The study involved a random dial survey of pet guardians to find out if they lost a dog or cat in the past five years – and if they did, whether they found their pet and where they looked for it.
There were 1,015 households that had cared for a dog or cat within the past five years, and of those pet guardians surveyed:
- Fifteen percent had lost a dog or a cat in the past five years – a lower number than had been anecdotally reported.
- Eighty-five percent of those lost dogs and cats were recovered.
- The percentage of lost dogs compared to lost cats was quite similar – 14 percent for dogs and 15 percent for cats.
- Cat guardians were less likely to find their cat – only 74 percent of lost cats were recovered, while 93 percent of lost dogs were recovered.
"This research tells us that there is a possibility that a significant percentage of the stray dogs and cats in the shelters around the country do not have someone looking for them," said Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA. “It also highlights the importance of ID tags and other forms of identification to ensure the quick return of lost pets."
In addition, there were differences in the ways in which the lost dogs and cats were recovered:
- Forty-nine percent of dog guardians found their dog by searching the neighborhood, and 15 percent of the dogs were recovered because they were wearing an ID tag or had a microchip.
- Fifty-nine percent of cat guardians found their cat because it returned home on its own; 30 percent found their cat by searching the neighborhood.
- Only 6 percent of dog guardians and 2 percent of cat guardians found their lost pets at a shelter.
The data from this research study that shows how and where the guardians found their animals could be extremely helpful for those who may lose a pet in the future. Searching immediately when one knows the pet is lost, and searching within the neighborhood first is crucial. Checking local shelters from the first day your pet is lost is also important.