It is said that one reason why so few cats, relative to dogs, are recovered from animal shelters is because cat owners take too long before reporting their cat missing. It appears that what this person (Michele Whaley, Pitt County Animal Services director) is saying is that when stray cats are picked up and taken to shelters they allow the animals a certain amount of time (72 hours?) to remain alive before being euthanized if unadopted in case the owner turns up and claims her cat.
If owners fail to turn up or turn up late the cat is no longer there; possibly shipped off to a pet food manufacturer to be rendered down for pet food.
It is a worrying statistic and it always pops up on the internet in various reports; reunions between cat owner and cats occur far less often than for dogs. This is one reason why the euthanasia rate for cats at animal shelters is higher than for dogs.
You can see why it happens. A lot of cats, even in America where there are lots of indoor cats, are allowed to wander freely outside. If a cat owner is less than concerned about the movements of her cat and occasionally finds her cat stays out for a day or two, she might wait several days or longer to try and find what has happened to her lost cat.
The problem stems from the fact that cats were allowed to wander and roam freely whereas dogs are treated in quite the opposite manner. They are usually walked around the neighborhood on a lead in close contact with their owner. If a dog goes missing it is usually immediately apparent but when a cat goes missing for a while the owner’s reaction might be one of unconcern.
There is also this independence issue. Cats are seen as independent by some owners and left alone. Cats are not really independent. They are said to ‘walk alone’ when outside having reverted to the wild but in truth they are almost wholly reliant upon their owner for security and sustenance.
It would only take a phone call to a local shelter or two to check if your cat has turned up and it may well save his or her life.