The following lost pet search equipment is recommended by Lost Pet Research and Recovery based on over 10 years of lost pet recovery experience. Also included are some tools recommended by other pet detectives. If you have suggestions, please add them in the comments.
Lost Pet Research participates in affiliate referral programs. I only endorse products and services that I have personally used, thoroughly researched, or come recommended by trusted peers. If you purchase anything via an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Learn more here.
I carry the following equipment on almost all my searches. Items used less frequently are noted in the description.
This is my number one search tool that I always carry on a lost cat search and most lost dog searches. My favorite flashlight so far is by Feit Electric. I have an older model of the one shown here. In general I recommend any flashlight with at least 500 lumens, a sliding zoom lens, good battery life, and easy to replace batteries (not specialty batteries).
I wish that I bought these years ago. When looking for a lost cat, you need to get down on the ground a lot to conduct an effective search. Most often, I only wear one pad on my dominant knee since I find them a little uncomfortable for walking. I think the ones that I own are from Home Depot or Lowes and look similar to these, but only have one strap.
Digital Camera and/or Cell Phone
I always carry a small digital camera. I use this to search in tight places for hiding cats or dogs by snapping a few pictures. Some people use their cell phone instead to take photos or video, but I find my old camera easier to use. I also use my digital camera to take photos of any animal sightings (with the 10x optical zoom) and to check the aim on my SD card wildlife cameras.
Borescope or Inspection Camera
I almost always carry my borescope, but I only use it after first trying to search with my flashlight and digital camera. The small screen makes it difficult to see hiding animals clearly unless you can catch their eye shine. It is most useful for checking in holes, in walls, and under sheds (close to the ground).
The borescope that I purchased in 2018 is no longer available, but for my next model, I plan to buy one with a shorter (perhaps 3-6 foot) rigid cable like this one. The 10-foot cable that I have is too long and not rigid enough after extended more than 3-4 feet. Most of the ones that attach to cell cameras have flimsy cables that aren't much use.
I rarely carry a net with me, but always keep one or more in my car. These are most often used for lost cats that are found hiding in an enclosed space. Usually I prefer to have the owner lure the cat out or set a humane cat trap and camera. However, if the cat is in a space where they are unlikely to escape or run away, I will use a net.
My primary net is a folding net like the one pictured here. But my net is from ACES with a 17" depth and (presumably) higher quality netting. I also recently purchased a Humaniac Cage Net, but haven't used it yet.
I usually have the owner bring a towel or small blanket on the search. In most cases, I have used this for carrying a found cat and not a net or carrier.
Animal Handling Gloves
When handling an animal in a net, I always wear animal handling gloves. I bought my gloves from ACES and they look similar to these. This design provides protection but also still allows dexterity.
I own a Snappy Snare, but have never used it. Whenever I've been close enough to a loose dog to use one, I've never had it on me. However, I'm including it on this list because other dog trappers swear by them.
These are my most frequently used search equipment for surveillance and capture of lost dogs and cats. Items used less frequently are noted in the description.
This is my number one tool for finding escaped indoor cats. Learn more here. My favorite are the Blink Outdoor cameras (pictured). I also like the Wyze v3 camera if you are on a budget. Other pet detectives prefer Ring, Reolink or Arlo.
Most of these cameras can be purchased as wifi or cellular versions. The cellular security cameras are usually best for use in lost dog trapping.
Cellular Wildlife Cameras
I use cellular wildlife cameras for monitoring humane traps for cats and dogs. Trapping is much safer and more successful with live monitoring of the trap. They are also useful for checking potential sightings.
Since wildlife cameras are always changing, I suggest checking TrailCamPro.com for the newest reviews and recommendations. Cameras purchased from TrailCamPro include a 2-year warranty and 90-day returns.
SpyPoint Link Micro
SD Card Wildlife Cameras
Some people might argue that SD card cameras are no longer useful. However, I find that good quality SD card cameras are less likely to miss taking photos/video of a lost cat or small dog than similar priced wifi or cellular security cameras. So I often like to use an SD card camera in addition to make sure that I'm not missing anything important. They are also still useful in areas without cellular service.
My favorite SD card cameras are Browning cameras. I recommend selecting a camera with a blackout or black flash. A built in cable lock attachment is also a good choice.
