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How to Reunite a Lost or Abandoned Cat with Its Owner

Please note: while this article is very cat-centered, these tips can apply to our pooch friends, too!

Picture this: you’re out on the usual walk, minding your own business, perhaps on a walk home from work, or you’re out for your morning jog. Suddenly, you hear it—a cat’s meow. You pause, look around, and realize the sound of the cat has come from a place where they shouldn’t be—near a dumpster, or from under a garbage can lid, or from around the corner where you normally walk. You take a step closer, and the cat either pops out from around the corner or they pop out from under a garbage can or dumpster. That’s when you glimpse it—a collar around their neck, or a thin ribcage.

This may not be a normal situation, but there are times when a pet cat can get lost on their way home or, in some cases, be abandoned by their previous owner. Cats who live their lives as strays do not receive the medical attention they need, and a lost cat may end up in an even worse predicament than described (especially in the city!). If you are ever in a situation such as the one we just described, there are steps you can take to ensure if these cats need a home, or are missing theirs.

How to Tell if a Cat is Actually Lost or Abandoned

Sometimes, a cat is actually not lost at all but simply prowling its neighbourhood (especially if it’s being raised outdoors, but this is actually not a very good idea!). If this cat looks familiar to you, and you don’t see an owner calling out its name or desperately searching for the cat, it’s probably fine.

If you’re really not too sure, read the list below to see if the cat matches any of the following:

  • A clean, healthy looking fur coat
  • Bright eyes, with no goop from its tear ducts or redness
  • A friendly, easygoing temperament
  • A healthy physique, i.e. it looks well-fed

You should be more concerned if these signs are evident in the cat, however:

  • Shy and timid behaviour (i.e. the cat runs away from you, or tries to hide)
  • Aggressive behaviour, i.e. the cat hisses and bats at you when you draw near it
  • A dirty and dull fur coat or patches of skin where fur should be
  • A thin, visible ribcage
  • Irritated eyes or goop-filled tear ducts
  • Visible face wounds
  • Limping

If the above applies, the cat likely needs help.

Always Look for Identification

A collar is usually a dead giveaway that the cat belongs to someone else. However, some cats hate wearing a collar, and they may escape outside if they’re being raised as strictly indoor cats. The other best means of identification is either one of two things: one, a series of numbers inside the cat’s ear flap, and two, an embedded microchip. These are permanent forms of identification that can help a lost cat be reunited swiftly.

If there is ID on the cat’s person, follow the next section on how to safely get the cat to its owner. If there is no ID to be found, or the cat appears to have been outside and fending for itself for some time, skip the next section and read the one that comes afterwards.

How to Return the Lost Cat to their Owner

Unless there is an owner nearby calling out the cat’s name, or searching desperately for their pet, these tips can be done if the cat is lost:

  1. Try and bring the cat to a veterinary office or an animal shelter and get them checked out for a microchip. This is because microchips are actually not visible at first glance; they are inserted under the cat’s skin between the shoulders. Often, microchip numbers are registered with the manufacturer’s company online. Vet offices and shelters have scanners to read the number, which will definitely be registered to the company and is searchable online. The number that is identified on the microchip should be on file at the vet office or shelter.
  2. If you see a serial number tattooed inside of the cat’s ear flap, and there’s no owner to be found, get the cat to a veterinary clinic or shelter right away! Each province in Canada has their own unique alphanumeric code for identifying which vet clinic applied the tattoo. This makes reunions with lost cats and their owners a much easier task!
  3. Get on social media! Take a photo of the cat and then post about what has happened to your social networks (Facebook and Instagram are good places to try and reach out to fellow pet owners). Some groups on Facebook were created specifically for this purpose, and you can join the group if the need calls for it; perhaps they’ve posted information on the very cat you’ve just found?
  4. If there are any posters of the cat you’ve found in your neighbourhood, get the info you need from it and then contact the owner. While posters may be a bit outdated compared to social media, in some cases they still work well as a means of notifying fellow pet owners that a cat needs help.
  5. Ask around your neighbourhood in person about the cat. This will require some door-to-door action, but it’s better to do that than to find out the cat was indeed missing when it didn’t appear to be!

What to Do if the Cat is Abandoned

Most abandoned cats hang out where there is a food source, i.e. garbage dumpsters and cans or in alleyways where predators cannot find them easily. It’s a sad fact that kittens may end up being abandoned too, usually because the owners did not think their ownership through or the kittens are born to a feral mother.

In all cases where the cat is abandoned, notify your local animal shelter and give them as much information as you can about the cat or kittens. If for any reason you cannot leave the cat’s side, or the cats in question are kittens, stay put and call the animal shelter.

What Not to Do

There are some no-nos that can and do apply in the event of a lost or abandoned cat:

  • Do not attempt to trap an abandoned or lost cat yourself! It’s very likely that in both cases they will try to run away from humans. They may also be ridden with parasites such as fleas if they have been out on the streets for that long. An animal shelter has the means to trap the cats humanely as well as work with veterinarians in the event that medical attention for the cat or cats is needed.
  • Don’t feed the cat or give them treats if they keep visiting you. Not only will this make them needy, their owners may not be too happy that you’re overdoing it with the treats!
  • Don’t attempt to take the pet home with you. Unless the cat or kittens have been abandoned on your property, you may be unwittingly causing an owner grief by doing this!

All pets should be raised in a loving, nurturing environment, but unfortunately homelessness for cats is a reality, and some cats do go missing. In the case where a cat is lost, it’s an incredibly stressful situation for their owner! Imagine their relief if and when you help them find out their cat is safe and swiftly being returned to them. Hopefully by following our tips, and in the best case scenario, you can make yourself a hero to felines everywhere, whether it’s by reuniting a caring owner with their fur baby or helping abandoned pets find a new and loving home.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

15 Reasons to Adopt a New Pet from an Animal Shelter

Are you looking to adopt a new pet soon? Have you considered going to a nearby animal shelter? You may think it would be a better choice to go to a pet store or look online instead, but there are actually good reasons to adopt from a shelter over the other options.

Although pets are available from other sources, animal shelters are excellent and reliable places to find the perfect pet for you and your family. If you need some reasons why, we have fifteen! These include a number of good personal decisions, good animal-protection decisions, and good local community decisions.

Personal Benefits from Adopting Pets from Shelters

  1. It is less costly to adopt a pet from a shelter than from a breeder or a pet store. In fact, the cost of adopting a pet from a shelter is usually less expensive than adopting your new pet any other way. Even if you acquire a pet from a friend for no cost at all, you must still pay for their vaccinations, neutering or spaying, and for a checkup by a veterinarian before you take your new friend home. These services are mostly provided (partial or complete) for pets at shelters already.
  1. You can adopt an adult or baby animal, whichever you prefer. Pet stores usually handle only young animals, but some people want an adult pet more used to children and family life, and they can be found at shelters. Animal shelters will also take in any babies from owners whose pets have offspring after a “whoops” incident, so you can count on puppies and kittens to be available for adoption as well.
  1. Animals at shelters receive good care. Shelters treat animals that are sick or hurt and do not allow them to be adopted until each one has been given a clean bill of health. They will have been given their vaccinations and, if old enough, will be spayed or neutered. Animals at shelters are inspected by veterinarians and will be assessed for their temperament and response to children and other pets. If an animal requires long-term healthcare or possesses unwanted behaviours, potential foster pet parents will be informed so that there are no unpleasant surprises.
  1. You will have a wide choice of pets. Shelters are not restricted to particular ages or breeds of cats and dogs, and you will have a good choice of animals. In contrast, breeders usually specialize in raising and selling particular breeds, and pet stores tend to deal in only selling young animals.
  1. Older animals will likely already be housetrained and socialized. Older pets that have never had loving owners and are not sociable will be identified so that you will know what to expect.
  1. Pets help keep you active—especially if you have a dog that needs to be exercised—which, in turn, can help reduce your blood pressure and keep your weight stable. Even a cat forces you to get up off the couch every now and then to feed and play with it.
  1. If you live by yourself but talk to and care for a pet, it can be a great source of company. If your family doesn’t live nearby and your friends have moved away, a pet can play an important role in your life and increase your overall well-being.
  1. If you have children, they can learn how to be kind and responsible by helping care for an animal. A pet will become a very important part of your household. They can comfort unhappy youngsters as well as anxious adults and may watch over ill or injured members of the family.

