutting edge lost pet recovery techniques like pet detectives with search dogs, lost dog protests, window tagging to market lost dogs in a community, and motion activated wildlife cameras with feeding stations to detect and capture displaced cats.”


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