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Lost Cat Study

Lost Cat Study

An interesting study on lost cats in Ohio and how owners locate them includes some interesting points about cats, lost and found.

Many indoor cat owners don’t worry about whether their cat wears identification – a tag, microchip or tattoo – because they don’t expect their cat to ever get lost. But apparently it happens more often than we think: the study by L.K Lord et al revealed that 41% of owners of lost cats considered them to be ‘indoor only’ pets.

While the study was not based on a large sampling, the results indicate that of the 138 lost cats selected for the study, a little more than half were recovered. Most returned home on their own, and the median length of recovery was 5 days. Cats wearing some form of ID had a 20% better chance of getting home. The most successful approach to recovering a cat was postering the neighbourhood, but even that was only effective in 12% of cases.

The authors recommend that cats wear both visible and permanent ID – visible in order to give your neighbours a quick way to identify them and bring them home, permanent because the visible variety (tags or collars) can get lost. Tattoos are sometimes described as both visible and permanent, and so might be regarded as the best of both worlds, but since few people know to look for them, they often get missed. Permanent ID requires special equipment to read, so it’s not useful to your neighbours, but your pet can still be identified by a shelter or a vet.

Why are so few cats found compared to dogs?

The authors speculate that one of the reasons for the low recovery rates is that people find it difficult to distinguished owned cats from unowned cats and so are slower to move to help cats than they are dogs. Wearing visible ID helps with that too: it marks your cat as a pet.

They also call for more cat owner education encouraging an indoor lifestyle for cats, and they also note that communities with licensing and identification bylaws have 50% higher reclaimed-by-owner rates.

There was also an interesting trend in the characteristics of lost cats and their recovery rates. Owners’ chances of getting their cat back more than doubled if the cat was spayed or neutered. This emphasizes the importance of sterilizing pets. It not only helps prevent them from getting lost by decreasing the urge to roam, it also prevents certain cancers, decreases nuisance behaviours and prevents them from breeding and contributing to the homeless cat population.

If you’re interested in training your indoor cat to stay away from the door – a good first step if you’re concerned they may bolt and get lost! – check out Dealing with Escape Artists here.

And click here if you’re interested in retraining an outdoor cat to be content indoors, or here to look at some safe outdoor options.

To read the full study, click here: www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/2/2/301/pdf

Lord, L.K.; Wittum, T.E.; Ferketich, A.K.; Funk, J.A.; Rajala-Schultz, P. Search and identification methods that owners use to find a lost cat. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 2007, 230, 217-220.