Jan. 14, 2007 — -- If you're searching for a missing pet, your success may depend on whether it's Fido or Fluffy you're looking for.
A lost pup may have a better chance of being reunited with its owner than a lost cat, according to two new studies published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Researchers looked at Ohio families who reported missing pets to a shelter or in the classified section of their local newspaper.
Overall, 71 percent of lost dogs were recovered, compared to only 53 percent of lost cats.
These results are "not surprising," says Martin Becker, an Idaho veterinarian and author of "The Healing Power of Pets."
"Dogs tend to have better identification such as collar, I.D. tag, rabies tag and microchip I.D.," he says.
The study found that out of 187 lost dogs, 89 had some form of identification on them.
By contrast, only 14 percent of the 138 missing cats had any identification.
The reason for the difference may be that many owners believe a collar could injure or be uncomfortable for their cats. But lead study author Linda Lord, from Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, says this could put them in danger.
Because there is no way to identify the cat as a pet or a stray, "cats are more likely to be euthanized" without identification," she says.
Interestingly, the most high-tech identification -- a microchip implanted beneath the skin of pets -- was the least used form of identification. These chips were present in only 13 percent of dogs and 7 percent of cats.
According to Lords, that does not mean the technology is ineffective.
"Microchips are an important backup," says Lord, in case a collar falls off or is lost.
"I know one out of three pets will be lost sometime in their lifetime," says Becker. To be safe, he adds, "Go overboard with identification."
The findings show that of all methods of finding lost pets, the old-fashioned approach of posting signs in the neighborhood may be the most effective. Authors of the study say this is particularly effective if the flyer includes a picture of the animal.
The study also supports the common belief that cats are more likely to return on their own; 35 percent of lost cats made it back home themselves.
Lord speculates this may be because "nearly 60 percent of the cats in the study were indoor-outdoor cats." With their elusive nature, cats can easily seem lost outdoors when they're actually just hiding.
If your pet is lost, circle the house and the neighborhood right away.
It is also a good idea to keep a current photo of your pet and make flyers immediately. Also, remember to alert local shelters.
By following these tips, families will have the best chances of getting their pets home quickly and safely.