Many cat owners believe that a lost cat will find its way home. Lord (2008) conducted a survey of households in Ohio and found that 62% of cat owners believed that if their cat strayed from home they would be able to find their way home on their own. Only 21% of cat owners disagreed with the statement. Interestingly, the division of belief was nearly identical for non-cat owners.
Lord et al. (2007) also conducted a study in Ohio on “Search and Identification Methods that Owners Use to Find a Lost Cat.” In this study, they found that 35% (48) of lost cats returned home on their own (12% in 3 days or less; 15% in 4 to 7 days, and 8% in more than 7 days), 18% (25) were found using various search methods, and 47% (65) were not recovered. While more than 1/3 is a decent number of cats finding their way home, the fact that even more cats were never found, suggests that most methods used by owners to find their lost cats were ineffective. Search methods included: advertised in newspaper, read newspaper, searched websites, called or visited animal agency, posted neighborhood signs, contacted veterinarians, called police, sent e-mail to neighbors, walked around the neighborhood, and spoke with neighbors. The relative success of different recovery methods is shown in Table 1.
Forty-one percent of the lost cats were escaped indoor-only cats. Lord et al. (2007) does not provide a break down of the percent of indoor-only and outdoor-access cats that returned home on their own, which is unfortunate since the behavior of these two types of cats is very different.
In a future post, I intend to look more at the relative effectiveness of traditional methods used to find lost cats and lost dogs.
If your cat was lost away from home, you may also want to read my article on the Homing Ability of Lost Cats.
Lord, Linda K. 2008. Attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 232(8): 1159-1167.
Lord, Linda K., Thomas, E. Wittum, Amy K. Ferketich, Julie A Funk, Paivi J. Rajala-Schultz. 2007. Search and identification methods that owners use to find a lost cat. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 230(2): 217-220.