Cats injured in road traffic and other accidents are in real danger of being put to sleep if their owners cannot be located in time, an animal charity has warned. The warning comes as Britain’s animal shelters are overflowing with unwanted pets – leaving little or no room for injured dogs and cats whose owners can’t be traced.
Officially nominated National Microchipping Month, June sees charities and pet companies come together to educate pet owners about the benefits of microchipping and the importance of keeping contact details up to date.
“For devoted pet owners, few things are worse than a much-loved dog or cat going missing for days, weeks or even months on end. But despite it being both quick and very affordable, many cats in Britain have still not been microchipped,” says Sara Atkinson, founder of Yorkshire Cat Rescue.
Countless cats are injured in road traffic accidents each year and the ones that aren’t chipped are at very real risk of being put to sleep when their owners cannot be found.
Sara explains: “Most vets will do their best to make an injured cat as comfortable as possible while they try and find the owner but not everyone will provide comprehensive treatment if required if no one is around to pick up the bill.
“Vets all have different policies in situations like this. Some will treat and keep an ownerless cat for several days or even a week, at which point they will then contact their local animal shelter to see if they can take it in. But with charities like ours bursting at the seams with cats waiting for new homes, finding an available space at short notice isn’t always possible. This is the point where unidentified cats are at real risk of being put to sleep.”
According to Sara, there is a misconception that cats will always find their way home. “People often fail to make the mind-leap that their cat could have been picked up by a kind stranger outside of their immediate neighbourhood and taken to a vet or animal rescue some distance away. Many simply assume that a lost cat will find its way home sooner or later but this is far from always the case. Adverts in local newspapers are no good if they are distributed in the wrong town or city.”
Yorkshire Cat Rescue has recently had a spate of injured cats handed in from local vet, West Mount Vets – all having been picked up by passers-by. Of course these are the lucky ones as the charity never puts a healthy cat down, but reuniting them with their owners is far from always the outcome. “We will always try and find the original owners of any lost or stray cat that comes into the centre, but without up-to-date microchip details or a collar, this often proves impossible. It is sad because the vast majority of these cats are neutered and very friendly so we know that they must belong to someone who misses them terribly. In the end we will find them a new loving home, but I would far rather reunite them with their original family. What happens to the cats we can’t make room for doesn’t even bear thinking about but this is the harsh reality.”
Veterinary nurse at West Mount Vets, Sarah Hutchins, says they are seeing the problem too. She says: “We still see a lot of animals that have not been microchipped and that makes contacting owners very difficult – sometimes impossible. It can delay treatment by days which is far from idea. Last Monday we took in an injured cat but were only able to contact the owner on the Thursday. If an animal has been killed in an accident, we can’t inform the owners who are often left distressed and worried about where their pet might be.”
Sara urges all cat owners to make sure their cats have been microchipped and that those details are kept up to date at all times. “If all cats were microchipped the owners would be notified immediately should their cat get injured and end up at the vet. Should the saddest thing happen and the cat doesn’t survive, at least the owners would know what happened and not be left searching in vain.”