What would you do if a dog or cat you were sitting for ran off and you couldn't find them?

I’m an HO not a sitter, but I’ve been in this situation many years ago sitting for my sister-in-law. We’d been warned it could happen and that Reggie would come back within half a day. I stood out in the rain calling for about half an hour, then gave up and went home, and he was back a few hours later.
I’d alert the owner, who may be able to put out an appeal on local social media such as Nextdoor or a local Facebook page, plus contact neighbours. Then police.
But a good idea for us owners perhaps to give details of whichever tracking service the animal’s chip is registered with!

First I would panic and cry. Then I would contact the host and let them know. Then I would panic and cry some more while also: 1) Checking with local animal shelters and pet hospitals (micro chips very helpful). 2) Knocking on door of neighbors. 3) Hanging lost pet signage in the area asking for people to check their garages or any other place an animal might wander in and get locked in. Hopefully at the end of this story I am calling the host to tell them Fido has been found!


We were on a recent month long sit. The Home host had told me the dog had good recall and it was ok to let him off his leash - Pointing out a regular spot they go for exercise - A large expanse of grass surrounded by forest.

And so it was - every day for two weeks we went to the spot - The dog running ahead then me calling when I thought he was far enough and he would come bounding back to my side.

Until the first day of the third week.

We went out as usual, the dog was quite a distance ahead when he suddenly stopped - Ears went up, one front leg raised and he stared into the forest. He stood there statue -like for probably thirty seconds totally ignoring my calls then, without warning headed straight for the forest!

The feeling in the pit of your stomach is hard to describe. The phone call I would have to make to the home host was all I could think of. I headed into the forest calling his name but there was no sight of him. I swear you could actually see my heart pounding!

There was no one around to ask and I had no phone on me to call for assistance - After mulling over my predicament I decided my best option would be to hang around and keep calling which is what I did

Low and behold, around 10 minutes later ( which felt like a lifetime) I heard the scamper of doggy feet and out of the trees came the accused - covered head to paw in thick mud and looking very sorry for himself - I have never been so relieved.

For the next two weeks he stayed on leash at all times!


@Colin we had EXACTLY the same happen to us on the South Downs in Sussex with a “Highly Trained” Springer (ex army sniffer dog) we were 6 weeks into a 3 month sit.

All the calling in the world couldn’t compete with deer smells, our feelings were identical to yours … Woody came back, eventually.

The leash was our friend for the duration of that sit, and every sit since …

Probably not Woody’s though :dog: :wink: .

1 Like

@anon4168721 I love your response as I thought the same just that I would add at the end …while having a stiff drink!

1 Like

Ours was a Springer too!

Why am I not surprised @Colin? … Having been owned by six of these adorable creatures I know how their noses rule, making them suffer from selective hearing, :rofl: :dog:

I’ve finally followed through on something I learned about on the forum. I ordered tags to take with me on sits. After discussing it with owners, I will add my tag to the pet’s collar, if we think it’s appropriate. What comes to mind for me is maybe the supposedly indoor cats who are known escape artists, or may more likely be with sitters. I’m not one to walk a dog off-leash, so that would be less of an issue, but maybe still useful.

I ordered these through Amazon, and had a good allowance for characters inscribed on both sides. These are just over 1" in size, but they had a range of sizes. I added my country as my preferred sits outside of Canada are in Mexico and many people there have phone plans that cover Canada. In hindsight I should have perhaps added my country code, but no doubt these will be better than only the owner’s tag, if the owner is not reachable for some reason.


Perfect! We also sat a couple of dogs that were running off all the time (but this is what they did with their owners and we were instructed to let them off the leash). This will be helpful if we should be in that situation again. PS: We would probably go with an Apple AirTag or similar products, not sure which product is the best.

We are always a little cautious about letting any pets outside without a leash. There’s a place close to home that’s fenced, it often it’s a bit crowded. We just finishing up our longest sit, and finally found a park large enough, where she can roam without being tethered to us. She did very well, for the most part, but we are still overly attentive, when she’s free to amble on her own. Her recall was very good in certain areas of the park, and when the dog crowds thickened, we put her back on leash.

We have had a couple of animal lost situations on different sits, first one was in the UK with two German Shorthair hunting dogs. They had GPS collars and we were required to take them to a large park area about 1/2 mile from the house and let them run in the forest off lead - we were told they had good recall, but that turned out to be true for the owners but not us. We were well briefed on the equipment and software on our phones but on the day they decided to run further (probably chasing squirrels) than usual we discovered that the collars worked but not well enough to give us a location quick enough. They were running so fast in the forest that by the time the signal caught up to our phones, they were probably 1/4 mile away from the spot the map showed. (At that time, GPS tracking was useless, but we have now experienced newer better technology that is more accurate). One dog came back after about 1/2 hour and found us, the other continued to be missing. After scouring the forest trails and meadows and talking with other dog owners (and being massively apprehensive at the possibilities) we found a lady who knew ‘our dogs’ and saw the lost dog and knew he was stressed, put a leash on him and searched the trails to find us. So, our lesson with this experience was to not accept dog sits where the owner insists that the dogs go off lead outside of a fenced area or dog park. Recall is not the same for sitters as it is for owners. When a dog owners tells us we can take the dog off lead if we want, we always tell them that we do not feel comfortable doing that while we are the responsible party for those dogs.

