July is Lost Pet Prevention Month. The things you can do for your cat fall into two categories: prevention and preparedness.
Lost Pet Prevention
The best way to keep your cat safe is to avoid your cat becoming lost.
Keep Your Cats Inside
Indoor cats are less likely to be lost because they aren’t as likely to fall victim to misfortune outdoors. If a kitty is indoors, he isn’t going to be hit by a car, attacked by a predator like a coyote, or exposed to disease from other cats.
The indoors is a safer place to be, and the average lifespan of a cat who lives indoors is ten years longer.
Many people find that it’s difficult to keep a determined cat indoors, but spaying or neutering can help with a cat’s drive to get out any open door and reproduce. Spaying and neutering can also help with other behaviors that make some people hesitate to keep their cat indoors, like spraying.
Tell Guests Cats Aren’t Allowed Out
It may sound obvious that you need to let guests who come into your house know that your cats aren’t allowed outside, but everyone who comes into your house may not keep their own cats indoors. They also may not have cats and not be accustomed to closing the door when they go outdoors for just a moment or two.
In the chaos of a holiday visit from your family, it helps to enlist everybody’s help to make sure there aren’t any feline escape artists at work!
If you are having work done on your house, like plumbing repair or other trades, it is safest to close your cat in a separate room with litter, water, and other necessities so that he doesn’t make a run for the door while the plumber goes back and forth to the truck a dozen times an hour. Even with kitty safely locked up, letting the plumber know that any cat asking to go out should be kept in is safest in case your kitty makes an escape from the safe room.
Make Safe Places for Indoor Cats to Look Outside
You can make it safe for your cat to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors without the danger by providing access to windows with secure screens. Even better, cats enjoy spending time on a screened porch or other catio enclosure where they can be somewhat outdoors but are still kept secure from outdoor hazards.
A small screened porch in your entryway can also serve as a safety measure for keeping especially determined cats inside. If you treat it like an airlock where the door to the house is never opened until the screened door is closed, even determined door dashers can’t get outside.
Be Safe While Transporting Pets
One of the times that indoor cats can become lost is while being transported outside the house, such as to veterinarian appointments. Always transport your cat in a secure carrier, and in the car, don’t open the carrier unless all windows and doors are closed.
Check cat carriers carefully before each use. On hard plastic carriers, screws or clasps that hold the top and bottom halves together can loosen. You can use zip ties as a backup security measure to help keep the top and bottom portions of a carrier together in case a screw works loose during transport.
Also, the plastic on many carriers can age and become brittle, especially if you store them in an attic, garage, or basement where they are subject to extreme temperatures. Look carefully at the plastic near the carrying handle, by where the door fastens, and where the main parts of the carrier come together to be sure that there are no signs of fatigue in the plastic, and don’t trust them to bear weight if you see damage.
Lost Pet Preparedness
No one wants to think that their cat could get lost, but the best way for your cat to get home safely is to be prepared.
Have Proof of Ownership on Hand
If your kitty is lost, the person or organization who finds your cat may ask for proof of ownership. This can be frustrating when it happens, but you wouldn’t want just anyone to be able to say they own your cat and take him away. Be ready by having photos of your pet. Photos of you with your pet are even better! Copies of vet records can also serve as proof of ownership, and they are also useful in case your cat is lost and is in the hands of a veterinarian who wants to know his history. Your cat’s ID is also part of your proof of ownership.
Make Sure Your Cat Has Identification
Without pockets, your cat can’t carry a wallet with an ID card. The two main kinds of identification your cat can carry are a collar and microchip, and they work together to help your cat get home to you.
Collar with ID
A safety collar with ID is a way for your cat to be identified on sight as being an owned cat. There are many collars available with breakaway clasps that will release if your cat gets the collar caught on an object or in a fight with another cat.
ID on the collar with current contact information allows anyone who finds your cat to quickly find you and reunite the two of you. If you or your cat don’t like the traditional, dangling tags, there are many other options, including tags that slide onto the collar and even collars that include your cat’s information stitched on.
Identification in the form of a microchip implanted under your cat’s skin that you update with a registry when your contact information changes is a great, permanent way to identify cats, especially since safety collars can be lost. Animal shelters and veterinarians can scan a lost cat and read the chip, then get the information from the registry to help reunite you to bring your lost cat home again.
Research and further reading
American Animal Hospital Association Pets Matter, Keeping Cats (The #1 pet in America) Healthy
Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, Longevity and mortality of cats attending primary care veterinary practices in England
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