Benefits that Animals Receive When You Adopt Them from Shelters 

  1. It is untrue that most animals in shelters have personality issues because they are there after being mistreated and abandoned. Most of the pets in shelters have been lost or are brought to the shelter by people who are no longer able to care for them.
  1. Overpopulation is a serious issue even in BC. Because of the misconception that all animals in shelters have personality issues, some shelters cannot hold on to all of the animals they receive. You can literally save the life of a helpless little animal by adopting them from a shelter.
  1. You reduce the discomfort of animals that are kept in overcrowded shelters when you adopt one of them. Not only is it kind to offer a home to a homeless animal, it decreases the problem of animals living unhappily in small quarters and not getting the individual attention they can get if they’re adopted by a loving pet parent or family.

Community Benefits by Adopting Your Pet from a Shelter

  1. You support a charitable and community institution by adopting animals from shelters. Animal shelters discourage the unfortunately commonplace and terrible practice of pet owners abandoning their pets and leaving them to fend for themselves. Knowing there are institutions that will take an unwanted pet off their hands reduces the odds of treating animals in this fashion.
  1. You encourage other people to adopt pets from shelters so they know it is a safe and economical practice. If your friends and neighbours discover your new, adorable pet came from a shelter, they may be more inclined to consider adopting one themselves.
  1. Animal shelters are an important resource in the community. They reduce the popularity of puppy mills that often supply pet stores and deceive pet owners online. Also, shelter workers will give you information about pet care.
  1. The most important reason of all: by adopting from a shelter, you’ll give a little animal a safe and loving home, all while increasing your own happiness and satisfaction at a price you can afford.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic in Burnaby and a clickable link back to this page.

Pets and Gift Giving During the Holiday Season

There is so much on our minds these days. Finding appropriate gifts for friends and family, organizing and attending parties are at the forefront of our thoughts. Among all the wonderful gifts and good wishes being exchanged during this time of year, occasionally kittens and puppies are also presented to a loved one. What could be a better gift than a cute little fur-ball to an animal lover friend! While the thought behind the idea is a very positive, heart-warming one, it must be remembered that adopting or owning a pet can be a very personal decision.

Pet ownership is a commitment of many years and involves fulfillment; yet time-consuming activities such as socializing the pet, daily care, training (for dogs, and yes it includes house training), veterinary and grooming appointments, etc. Young puppies and kittens demand a ton of time and effort devoted towards them. This is generally while adjusting your lifestyle to that of the new member in the family. Due to careers, school, or relationships, some people may not be prepared to commit to such a huge responsibility – no matter how much they adore animals. Friends that have had previous pets may not be prepared to train a young pet from scratch. Or, worse, your gift may turn them into first-time pet owners, with them having no clue about what they are getting into!

Also, dogs and cats (or rabbits, or fish) make very different types of pets. Each has its own specific needs and personalities. A friend may have been a long-term cat parent, but their home and lifestyle may not support having a dog as part of the family. The same holds for different breeds within an animal species.

So, if you are planning to gift a pet to your friend or family member, be sure to initiate a conversation with them before deciding on the gift. It is also important to talk about what species and breed best fits the home. The most likely time for pets being adopted and finding loving, forever homes is when they are still very young. It would be a shame if the pet adopted by you for a friend does not get the absolute best care and attention it deserves.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian – Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby. BC’s first Veterinary Dermatology Resident.

