Myth Busting: Finding Felines

To catch a cat, you have to think like a cat. This may sound like an exercise in discovering your inner feline, but PAWS staff member David Minzel insists that it’s the best chance guardians have of finding their lost cat. “In order to find a cat, you have to understand their behavior,” says Minzel.  So how does he reunite guardians with their missing pets? The answer, he says, is humane cat trapping.

The sky is overcast, and a slight drizzle falls as Minzel demonstrates how to set one of these traps. He places a can of pungent-smelling cat food at the back of the trap and gently eases his hand free. “They really like the stinky stuff. The stinkier, the better,” he says. Reuniting lost cats through humane cat trapping, a method led by the nonprofit organization Missing Pet Partnership, focuses on the recovery of missing pets through behavioral profiling. “The personality of a cat has everything to do with where it will go,” says Minzel. “Cats are more independent. When they get scared or feel threatened, they tend to hunker down.” What this means is that the usual methods of searching for a lost cat—posting flyers, searching miles away from the home—won’t always work. The answer, it seems, is a meal.

Of course, the best answer is to keep your cat safely confined at all times and provide them with permanent identification such as a microchip. However, should your cat slip out the door, humane trapping may be able to help reunite you.

Minzel first decided to try the humane trapping method when he discovered that the percentage of stray cats being reunited with their guardians is much less than the return rate for dogs in most shelters. This disparity is likely the result of several factors; unfortunately, it is more culturally acceptable to allow cats to roam free, and guardians are less likely to provide their cats with a collar and microchip.

Despite the fact that PAWS’ return to guardian rate actually exceeds the national average by quite a bit, which is largely due to the proactive efforts of PAWS’ staff, Minzel says he knew that a targeted search approach would result in even greater success. After hearing that Missing Pet Partnership had a 60% success rate with humane trapping, he knew PAWS had to give it a try.

The purpose of the trap, says Minzel, is to help people narrow down and focus their search efforts, and it seems to be working. “People have been coming back in to thank us, so we know we’re onto something,” he says. With the use of humane traps, fewer missing pets are ending up as strays or at a shelter, and that, says Minzel, is a happy ending for everyone.


Magazine Issue 81 Page 5-1

Above: David Minzel demonstrates how to set a humane trap by luring your pet with pungent-smelling cat food.

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