Pets go missing far more often than most people think.  Studies show that over a five-year period, as many as 10-15% of owners go through the heartbreak of losing their pet.  Australian Pet Welfare Foundation’s Emeritus Professor Jacquie Rand shares a story about a much-loved cat called Merlin who went missing; and five ways to prevent losing a pet.

Prevent losing a pet – Merlin’s story

Sarah loved Merlin dearly – they had been together for nearly 15 years. Merlin was elderly and on medication, so when he went missing, Sarah was frantic.

Although Merlin was microchipped, days passed with no sign of him. Here’s why.

Merlin was found by a neighbour, hiding in her backyard just five houses away from home. According to research by the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation’s Emeritus Professor Jacquie Rand, this is typical. 75% of lost cats that are later found are within 500 metres of their home.

So close – yet so far.  Merlin was microchipped, but not wearing an ID tag.

Without proper ID, Merlin’s life was in danger. In many states of Australia, unidentified lost pets can be euthanased after just 72 hours – and some pounds euthanased more than 85% of cats.

Unfortunately, the information on a microchip can only be read with a scanner – and it’s usually only vets, shelters and council pounds who have them. Because Sarah’s neighbour didn’t know who Merlin belonged to, she called the pound, who sent an animal control officer to pick him up.

At the pound, Merlin was scanned and his microchip found. But there was another problem – Merlin’s microchip still had the contact details for the organisation Sarah adopted him from, nearly 15 years earlier.

Eventually Sarah was contacted by the council pound. Thankfully, the shelter where she’d adopted Merlin had been able to track down her details.

Sarah raced to the pound to get Merlin, but found him desperately ill. Without his medication, his kidneys and heart had deteriorated very quickly. She rushed him straight to her vet, where she was just in time for emergency treatment to save his life.

One more day, and she’d have lost Merlin forever.

With a tag, Sarah’s neighbour could have called her on the day she found him, getting him safely home before his life-threatening trip to the pound.

For a lost pet like Merlin, a collar and ID tag with the correct phone number can be a lifesaver!

Believe it or not, this story is very common. Professor Rand’s research found that a staggering 37% of microchips in dogs and cats have incorrect contact details recorded on the data base, while others have disconnected numbers listed, or even chips that have not been registered.

Here are five ways to prevent losing a pet

  • You can prevent losing a pet by making sure your cat or dog is wearing an ID tag with your correct phone number so it can be returned quickly if it is found.
  • Make sure your pet has a registered microchip with the correct details. Only 5% of cats with no microchip, and 33% of those with incorrect details, make it back to their owners. If you know your pet’s microchip number, you can check your contact details through Pet Address.
  • Cats tolerate collars better than their owners expect. Regularly check that your cat’s collar fits snuggly, so they can’t accidentally catch a paw or their mouth in it.
  • Even if your pet lives indoors, they still need to wear an id tag – an amazing 40% of lost cats are indoor-only pets, with no access to the outdoors.

If your cat goes missing, ask neighbours if you can search their property. More tips to help you find a lost cat.

About Australian Pet Welfare Foundation

5 ways to prevent losing a pet

Professor Jacquie Rand shares 5 ways to prevent losing a pet.

The Australian Pet Welfare Foundation (APWF) is committed to decreasing the killing of pets in pounds and shelters throughout Australia.  Knowledge gained through research supported by the Foundation can transform the way shelters and pounds manage and rehome abandoned and lost animals.

Just as modern research has helped to save countless human lives, so too can the research supported by the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation.

APWF’s primary activity is influencing key stakeholders in government, welfare agencies, veterinary professionals and community leaders. This is achieved by sharing evidenced-based information on best practice to save lives in shelters and pounds through changed policy and legislation.

Donate now to Australian Pet Welfare Foundation and help to bring hope to thousands of homeless pets.