With thousands of cats going missing each year, knowing what to do if you find one could mean the difference between a happy reunion or a sad separation.
However, findings released recently by feline welfare charity Cats Protection, show that the UK population is confused about what to do if they spot a wandering cat. With less than a third of all cats microchipped, the odds of a happy reunion are not good for our feline friends.
Carried out in the run-up to this year’s Microchipping Month (June), the survey of 1,000 people showed nearly half (48%) would not approach an unfamiliar cat.
Reasons for not approaching it include the possibility the cat may be aggressive, may have an owner nearby or that it could simply be seeking attention. And while slightly more than half (52%) would approach the cat, they would fail to find out if the cat has an owner.
Only 42% of this sample would check for a collar to reunite the cat with its owner, while just 20% would take the cat to a vet to be scanned for a microchip.
Cats Protection says that while no approach is totally wrong, there are some key things the public can do to help them decide whether or not the cat needs help.
“One of the main things is to keep an eye out for a new cat over time” says Karen Thompson, Deputy Manager of Cats Protection’s National Cat Adoption Centre. “If you see the cat rarely, and it appears well-fed every time you see it, then the chances are it has an owner, or it is a feral cat that is accustomed to living in the wild. However, if the cat is hanging around a lot and over time looks thin, underweight or distressed, then this could be a domestic cat that has become lost and is in need of help.”
If the cat seems friendly, Cats Protection’s top tips are:
- Check the cat for a collar and if there are no visible signs of ownership, take the cat to your local vet to be scanned for a microchip
- If the cat is sick or injured get veterinary assistance for the animal quickly or call the RSPCA, USPCA or SSPCA
- Ask your neighbours if they recognise the cat
- Check local newspapers, listings and social media sites in case the cat is listed as missing
Cat owners can assist with the chances of a happy reunion by ensuring their cat is microchipped.
“We know that less than a third of all pet cats are microchipped and a quarter have no identification at all” says Karen. “This means many lost pet cats can be mistaken for stray cats and rehomed by people or cat welfare charities. Microchipping your cat increases the chances of a happy reunion because it is a permanent and safe form of identification, though it is important to keep the microchip details up-to-date if you change your address.”