There are 88 million cats in the U.S., and when one ends up in a shelter, odds are slim that she’ll be reunited with her owner. Less than 2 percent of cats in animal shelters make it back to their owners, compared to the 15 to 19 percent of dogs that are returned. One researcher believes that collars are the key to happy endings.

According to a new study published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association by Linda Lord, a veterinary scientist at the Ohio State University, the success rate can be improved dramatically just by putting a collar on your cat.

Dog owners are usually required to register their pets and obtain a license. This is usually not the case with cats, and cat owners are far less likely to put collars on their pets.

There is fear that a collar could strangle a cat, or that cats will rip them off repeatedly, said Lord, the studys lead author.

Dr. Lord tested this hypothesis by studying cats with collars for six months. At the end of the six months, 75 percent of the cats were still wearing their collars. A scant few had injured themselves, but none severely.

The big message is that people really need to think about identifying their cats, Dr. Lord said. Cats will tolerate wearing a collar, and this could be a new paradigm shift in thinking.

Even indoors-only cats will benefit from wearing collars. If there is a fire or natural disaster that strikes your neighborhood, your cat might survive the initial onslaught, only to become hopelessly lost afterward.

The researchers also found that embedding microchips that store identification information under the skin of the cat is effective. If a cat is lost, a scanner detects the chip and reads the owners information on it. Microchipping is an important back-up to the collar, enabling reunions even years later.

[SOURCE: New York Times]