As a volunteer at my local shelter, I get a lot of inquiries about the animals there — is this one friendly, is that one still available, and so on. I always direct them to the shelter’s website and staff.
Lately, I’ve gotten an increasing number of e-mails about lost/found cats. People who have found cats are often asking whether I want the cat or know someone else that would. People who have lost cats don’t know where to look or don’t want to pay the necessary fines to get their cat back from the shelter.
So exactly what should you do if you lose your cat — or find someone else’s? To get the inside story on lost cats, I talked to Edward Williams, executive director of the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society, a private shelter that also operates animal control.
On average, the Humane Society takes in 5,000 homeless animals a year, about half of which are cats. Of that number, more than 70 percent are classified as "lost pets," meaning they were picked up somewhere or dropped off by a good Samaritan. Only about 5 percent of the total intake animals are reclaimed by their owners, and most of those are dogs.
To put that in perspective, Williams says in 2011, more than 200 dogs were reclaimed, but only 13 cats. Last year, only 10 cats were reclaimed, compared to 156 dogs.
Williams says you should consider your cat lost after 12 hours at the most. Many people wait a lot longer to report their cat missing — some even as long as three weeks! He says it’s vital to take immediate action, including contacting the microchip company, if your cat has one; your local shelters and/or animal control; and local veterinarians. The shelter has had "very good success with lost cat reports, especially ones with pictures," Williams says.
The best lost cat reports have a clear description as well as a picture. You might know that your cat is a Ragdoll mix, but the person who finds her might think she is a Siamese. Take a close look at your cat right now. What makes her stand out? Do you know her eye color? What about her nose? Does she have short, medium, or long hair? What about fur patterns?
You may also want to include details like if they’re shy around strangers or not, and if they need medicine. Rewards are also excellent incentives for people to find and return your lost kitty!
Once you’ve filed a lost cat report and contacted local shelters, rescues, veterinarians, animal control units, and/or the microchip company, it’s important to start canvasing your neighborhood. If you can, place fliers around where your cat was lost, as well as throughout your neighborhood.
Use social networking to your benefit and post a good description of your cat, along with a clear picture. It’s also important to regularly visit your local shelter to see if your cat has been brought in, especially if he doesn’t have a lot of defining features. For example, if you lost a tabby, you would have much better success identifying your kitty in person, even if you filed a lost cat report with a picture.
Although the shelter has had good success with returning cats to their owners based on lost cat reports, they have had surprisingly little success with microchips. According to Williams, this is because "many people don’t bother registering the chip or keeping their contact information up to date." Microchips are a great tool to identify cats and reunite them with their owners, especially since they are implanted and can’t fall off like collars; however, if you never register your chip or keep your contact information updated, the microchip is rendered useless.
First, take the cat to a vet or shelter to be scanned for a microchip. Call the local shelters and vets, even ones in nearby towns, to report that you have found the cat and give a good description. Oftentimes, it’s not an option to keep the cat safe and secure in your own home while you try to locate the owner, so you should relinquish the cat to your local shelter. Use social media again to see whether the cat belongs to anyone in your neighborhood. Do not try to give the cat away! Not every loose cat is a stray — many just wandered out of their yards or bolted from an unfamiliar location (like at the vet) or scary sounds (like fireworks).
So remember, if you’ve lost your cat, it’s important to immediately report it to your local shelters, vets, animal control, and the microchip company. Make sure your microchip is registered and keep your contact information up to date. File a detailed lost cat report with a clear picture, and visit your local shelter in person to see if your kitty has been turned in. If you have found a cat, turn him/her over to your local shelter, or at least follow proper protocol to try to find the owners. There’s nothing better than the reunion of an owner and their beloved kitty!
Read more on Catster about lost cats:
About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of two dogs (one being very dumb) and two cats (one perpetually plotting my demise). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.
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