A few days before Christmas my family and I received an unexpected visitor. A small orange kitten arrived on our doorstep, lost, hungry and determined to make her home with us.
She seemed unfazed by the presence of our three dogs, who launched into frenzied barking every time they caught a glimpse of her through the glass panels on our front door.
She blithely ignored the canine cacophony and each time we left or entered our house she made a valiant effort to push her way inside.
While my first instinct was to bring the tiny furball inside to protect her from the freezing temperature I wanted to make sure she would be accessible if her guardians were searching the neighbourhood, calling for her. I built a shelter on our porch to shield her from the elements and left food and water for her.
We checked hourly on her welfare, canvassed the neighbourhood to see if anyone was missing a kitten and posted notices in the community. I also left word with our local animal shelter in case anyone called looking for her.
Sadly, no one came looking for our little houseguest and no one called the shelter to report a missing kitten. We brought her inside where she showered us with cuddles and loud purrs. She was so affectionate and eager for attention that it seemed unlikely she was a feral cat. But because her guardians had made no effort to identify her – she had no collar tag, no microchip or tattoo – we could not return her to her home.
Several days later I took the kitten to the SPCA, where she was given a medical exam, was spayed and tattooed with an ID number and was quickly adopted into a new loving home. While the situation ended happily for her, I can’t help but wonder why she was alone outdoors in freezing temperatures or if there is a family out there missing this adorable little creature.
Last year, the BC SPCA rescued more than 10,000 stray cats and kittens. Only 900 were redeemed by their guardians, while the majority were adopted into new homes.
By contrast, 65 per cent of dog guardians redeemed their animals. This startling difference is because few cat guardians bother to identify their cats so they can be returned if lost or make the effort to look for them when they go missing, assuming that they will “show up” some time.
In addition to the thousands of lost or abandoned cats who are turned into animals shelters in B.C. each year, thousands more fall victim to starvation, disease, predation and injury.
This is a completely preventable tragedy. If your cat doesn’t already have identification I urge you to make it one of your New Year’s resolutions to ensure your pet will have a quick and safe journey home in the event he or she gets separated from your family.
For more tips on how to keep your pet healthy and happy in 2011, visit spca.bc.ca.
Lorie Chortyk is the general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA.