If your dog or cat wanders off and is lost, there’s a lot you can do to bring him or her home. The sooner you start the search process, the better your chances of finding your pet.

First, visit all animal shelters in your area frequently (daily if possible). Even if you call or email with a picture, there is absolutely no guarantee that the worker you reach is aware that your pet has been found, picked up and is indeed waiting there for you. The way you describe your pet (or the way it looks in the picture compared to the way it looks in the pound) may not be the way the animal control officer would describe it.

Call your local radio stations: some of them do lost and found pet announcements, and it’s a great way to get the word out! If you’re missing a dog, call city cab companies — they have eyes everywhere! Ask the dispatcher to radio their taxi drivers and ask them to be on the look-out for your dog.

Posters get people’s pets back long after owners have given up all hope. There’s simply no exaggerating how important it is for you to make up detailed posters, with a close-up digital photo of the animal. Make sure people notice your poster. You can use brightly colored paper, and put “Reward Offered” in huge letters at the top. (You don’t have to specify how much you are offering.)

Other things to include in your poster are:

1. your pet’s name, size, age, sex, weight, and whether it is neutered or spayed
2. the area in which your pet went missing
3. the date and time in which your pet went missing
4. whether the pet has a medical issue

Put the LOST posters up at vet clinics, stores, on community mailboxes, and at gas stations. Laminate those that are going to be posted outside. Don’t limit your efforts to your own town, but put them up in all neighboring communities too. Animals can go great distances on their own and your pet may have been picked up by someone who has taken him or her to another area.

Remember to ask your neighbors for help by going door to door and handing out flyers. Cover at least a three-block radius from your house initially, and spread out from there.

If the lost pet is a cat, ask your neighbors to check their cars, garages, basements and sheds in case the animal has become trapped. Remember that cats get disoriented very easily; however, they have an extremely keen sense of smell, so put used litter outside your house. This will help your cat locate home if she or he is nearby.

If you have a social networking presence (such as Facebook), put a notice there. If you don’t, open a free account and start a group called “Bring Fluffy Home” or “Spot Is Lost” or something to that effect.

Finally, advertise in print newspapers and all local publications. If you can afford an ad with a picture, then opt for that. People will remember a photo much more easily (and for a lot longer) than a print-only ad.

You should ensure that you have a working answering machine or voice mail to make it as easy as possible for people to leave their messages and preferred contact information.

Don’t give up. Animal rescue workers routinely see lost animals reunited with their owners many months after the pet wanders off.

Stephanie Olsen has been involved in animal rescue for many years. Please visit her site http://www.kittenadoptioninfo.com/ to read more informative articles on cats and kittens.