 

P.S.: this is my top 5 list of gift ideas for a pet-lover on your Christmas list:

  1. Grooming date for their pet (ideally at their regular groomer)
  2. A commitment to housesitting their pet on their next weekend getaway
  3. Gift card from pet store
  4. Appointment with a pet adoption home to explore the possibility of pet adoption
  5. Bag of their pets’ favorite treats (never goes wrong)

Should Pets be Adoptable in Pet Stores?

It has been very satisfying to witness passionate Burnaby residents discuss the outcome of City Council’s review on Burnaby’s animal control by-law in September.* We haven’t spared any avenue from talking about the issue, from one-on-one discussions with the newspaper and social media. It is lovely to witness what an animal loving city we live in, hence the passion and lively discussion, no matter which side of the fence we might be on.

The two key issues to be discussed by the council at the next meeting on August 26* are – whether or not to ban the sale of animals in pet stores and whether to put in breed-specific legislation on pet ownership. While the former topic has been debated extensively, we must not forget the implications of a breed-specific ban, without stressing the need for pet training, socialization, and leash regulations.

Both issues are multifaceted and it will be challenging to come up with a consensus. Coming up with a simple answer such as banning sales or banning pitbulls would amount to tackling the issue lightly. I sincerely hope that no single answer is sought during this review. We are a forward-looking city in most aspects of business and environmental initiatives. I would like to see the same approach taken to tackle this very sensitive topic on animal care and protection, one that other cities in the province might follow.

I agree with the animal advocate groups and rescue groups about the abundant need for local adoption of homeless or abandoned pets in not just Burnaby but in our province as a whole. We need to consider that a pet store sales ban would address a very small proportion of the homeless pet situation when it comes to local dogs, cats, and rabbits.

Also, a simple ban on pet stores would move the problem to puppy and kitten mill animals being sold through the Internet and backyard breeder type sales which may include the purchase of animals from out of province or even from across the border. If animals for sale are being imported from the United States for sale in Burnaby, it is decreasing the likelihood of adoption of local shelter-based adoptions. In my opinion, it is trivial to discuss whether these animals are coming from puppy mills or not, or if they are being sold by a pet store or an individual; as a city, our emphasis should be on minimizing homeless animals locally.

One of the pet store owners has been reported to contact local feline shelters to help sell their cats and this effort should be lauded and encouraged by not just the city of Burnaby but also the shelters involved. It could be a match made in heaven, assuming both parties meet the quality standards, as the abandoned pets in shelters could replace the sale of imported pets as opposed to competing with each other.

In my opinion, the City Council should consider a futuristic animal control model where pet stores may be able to provide adoption of pets within specified guidelines. The guidelines may include certification and ongoing inspections of the facility where pets are made available for adoption.

This would also include a commitment to home local pets only, which are obtained through the SPCA or local shelters so as to discourage local puppy and kitten mills and out-of-province adoptions. After all, the council is deliberating the draft on animal control issues rather than animal sales alone.

Likely, an association between pet stores and local shelters would lower the cost of adoption for new pet families as most veterinarians in Burnaby are committed to decreasing homeless pets through discounted veterinary services for shelter and homeless animals, TNR (Trap-neuter-return) programs, spay-neuter clinics, etc. Pet stores willing to work within City Council guidelines such as re-homing local adoptable animals only as well as in association with local animal advocacy groups would still be able to provide pet adoption if they so choose. Thus, the suggestion would be to allow adoption through pet stores, as opposed to the current model of pet sales.

Everyone in the pet care industry needs to do more in order to encourage responsible pet ownership. Education of prospective pet owners involves a thorough discussion regarding pet care needs, the cost of pet care, licensing of pets, need for neutering, longer life expectancy of pets (thus a longer commitment to your new friend), and support from the avenue it was adopted from. Fostering prior to adoption should be encouraged by adoption agencies including pet stores.