Our second lost pet was on a 80 acre ranch (off the grid - mountains, forest, predators) when the cat disappeared about a week into our sit. After a day of calling and looking, we contacted the owners and they said it wasn’t uncommon when there were others caring for the cat and not to worry - he would come back. He had not returned when the owners got home a week later and they were sure he would come home now that they were home. We felt terrible leaving without knowing where he was but the owners were ok with it. We kept in touch and after 2 weeks more they had given up and feared the worst, but he then showed up - apparently none the worse for wear! I think the lesson here and in other situations is to communicate quickly with the owners (if possible) about any situation that concerns you (and discuss how they want you to handle emergency type situations while their home and pets are in your care.).


A few years back, my friend’s cat came to stay with me whilst they were away. Obviously I planned to keep him inside for the duration as I’m not local to his normal stomping grounds.

He disappeared. I was 99% certain he hadnt got out through a door or window… and yet he had completely vanished. I looked in every room of the house. And then again, making sure to shut the door between searches, so he wasnt sneaking out behind my back. I started to doubt myself, maybe I had left a door open… Argh! How would I tell my friend I had lost her cat???

I eventually found him sleeping on a pile of plates at the back of a corner kitchen cupboard. He’d opened it himself and the door swung shut so I never realised it had been opened. And obviously he’d ignored all my calls! I closed the door and left him to come out in his own good time :smiley:


Off we went, first thing this morning, to woods that we had not visited before. The dog that we were looking after was off lead, but by our side. That is, until he encountered a large breed of dog and shot off.
After a while we split up and I eventually found the dog.
However, I had lost Mr Itchyfeet!
The woods were dark with narrow winding steps and he couldn’t find his way, despite us ringing each other. We agreed by phone that I and dog would meet, hopefully, in a coffee shop in town.
Mr Itchyfeet eventually walked down a long narrow path, marked Private which led into a large manicured garden. He walked through the grounds without being arrested and we were all reunited.
I will be putting leads on both of them in future.

1 Like

We had a runaway just recently , not on a THS sit, going for a walk through a large wooded area the dog was happily chasing squirrels and anything else but would come back when called. Then she just disappeared! My partner and I split up and walked different directions, spoke to lots of other dog walkers to please keep an eye out for her and shared contact details with them. After about an hour I got a call she had been seen and eventually got her back only 100m from where we last saw her! The people who had her said they would have called the number on the collar ( owners) but it was rusted over. I was just getting to the point of we will have to call them myself by then. We did tell them once she was back and they were very appreciative of us being honest about it and asked if we had any recommendations for future sitters in our handover so that was good. Scariest hour ever and I think I walked nearly 15k that day !


This is why we are uncomfortable letting dogs off leash. You just never know when they’ll see something fun to chase and take off. Bad enough if it’s our own pet, but someone else’s? Yikes!

1 Like

I probably wont sit for an outdoor cat again. That is very stressful.

Just had this experience as we finished our sit yesterday. The indoor / outdoor cat we had been looking after is supposed to be kept in a specific room when ever we went out . We did this all through the sit with no issues , coaxing her indoors with treats before we went out anywhere.

So to the day of our early morning departure when we did not let the cat out as usual in the morning. As we went to pack up the car and opened the door just a crack, she rushed past us and sneaked out and so now we can’t get her back indoors and we have to leave !! Not the way that we wanted to end the sit with the cat missing !!

We messaged the owners who were on their way home and we were very relieved when they told us she was waiting for them by the door when they arrived not long after we had left . They also said that she often does this to them .:sweat_smile:


I have two indoor/outdoor cats. They rarely leave the general vicinity of my home. But once, about 4 years ago, one of them went missing on a Saturday, Monday was a holiday. On Tuesday I went to the animal control shelter and there he was. But that’s. In, in the eight years Ive had him and the four years the other cat, that’s the only time they’ve gone missing. But, with every sitter I let them know that I know the risks of having indoor/outdoor cats and if either of them were to go missing, I would in no way hold them responsible.

As a sitter of indoor/outdoor cats, I have the same conversation with the owners. And, when a listing says a cat can be outside ‘with. Supervision’, I scroll right past. If a cat is outside and decides to go, it’s going to go. Expecting human ‘supervision’ to prevent that is an risk I’m not willing to take.

Recently I was sitting for two indoor/outdoor cats in London. I arrived the evening before the owners left, the morning of their departure, they informed me that one of the cats had not returned and she’d not done that before. We all assumed she’d likely turn up that afternoon. They left on their vacation and I stayed at the house all that day and the next, in hopes she would turn up. That silly cat stayed gone six days and when she strolled back it was like she’d just left. I was very relieved that she left while her owners were still there. And, especially now, I’m sure to specifically discuss this eventuality with any cat owners I sit for.


I believe our comfort level with indoor/outdoor kitties has changed over the last year. I thought we would be limiting ourselves to fewer sitting options with strictly indoor cats, but we’ve had no problem securing sits, whenever we seek one. So for now, we will continue to search for the cuddly indoor kitties, who ‘prefer’ our company, rather than the outside critters who roam the neighborhood. We are more than happy to take leash trained kitties outside, and have encountered more of them recently :heart_eyes_cat:


@Joanne beautiful photos, they are adorable!

1 Like