Monday, August 21, 2017

How do you find a missing cat? Interview with Brigid Wasson.

cat, missing cat, missing pet
Has your cat ever gone missing? Did you ever find out where he/she went? Often, it isn't far at all.

Do you or have you lived with a cat? Ever had a cat go missing? It is a traumatic experience. Sometimes there’s that moment of panic, then you find them later – curled up in a wardrobe or hiding in the garden. But when they are missing for days, weeks, and months on end, it is extremely upsetting. This is when you wish they could just text you and let you know they’re sleeping a few houses up the road, or they can’t find they’re way home but they don’t think they’re far. Unfortunately, they can’t.

Brigid Wasson is presenting at the Getting 2Zero conference on reuniting owners with lost cats as quickly as possible.

Brigid is a lifetime animal welfare professional and retired animal shelter director. She has held positions of leadership in both government and nonprofit animal service agencies, focusing on implementing lifesaving programs and increasing live release from as low as 60% to over 90%.

Brigid became interested in lost pet prevention and recovery in 2008 when she discovered Missing Pet Partnership, and in 2014 was invited to join the Board of Directors. She currently serves as President of the organization and manages the animal shelter initiatives including Mission Reunite, which teaches animal shelter/pound management, staff, volunteers, and community partners to work together to increase owner reunions and decrease shelter intake.

Getting pets back home quickly saves resources that can be better utilized for animals truly in need of a new home such as cruelty or neglect cases. Brigid lives in Sonoma County, CA and is the CEO and Principal Consultant of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting.

What’s your day job?

I provide consulting for animal pounds and shelters and their community partners on best practices and lifesaving programs.

Why did you become interested in the fate of missing cats?

I have been a cat lover all my life. Since I was a child I connected with them. As an adult working in the animal shelters, I was horrified to see what happens to cats there. There are tens of thousands of healthy, friendly adult cats that are rarely reclaimed, either being euthanized or sitting in cages for weeks or months before being adopted. On the other side of the door you have cat owners grieving for their missing pets, not knowing how to find them, and often starting their shelter search too late, or giving up too soon. There’s a huge gap between what owners need to do and what shelter leaders need to do to keep cats at home and stop this madness.

Where are people most likely to find a missing cat?

Hiding close to home, sometimes even in the home! Generally, cats do not travel far like dogs, so they are often found under decks, in bushes, in sheds in the yard of the owner or a close neighbour. Sometimes they are just scared, other times they are stuck or hiding because they are ill or injured. This is why it is so important to start a thorough search quickly.

In what time frame are most missing cats found?

It varies. Some are found a day or two after going missing, while others are found weeks later. I don’t think there’s any magic number, it’s just a combination of the owner actively searching and the cat coming out of hiding and revealing his location.

If someone loses a cat, what advice would you give them?

Start looking right away. Don’t assume he’ll come home. Follow the advice on our web site and seek the assistance of a professional if you feel you can’t do it alone. Learn the shelter (pound) system and check them frequently. While most cats are recovered close to home, someone may have taken your cat to a shelter because they believed they were lost, or because they appeared ill or injured. [Ed. Its also good to contact vet clinics in the area as strays can be brought in there].

How can we prevent cats getting lost in the first place?

Keep them confined to your property. Microchip and register.

If someone finds a cat (that isn’t theirs), what should they do?

In most cases, nothing. The majority of cats one will see outside are owned pets not in need of any kind of “rescuing.” If you are concerned, you can check with neighbours to see if anyone is missing a cat or has brought a new cat home. Bringing a healthy, friendly cat to a shelter takes him out of his home environment and almost ensures that he will never see it again.

That said, if you have free roaming, breeding cats in your neighbourhood, you may want to get in touch with an organization in your community that offers low cost spay neuter (desexing) and vaccination to reduce and improve the health of the population.

Kittens – preferably waiting till they are eight weeks of age, unless you are certain that the mother is gone – and cats that appear ill or injured should be brought to the local veterinary hospital or shelter/pound for medical attention.

What non-human(s) do you share your life with and how did you meet.

Many! In fact, I chose the city I live in based on, among other things, the fact that it does not have a cat limit. We have a large cat family, each with his or her own story. We have four dogs of varying sizes and personalities, and two horses.

Any advice you’d like to share with veterinarians and future veterinarians?

As highly respected professionals, your word is gospel for many in the animal world. Because of that, you have an obligation to educate yourself and, consequently, the public with whom you interact, on animal welfare issues. We hear too many stories of veterinarians not questioning new pets recently found by “owners,” not scanning for microchips, and in some cases taking in stray pets and giving them away without making any attempt to find the owner. A few words of advice for both owners and finders of missing pets would go a long way, as would office policies that favour pet and rightful owner reunion.

Thank you Brigid for your time. You can read more about Brigid on her website or on facebook. You can register or find out more about Getting 2 Zero here.