Last Updated on: March 24, 2023 by Crystal Uys
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA),1 there are roughly 60–62 million cats in the United States and about 26% of American households have at least one cat. Almost 2.3 million pets go missing each year,2 and that’s only the reported animals. The actual number is undoubtedly much higher. However, it’s also the most compelling reason cats should be microchipped or wear collars.
Life outdoors is incredibly risky for felines, with only one-quarter surviving until 6 months old.3 Many factors threaten these animals, from traffic to predators to disease. Outdoor cats are also 2.77 times more likely to contract parasites,4 including ones transmissible to humans, like toxoplasmosis. You may think that an indoor-only pet doesn’t need identification, but some felines do escape, leaving their owners devastated.
The Sobering Truth
The outcomes of a cat getting loose often aren’t pretty. The reality is regrettable. An estimated 860,000 felines are euthanized each year.5 Unfortunately, these facilities can’t take in all cats, nor can they provide shelter for animals that don’t find homes. Equally distressing is the fact that losing a pet is an all-too-common experience, something 15% of cat owners will go through in a 5-year span.6
Unless you’ve been through it, it’s hard to describe the feelings of anguish and helplessness one endures when a pet is lost. For cats that do make it back home, the median timespan is an agonizing 5 days before they are reunited with their owners.7 Microchipping or a collar could decrease this period dramatically.
The Lost Pet
A study conducted by The Ohio State University sheds some interesting insights into the responses of cat owners and outcomes when searching for a lost pet. Many people will look for their cat in the neighborhood or post signs with a picture of the animal. Others may contact the local animal shelter or veterinary clinics. Sadly, the recovery rate wasn’t even over 12%, particularly with cats without identification.
Researchers also found that neutered pets were 2.28 times more likely to be reunited with their owners than sexually intact animals. However, cats are remarkable creatures. Research suggests they can find their way back home from as far away as 4 miles. Unsurprisingly, outdoor cats can roam about 1 mile farther away than indoor pets.
While most felines will stick close to home, the fact remains that your neighbors can help in your search. They may recognize your pet more readily than if your kitty wandered farther away. While the outdoor cat has street smarts, it’s also more likely to be harder to find in unfamiliar surroundings.
Identification for Your Cat
Whether it’s because they seem to be wilder to us or we think of them as free-roaming animals, it’s often an afterthought to put identification on a cat. It certainly doesn’t help that felines are little Houdinis when it comes to wearing and keeping a collar on them. Nevertheless, it’s still essential that your pet is identifiable in some way should the worst come to fruition.
We recommend skipping the dog supply section and getting a collar designed for cats. They’re smaller and lightweight, making them better suited to felines. We suggest getting one that is snag-free and with a breakaway feature. These animals often go to places where a collar can become a hazard, such as up a tree. Of course, it’s also imperative to get it customized with your phone number.
The advantage of going this route is that a collar is relatively inexpensive. You can get a style that reflects your pet’s personality. On the downside, a determined cat can slip out of one. The other concern is theft. While it’s not as common as dogs, it does happen. The first thing a thief will likely do is pitch a collar with someone’s name or number on it. Nonetheless, it’s still a viable option.
You can also get your pet microchipped as a permanent form of identification. It has a radio frequency or an RFID to identify your cat. It’s quite small and about the size of a grain of rice. A vet will implant it under the skin with a needle and syringe. The chip has a number that is unique to your pet. You must register it with the company afterward.
It’s a routine practice for veterinary clinics and shelters to scan a stray to find the owner. However, registering and keeping the info updated is imperative. Another study by OSU found that 35.4% of found pets had microchips with outdated or incorrect owner information. The good news is a reported 86.2% of lost pets taken to a shelter were reunited with their owners.
It’s worth noting that many municipalities, such as Dallas, TX, require dogs and cats to be microchipped. After all, it’s an excellent way to keep pets out of a shelter and back home where they belong.
Some pet owners have concerns about having the procedure done. The risk of an adverse reaction is minuscule. You needn’t worry about your privacy if you get your cat microchipped. Companies providing these products will only store your contact information. Rest assured protection of this data is secure.
No one should have to deal with the heartbreak of a lost cat. Whether it’s a collar or microchip, these options can help return your cat to you quicker and reduce its chance of injury. Giving your pet proper identification is also a part of being a responsible pet owner.
Featured Image Credit: Ivonne Wierink, Shutterstock
About the author
Cat mom to Ivy – a feisty little rescue kitten that is her one and only child. For now! Throughout her life, she has been introduced to the special love that can be found in the bond with a cat. Having owned multiple felines, she is more than certain that their love is unmatched, unconditional and unlike any other. With a passion to educate the public about everything, there is to know about felines, their behavior, and their unique personalities, Crystal is devoted to making sure that all cats and their owners know the importance of conscious living – and loving!