Feline ID issues and the veterinarian's conundrum
Here’s the thing with the cats I treat: Only one in ten wears a collar. Maybe half that number sport tags. Only one out of every couple dozen cats bears a microchip. Now consider that I live in Miami, where 75 percent of owned cats live a significant portion of their lives out-of-doors, and you’ve got to wonder ... WHY?
Or, "why not," right? What is it about keeping pets close and safe that appeals less to cat owners than to dog owners?
1. Is it the lack of the kind of leash laws that govern dogs?
2. Is it our cats’ notorious, collar-losing ways?
3. Is it the notion that our cats, whether we tag them or not, will always find their way back home again?
4. Or are our cats simply not given the respect we reserve for our dogs?
Based on my experience of querying cat owners, I reckon the source of the ID paucity among my feline patients is a result of some or all of the above. (Btw, feel free to offer more reasons in the comment section below — if you happen to have any.)
For some reason, cats seem to get an ID pass — in their owners’ eyes, anyway. If you’ve read between this post’s lines up ‘til now, you’ll gather this is not exactly A-OK in my book. As most of my long-time readers will have gleaned by now, I’m big on the concept of IDs for ALL of my patients, not just on the eminently tag-able dogs.
It’s a veterinary issue, after all. Just as the altogether too often sidelined issue of behavior inevitably becomes a veterinary issue (seeing as how it accounts for the majority of pet relinquishment to shelters), the fact that pets are too often euthanized due to a lack of identification means it’s MY responsibility to step up and force the issue.
But do I? Not as much as I should. And I know why. Not that it’s any excuse, but the aggressive push-back I get from some of my cat owners is enough to put me off asking altogether. Because apart from assuming that it's OK to let kitty run amok without a collar, I find that my clients are typically defensive about it ... as if they know they should know better.
Enter my own kitty, Laz, and guess what? No collar. No chip. No ID whatsoever. And I guess if someone "collared" me over it I'd get defensive too. Which is why I'm heading it off now:
The microchip comes first, since I have that in-house and all it takes is an extra set of hands to administer it. So that's easy. Problem is: Will anyone even stop to check for it before TNR-ing or euthanizing him? Not likely. If mistakes are made on non-ID’d military hero dogs, the average outdoor "housecat" doesn't stand a chance; which is why it's all about the collar.
But here's where the real conundrum arises: Which collar to get?
All I ever hear from my clients is how impossible it is to outfit their cats in this regard. "A collar? A tag? A bell? Seriously? Have you ever had a cat?"
Still, I find myself committed to this project. I WILL find the perfect collar, and he WILL wear it, even if I've got to put a new one on him every week. And once I'm all done with this task, I promise to get started on the big one: building him a safe outdoor enclosure!
Dr. Patty Khuly