Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Return to sender - not this time :(

With the number of stray cats who come to our centre, you'd think that a reasonable proportion would end up being reunited with their owners.

One great way to reunite lost cats is the microchip, a small implant put under the skin in the cat's neck, which contains a unique number. The number is then registered on a central database along with a description of the cat and the name, address and other contact details of the owner.

One of the biggest highs for our volunteers and staff is when we take in a stray and are able to reunite him or her with loving owners who have been looking for him. Sometimes the cat is found quite close to home, other times it can be many miles away, always prompting the question "how did he (or she) get that far?"

Sadly, the reality is, that most cats who come in as strays aren't microchipped, and very very few end up being reunited - once they're advertised in the paper local to where they were found we rehome them. Of course, there may be a desparate owner searching frantically in the next town for their much-loved pet, but we have no way of knowing where the cat may have originated from, and so we cannot advertise in the correct town.

Almost worse than that, though, is the cat who comes in as a stray, turns out to be microchiped but to our disappointment is microchipped to the wrong address. Presumably the owners have moved and declined to pay the small administration fee to have the address details updated.

In these cases we have a small advantage - we can advertise both in the location where the cat was found, and in the location where the cat is registered as living, but sadly very very rarely does this result in a match.

This is exactly what happened with Charlie, pictured above. A lady had been feeding him for some time, had made local enquiries to see if anyone knew him, but had drawn a blank. She brought him to our centre and we were delighted to find his microchip, but hugely saddened when his owners could not be traced from it. We have advertised locally and are trying to contact all people in the phone book with the same surname - luckily it is not too common! But the chances are slight that we will locate them.

We would love to see all owners taking responsibility for their pets. Microchipping them and then keeping their details up to date when they move. It would help cut down the number of strays, and the heartbreak that owners feel when their pets go missing.

As for Charlie, he will probably be with us for a couple of weeks whilst we try to find his owners, but failing that we will have no option but to put him up for adoption. Hopefully his new owners will keep his microchip details up to date.

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