When I was in college, a stranger came into my house through a basement window, stole valuables from myself and my roommates, and got away scot-free.
While there is a strong sense of violation associated with someone you don’t know rifling through your belongings, no piece of property I owned could hold a candle to the ripple effect of the robbery. After I flipped the house upside down searching for my cat, Nermal, I came to the inevitable conclusion that she had escaped outside through the swinging basement window and was nowhere to be found.
I was nearly inconsolable at the thought of never seeing her again, and immediately went to work creating a Facebook event so that my friends could keep an eye out for her, visiting local animal shelters, and peppering the neighborhood with lost pet signs in hopes that someone would see her and bring her home.
I had one very important tool in my arsenal to help locate my lost pet: an updated photo of her.
I used this photo in my Facebook event and on my signs. It’s one thing to try to describe a cat that some people have never seen before, but it is quite another to be able to provide a high-res picture that people can refer back to if they happen to see one on the street that might be yours.
Because all of my animals have been microchipped through HomeAgain, I receive the company’s email news alerts when an animal near me has gone missing. Eight out of 10 times, there’s an empty thumbnail where the picture of the pet should be, or the family simply uses a stock image of their pet’s breed. While this is better than nothing, it could mean the difference between having your pet returned to you or not.
Take it from someone who’s been in that scary situation, the one where you fear you may never see your beloved family member again: Pictures of your pet are priceless. They should be:
As high a resolution as possible. Taking a photo with a flip phone might result in fuzzy pictures that can make discerning details about the pet difficult. Use a digital camera, or ask a friend with a smartphone to take one for you.
Taken from several angles. A full-on head shot and one from the side gives people an idea of the size and shape of your dog or cat. If your pet has special markings of any kind, make sure you capture those as well.
Taken every six months to a year. Depending on how different your pet looks at certain points in the year (length of hair, etc.), it’s important to take them as often as possible. It doesn’t have to be a full-on photo shoot, but take enough so that you can share them later, if need be.
I’m happy to report that Nermal was, indeed, returned to me, and I realize how unlikely a scenario that is. If you’re a pet owner, take the time right now to snap an updated picture of your pet, giving you the peace of mind that, should the worst-case scenario actually take place, you’ll have a fighting chance at getting your four-legged friend back.
Erica Moss is the social media outreach coordinator for the Masters in Nursing Online program at Georgetown University, which has one of the nation’s leading Womens Health Nurse Practitioner Programs.