Happy Tails

PET FBI FOUNDER LOSES HER CAT!

“CHUCK” FINALLY RECOVERED AFTER 172 DAYS.

Chuck first showed up on our deck as a scrawny feral (wild) kitten. We took him in and gave him lots of attention and affection, but he never overcame his primal fears and would always run from us, unless we were tucked away in bed under the covers. He felt safe then and would knead and purr and delight in being petted and rubbed.

Last Spring, after three years as an inside cat and contented companion to our other felines, Chuck slipped out through a door that had accidentally blown open. I think he went through that door more out of curiosity than any desire to escape, but once outside, all his wild instincts were awakened and it was hard to get him back in.

The Pet FBI website often states that anyone can lose a pet, and we should not condemn the pet’s family. In almost twenty years as Executive Director of Pet FBI I have seen many cases of people who find lost pets, think that the family must have been careless, and use that as an excuse to keep the stray and not try to return it. But from painful personal experience, I can say most emphatically that ANYONE can lose a pet and should not be blamed for it.

Be aware that cats hang around for a while and hide. To lure Chuck back, we tried every tip and trick recommended on the Pet FBI site, all to no avail. If we tried to leave food for him, the raccoons got it as soon as we put it out. We finally found a way to outwit the raccoons by extending the legs of a table, making it possible for a cat to jump onto, but too high for a raccoon to climb.

You may have to trap. When a pet is lost its instinctive fearfulness kicks in and it may not always come to you. We bought an inexpensive security camera to monitor our deck to see if Chuck was still around. The security camera caught an infrared photo of a cat that looked like Chuck who came every night and jumped on the table to eat the food we had set out. We set a trap and caught it! We were jubilant until we took the trap into the house and into the light and saw it was not Chuck – just a tabby look-alike, undoubtedly a neighbor’s free-roaming pet, so we released it. That was the first of seven Chuck look-alikes we trapped over the six months we spent looking for him!

Take advantage of web-based resources, including social media. We used the Pet FBI database, Nextdoor.com, Facebook, and Craigslist. That resulted in many sighting reports.

Flyers are very effective, and Every Door Direct Mail may be even more helpful. We hung flyers everywhere and mailed postcards to 1,400 homes in our neighborhood through an inexpensive program run by the postal service called Every Door Direct Mail.

We had this 5×7 inch postcard made up by a local printer that also handled the EDDM mailing.

Print out an aerial view of your neighborhood. To determine what carrier routes to target for the EDDM mailing we studied an aerial view of our neighborhood (maps.Google.com) and reasoned that since Chuck is rather fearful, he would probably not venture beyond some busy streets and or the railroad tracks that bounded our neighborhood. The aerial map also enabled us to identify wooded areas and small streams that might be attractive to a lost cat.

The web-based reports, the flyers and especially the EDDM mailing produced over one hundred sighting reports.

Keep a record of sightings. People were so helpful! We kept a careful record of the sightings: who called, when and where. We plotted the sightings on the aerial map we had printed out. When there was a promising report or a cluster of sightings, we would set up a food station and a trail camera.

Follow up on sightings, using a trail camera if possible. We were fortunate to be assisted by two women who volunteer to help people recover lost pets with the aid of a trail camera. Trail cameras are motion activated and send photos, including infrared night photos, to a mobile phone via the cellular network. Then the volunteer who is monitoring the camera transmissions sends a text or an email with the photo to alert us. That was how we discovered and trapped all the wrong cats. Gray tabbies are all so similar!


An infrared photo from the trail camera. We monitored this cat for several days before we trapped him. It was not Chuck but sure looked like him! He was definitely feral but the neighbor who had reported him was willing to become his caretaker, so we took him to a special vet and had him neutered and returned to his territory. “Tiger” as he is now known has a nice shelter and is being well fed.

This is another cat we trapped thinking it might be Chuck. She looked thin – another feral. We took her to be vetted and discovered that she was lactating! Fortunately, the neighbor who had told us about her had just that morning discovered where she was hiding her kittens. We rescued them as well and took them to a shelter that accepts feral cats, which is very unusual. From the neighbor we learned that this kitty had been around the neighborhood for several years and had produced many litters. We think there is a strong possibility that she is Chuck’s Mom and that the neighborhood Chuck look-alikes that we trapped were her offspring that had survived.

