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Search and identification methods that owners use to find a lost cat

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  • 1 Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
  • | 2 Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
  • | 3 School of Public Health, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
  • | 4 National Food Safety and Toxicology Center, 165 Food Safety and Toxicology Building, East Lansing, MI 48824-1302.
  • | 5 Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.

Abstract

Objective—To characterize the process by which owners search for lost cats and identify factors associated with time to recovery.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—Owners of 138 cats lost in Montgomery County, Ohio, between June 1 and September 30, 2005.

Procedures—A telephone survey was conducted.

Results—73 of the 138 (53%) cats were recovered; median time to recovery was 5 days (range, 0.5 to 81 days). Most cats (48 [66%]) that were recovered returned home on their own or were found in the neighborhood (5 [7%]); most other cats were recovered through posting of neighborhood signs (8 [11%]) or calling or visiting an animal agency (5 [7%]). The highest success rate for any of the search methods that were used was only 12% (posting neighborhood signs). Only 26 of the 138 (19%) cats had some type of identification at the time they were lost (ie, identification tag, rabies tag, or microchip). Owners allowed 82 (59%) cats to spend at least some time outdoors. The percentage of sexually intact cats recovered by their owners (4/16 [25%]) was significantly lower than the percentage of neutered cats recovered (69/122 [57%]).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that the percentage of lost cats recovered by their owners is low, possibly in part because of the lack of use of traditional identification methods and the general acceptance that cats may roam. Veterinarians can help educate owners about the importance of identification and the need to keep cats indoors.

Abstract

Objective—To characterize the process by which owners search for lost cats and identify factors associated with time to recovery.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—Owners of 138 cats lost in Montgomery County, Ohio, between June 1 and September 30, 2005.

Procedures—A telephone survey was conducted.

Results—73 of the 138 (53%) cats were recovered; median time to recovery was 5 days (range, 0.5 to 81 days). Most cats (48 [66%]) that were recovered returned home on their own or were found in the neighborhood (5 [7%]); most other cats were recovered through posting of neighborhood signs (8 [11%]) or calling or visiting an animal agency (5 [7%]). The highest success rate for any of the search methods that were used was only 12% (posting neighborhood signs). Only 26 of the 138 (19%) cats had some type of identification at the time they were lost (ie, identification tag, rabies tag, or microchip). Owners allowed 82 (59%) cats to spend at least some time outdoors. The percentage of sexually intact cats recovered by their owners (4/16 [25%]) was significantly lower than the percentage of neutered cats recovered (69/122 [57%]).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that the percentage of lost cats recovered by their owners is low, possibly in part because of the lack of use of traditional identification methods and the general acceptance that cats may roam. Veterinarians can help educate owners about the importance of identification and the need to keep cats indoors.

Contributor Notes

Supported by the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust, a KeyBank Trust.

Presented in part at the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases Annual Meeting, St Louis, December 2005.

Address correspondence to Dr. Lord.