Adopting a kitten or puppy can be a bigger challenge as a first-time pet – new pet owners should be given an option to adopt an adult. This may help make their first pet experience a smoother ride compared to the surprises a kitten or puppy would bring in day-to-day needs.

The way to address the need for responsible pet ownership is not only through legislation but also through public education. As individuals, we should consider adopting locally instead of buying pets.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby since 2005 and BC’s first Veterinary Dermatology Resident.

*This was originally published in Burnaby Now in their August 2013 issue

Wait Until After Easter to Adopt a New Pet

How great would it be to have a puppy or kitten or rabbit running around the house for Easter? They sure are cute. But unfortunately, not every cuddly pet adopted during this time of year gets a happy ending. By getting a pet on impulse, you could be putting you, your family, and especially your new pet under a lot of pressure to adapt and get used to something so new so fast…as if Easter wasn’t enough of a busy time of the year!

If you are planning to adopt a new pet, it’s best that you wait until after the busy Easter season. That way, you and your family will have more time to learn about the necessary pet health care and training needed by your new family member.

Why Holiday Seasons Aren’t the Best Time for Adoptions

Adopting a pet is a more serious decision to make; it requires more forethought and planning than you may realize. There are also some dangers in purchasing any pet as a holiday gift:

  1. At Easter time in particular, parents often have a vision of their surprised and happy children holding baby animals when there may be no suitable place on the property to raise them. Any baby animal will grow into an adult, and so they will require extra living space as they grow.
  2. Your child may be too young to accept the responsibility of caring for a pet. Any small animal can be mishandled or mistreated by young children who don’t understand the consequences of their actions. Many Easter pets could be hurt by accident when they are dropped by excited children or not given proper support when held. Also, keep in mind that a frightened or hurt animal may harm the child as well.
  3. You may not have the time and opportunity to teach your child how to properly handle and care for new pets that are brought into the family unexpectedly.
  4. All animals need a safe environment, and holiday seasons present particular dangers not normally present, such as decorations, candy, and treats that may attract pets but are toxic to them.

Consider Your Lifestyle Carefully When Adopting a Pet

Animals always need love and attention, so they require a commitment from owners for a lifetime of pet health care. Ask yourself the following questions before you adopt:

  1. Can you and your family provide the care needed? Do you have time to housebreak a kitten or a puppy? Do you have a place to house your new pet? Will you be able to feed the new pet on schedule? Does your new pet require exercise and do you have time for that?
  2. Do you have the money for pet food or any other supplies that are needed to care for your pet: a leash, a harness, a cage, bedding, toys, grooming supplies, and other accessories?
  3. Will you be able to pay for veterinary care, which may include spaying or neutering, vaccinations, medications, flea and parasite prevention, and emergency care?
  4. If you buy a pet for your child, are you prepared to take over its care if your child loses interest and neglects the pet?

Animal-Related Easter Gifts Can Be More Welcoming and Exciting 

If you have decided to adopt a new pet and wisely choose not to spring it on to your family at Easter (or any other holiday season), consider animal-related substitute gifts. After deciding on the type of animal that would fit your lifestyle, announce at gift-giving time that the family is going to adopt a pet after the holidays. Present gifts of books and videos on pet care for the particular animal on which you have decided, or gift certificates for pet care items and accessories.

Once the Easter season is over, make sure everyone has had time to become familiar with the specific pet health care, training, and attention that will be needed for the animal you have chosen. It will then be the perfect time to select and adopt your new pet and, soon after, welcome him or her into your home. Enjoy your new family member!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to the Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Credit: Pixabay

How a Pet-Friendly Home Offers Safe Cat and Dog Care

A pet-friendly home offers cat and dog care with no threats to their safety from hazardous objects and materials in the environment. With a little effort, not only can your pets live and play safely but also you will be free from the worry that the animals in your care could come to harm if you are not able to watch over them every minute. Read more