Browning Trail Camera
Wildlife Camera Accessories
Most cameras require an SD card or microSD card, which is sometimes included. If you have old SD cards lying around, these may not work with cellular cameras. You may also need a card reader for your phone or computer.
For security purposes, I recommend getting a good python cable lock. I usually buy them in a pack so they all have the same key. Some of the cheaper cameras are not compatible with a cable lock.
Good quality batteries like Energizer Ultimate Lithium will make your camera last longer. With lower quality batteries, some cameras may stop taking and/or transmitting photos when the batteries fall below 50% power.
SD Card Reader
Humane Trapping Equipment
I primarily work escaped indoor cat and skittish lost dog cases, so trapping is a large part of my business. Good quality trap brands include TruCatch, Tomahawk and Safeguard. Havahart is okay if you need to find a trap quickly. I recommend avoiding the cheaper traps such as those at Tractor Supply or Harbor Freight.
Humane Cat Traps
For cats, I prefer larger cage traps with sliding rear doors. I have a slight preference for gravity drop doors over spring-loaded. When trapping cats, it's also best to go with a trap that is designed specifically for cats. TruCatch and some Tomahawk traps (Neighborhood Cats and FixNation) are designed with a larger trip plate which is harder for cats to step over.
My favorites cat traps are TruCatch 36D and Fat Cat. However, Tomahawk has a new design gravity door trap that might be even better: GT606 Neighborhood Cats Gravity Trap. I own several of the Humane Way Cat Traps. They are good for smaller cats (less than 10 lbs), but are lower quality traps.
Tomahawk Cat Trap
Tomahawk Cat Trap
Humane Way Cat Trap
For more information on finding and selecting a trap, check out my articles on Best Humane Cat Traps.
Humane Dog Traps
For dog traps, I prefer Tomahawk and Safeguard traps. The larger TruCatch traps have a known "door bounce" issue that sometimes allows dogs to escape.
One trap that I really like is the Safeguard Large Dog Trap or Tomahawk 610C. These traps are 72" long and will catch most dogs. Tomahawk also offers a folding version if you can't fit the rigid model in your car.
If you are on a budget or need to get a dog trap, the Humane Way dog trap is okay. I've used several and they have worked fine. The trap quality is inferior to others and is susceptible to damage over time. I definitely do NOT recommend the CountyLine large trap available at Tractor Supply.
Humane Way Dog Trap
For more information on finding and selecting dog traps, check out my article on Best Humane Dog Traps.
For hard-to-trap cats, I find a drop trap is invaluable. I have a nice wooden one from Alley Cat Allies, and you can find similar designs on the Drop Trap Design Bank. I also own a metal drop trap from Tomahawk that I like. That one comes with the option of a remote trigger.
For hard-to-trap dogs I usually use an enclosure trap. As a last resort I have a Collarum.
Monitoring the trap with a cellular or wifi camera is the best option if you can't do so in person. The second best option is to alarm the trap using a driveway alarm.
The actual range of the driveway alarm is often far less than the advertised range. Unless you are trapping right outside your house, I recommend getting one with at least a 1/2 mile signal range. I have always used Chamberlain Motion Alarm, but these don't appear to be currently available. This one looks similar.
Not exactly search tools, but when you work in lost pet recovery, you do everything you can to never lose your own pets. So I have tested out several different pet trackers.
GPS Trackers for Dogs
Search dog Dante wore a Whistle GPS for most of his life. Whistle has a better battery life than most trackers available. Fi looks like another good one, but I haven't tried it yet.
Whistle GPS Tracker
Whistle Switch GPS
I have also use Tractive, which is fun for recording and tracking movement. But the battery life is so short that I would only use one in combination with a backup radio-tracker like Tabcat.
Trackers for Cats
Sources for Lost Pet Search Equipment
Amazon is a good source for security cameras and some wildlife cameras. They sometimes sell Tomahawk traps but shipping can be slow. Security cameras can also be found at Best Buy.
Some good companies that sell animal control supplies and traps include ACES and Wildlife Control Supplies. For traps, you can also go directly to the company. Good quality trap brands include TruCatch, Tomahawk and Safeguard.
If you need to find a trap quickly, you can also try hardware stores or feed and grain stores. Most often these will have Havahart traps, which are okay. I'm not a fan of the Easy Set or the Two Door Traps though as I see more cats escape these. I also do not suggest buying cheap traps from Tractor Supply or Harbor Freight.