The chart from All About Cats shows us which US states have the highest rate of missing domestic cats. It is quite interesting but the striking numbers from Rhode Island where the number of lost cats per 1,000 cat owning households is 11.45 and over 4 times the level of the next worse state, New Hampshire, indicate inaccuracies. In fact, all the states other than Rhode Island have what I would have thought are fairly predictable rates of lost cats.
And Maryland has a very low rate of lost cats which is actually 47 times lower than Rhode Island. And if we agree that the people of Rhode Island are similar to the people of Maryland in terms of pet caretaking as they will be across the USA, we have to conclude that this disparity is not due to cat caretaking standards or styles but a variation in the record keeping of these states.
So, for example, Rhode Island has a law which states that cats are required to display some form of identification tag e.g., microchip, tattoo or tag on a collar. The objective is to reduce the number of stray and feral cats. Obligatory microchipping helps count lost cats. But even with these laws are they adhered to and are they effectively enforced?
But it does mean that the authorities have a better handle on the number of owned cats and therefore the number of lost cats. In Rhode Island, if a stray cat is found with a tag, they will be declared lost. But if a stray cat without a tag is found they will not be a lost cat but a stray cat.
The obligatory identification law means that it is possible to count more accurately the number of lost cats.
I am speculating, but if in Maryland cat ownership is laxer, they are not counting the number of lost cats accurately. They have no obligatory identification process as per Rhode Island. If cat ownership is laissez-faire cat owners will not report a lost cat. The authorities or shelters won’t know about it, and it is not added to any kind of database. The numbers of lost cats will be low because the true number is not being counted.
How do the authorities or anyone else know how many domestic cats are missing at any time? It depends completely on reporting by the cat owner. If the cat owner is unconcerned about their cats or if there is no reporting system, no will know if a cat is lost.
I suspect that the All About Cats data comes from a survey but it that is the case it also not reliable.
The point is that these statistics are very dubious, and I’d argue unreliable. So why present them on this page? Because they provide me with the opportunity to discuss the topic and the collation of lost cat information.
The provider of the information argues that Rhode Island has so many lost cats because it is a densely populated state and ‘it is easy for cats to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the state’. This is a very poor argument and I’d say it is incorrect.
And rather strangely they say that the relatively high lost cat rate of New Hampshire is due to the fact that the citizens of that state live in quaint towns surrounded by large areas of wilderness, which cannot be a reason for lost cats. The reason is likely to be because New Hampshire cat owners are more concerned about their cats and report missing cats.
The reason is far more likely to be due to counting lost cats more accurately. If I am correct, it indicates that the other states are underreporting the numbers of lost cats which is very likely.
The project to try and provide a state-by-state chart of lost cat statistics is, in my view, untenable. It is just not possible to find accurate data. All data on this topic must come from cat owners and whether they in some way report that their cat is lost. If they don’t do it the information is unreported which distorts the data.
No one is really counting the number of lost cats anywhere. There is no officially sanctioned organisation to whom cat owners can go to report their missing cat. Perhaps there should be. They only organisations which have some sort of information on lost cats are animal shelters. Do they keep records? Accurate records of the number of people coming to them to report missing cats? I doubt it.
Many cat owners shrug their shoulders when their cat goes missing and carry on as normal. They accept it as part of the risk of allowing their cats outside unsupervised.
P.S. 25% of cats are permanently lost, and cats are less likely than dogs to have identification according to a study entitled: Frequency of Lost Dogs and Cats in the United States and the Methods Used to Locate Them.
Have a different viewpoint? Please express it in a comment.
Below are some more pages on lost cats.