The study, performed between September-November 2010, includied 1,015 pet owning households -- 80% of whom owned dogs (817) and 50% (506) owned cats -- 30% (308) owned both a dog and a cat.
According to the reported research:
- 14% of dogs had been lost in the past 5 years, (of which, 95% were recovered) and 15% of cats were lost (of which, 75% were recovered).
-- 50% of dogs and 33% of cats had been lost multiple times
-- 80% of dogs and 88% of cats were spayed or neutered (male dogs were less likely to be altered than female dogs). This would seem to be counter to common thinking that unaltered animals are more likely to run off than altered ones.
-- Not surprisingly, people with higher incomes and more education were MORE likely to alter their pets than people with lower incomes and less education -- further highlighting the need for targeted low-cost spay/neuter services.
-- There was no significant difference in likelihood of a pet being lost based on income or education
-- 49% of found dogs were found by searching their neighborhood, 20% came home on their own, 15% were contacted because they were wearing a tag or had a microchip, 7% were brought home by a neighbor and 6% by contacting animal control
-- 59% of cats were found because they returned home on their own, 30% were found by searching the neighborhood. Only 2% were returned home because they were wearing a tag or mcircochipped, and another 2% via contacting animal control.
-- For people who never found their lost dogs, 75% of searched their neighborhood, 75% visited the shelter, 50% hung posters, 50% put an ad in their paper, 50% posted online and 38% called their veterinarian (I will note that the sample size is very low for this since most people found their pets).
-- For people who never found their cats, 67% searched the neighborhood, 22% visited a shelter, 17% hung posters , 11% put an ad in the paper, 6% posted online and 11% called veterinarians (again, a fairly low sample size). The number of lost cat owners that never visited the shelter to look for the cat (and a verys small percent have any form of identification) is likely a reason that most shelters have strikingly low return-to-owner rates for cats.
-- People who made less than $50,000 a year were less likely to be reunited with their dogs than people in higher income brackets. For cats, low income (less than $30,000 and high income ($100,000+) were more likely to be reunited, where people between $30,000-100,000 were less likely to find them.
-- Women were more likely than men to be reunited with their dogs, but the opposite was true for cats.
-- While the numbers of unfound pets seem fairly low by these numbers, when you compare to the large numbers of owned pets in this country (86 million cats, 78 million dogs), this still means that roughly 2.2 million dogs are lost each year, and 2.6 million cats. Based on this, a large number of the animals that find their way into shelters across the nation are actually owned animals, not strays. And based on numbers of animals that are never found, this accounts for 110,000 dogs and 645,000 cats annually that are owned, but unable to be reunited with their owners.
I think the results of the study are interesting on a lot of levels. They support a lot of reasons for targeted low cost spay/neuter programs and the need for aggressive programs to encourage pet owners to put identifying tags and microchips on their pets (particularly for indoor cats, who do get lost). It also poses a pretty hefty task on shelters to try to be creative to create programs to help reunited cats to cat owners (which includes encouraging cat owners to come to the shelter to look for their lost cats.
There may be some sample bias in this survey, but I thik it does provide some good first data on the frequency of pets becoming lost, and then found again.
Read the study in its entirety and I'd love to get your thoughts.