Nothing succeeds like persistence. Days, weeks and then months went by and we were starting to get discouraged. Most of our flyers were gone. People take them down or they deteriorate. Sightings had gradually dried up. The weather was turning cold. I decided to do a second EDDM postcard mailing. We immediately got three sighting reports in one evening, all in the same area just up the street from us. One neighbor sent us a cell phone photo of a cat on her deck. This time we were 99% certain it was Chuck.
With that kind neighbor’s permission, we set up a feeding station and a camera on their deck. The next night we caught Chuck on camera at about 8 PM

He ate all the food. The following morning, we set the trap and waited…and waited…and waited. By 9PM he had not yet come. Marci, the woman with the trail camera who was helping us, suggested that we disarm the trap by 9:30PM for overnight or we would only catch a raccoon or a possum or worse yet, a skunk. So, we drove over there at 9:30 and discovered a raccoon who had just gotten himself trapped but had not yet had time to eat the food. We released him and scattered the food around on the chance that Chuck would come by and be motivated to continue returning to that deck. The camera had, in fact, caught Chuck showing up at 10PM, but we missed catching him because we had disarmed the trap!

Chuck at last! The trap is sheathed in plastic to avert suspicion and put in place without being armed for a few days until the cat gets used to going inside.

The next morning, we again baited the trap and waited for the call from Marci who was monitoring the trail camera. Late that afternoon we got the call that there was a cat thrashing around in the trap. We flew over there. As soon as we spoke Chuck’s name and made eye contact the cat settled down. We took a good hard look and confirmed it was Chuck!

Since he had been on the street for about six months, we could not just take him home and release him to mingle with our other cats. Fortunately, our vet was able to see him without an appointment. Chuck was very subdued, almost as if in shock. He seemed to be in pretty good shape. He had lost a few pounds, but he was not emaciated. They treated him for fleas, mites and worms, and we took him home. The vet advised us to keep him isolated for a few days, that it would be like introducing a new cat. But after two days Chuck was anxious to be liberated and have the run of the house again. It was like he finally realized that we were his benefactors and he didn’t need to be afraid anymore! Our cat-sitter, Char, pronounced him “the new, improved Chuck”!

At last the ordeal was over. No more dashing all over the neighborhood at all hours responding to sightings. No more going to bed wondering where he was and how was he surviving. No more waking up in the morning to the renewed anguish of knowing he was lost. So, we are sharing Chuck’s story to help others achieve a happy ending.

Here are some important takeaways from our experience:

  1. Like most inside cats that slip out accidentally, Chuck hung around for about two weeks, but he was hiding. We spotted him a few times, but he always ran from us. That is normal behavior for a cat in a strange environment. If it is safe and you can leave a door or window open, cats will often come back in their own good time. This initial period is the optimal time for trapping.
  2. We might have kept Chuck around if we had been able to make food available for him. Unfortunately, we were in the habit of giving leftovers to raccoons and they were always around ready to snatch anything we put out. By the time we figured out how to foil them, Chuck had moved on.
  3. Good photos are indispensable to recovery. Fortunately, we had several good photos of Chuck showing distinctive characteristics like the striping on his paws or the markings on his torso. Still, he closely resembled most other gray tabbies, possibly because they all came from the same mother as we later discovered. We used the best photo for our flyers and postcard mailings.
  4. We found Chuck through sighting reports prompted by social media (Nextdoor.com was particularly helpful), flyers and mailings. The flyers were effective only short term. Most people don’t notice them unless they have a pet themselves and often they get taken down. For example, after we spent several hours posting flyers all around a condo complex because there was a sighting, someone took them down the very next day.
  5. The EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) elicited the best response. I think we heard about every gray tabby cat in the neighborhood after our postcards went out! Several people said they posted it on their fridge.
    You can ask a local printer to help you create a postcard for EDDM. You do not have to spend lots of money on a for-profit commercial pet finding web site.
  6. Setting up a food station, monitoring with the trail camera and trapping were necessary follow-ups to sightings. If you do not have the use of a trail camera, just go ahead and trap although you risk catching the wrong cat. Even with the aid of a camera, you may still end up catching look-alikes.
  7. If you cannot afford or cannot borrow a trail camera, there are inexpensive home security cameras that will record comings and goings of people and animals. They may not send real time photos, but at least you will be able to determine if your pet has been coming around. So, in response to sightings you should; a) get permission to set up a food station and b) OPTIONAL: monitor the food station with a camera and c) once you think your pet is coming around set a trap.
  8. Most of all, do not give up too soon. As with almost anything we try to accomplish, nothing succeeds like persistence.

We should add that the method we used to recover Chuck worked well because Chuck did not go far beyond our neighborhood of several square miles. When searching for a lost dog or an adventurous cat, you need to exploit all means to elicit sightings far and wide: the Pet FBI database, all social media including Facebook and Nextdoor.com, Craigslist, and of course flyers. To be sure your flyers are the most effective, use the Pet FBI template and follow the suggestions for posting on our advice page.


A more self-confident Chuck enjoying the comforts of home.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR STORY OF RECOVERING A LOST PET WITH US!
JUST SEND IT ALONG WITH SOME PHOTOS TO THE CONTACT LINK ON THIS

Why Microchip Your Pet?

black cat reclining

“SLINKY”: SAVED BY A MICROCHIP!

Slinky went missing during a move last summer and was reunited six months later, just prior to Christmas! A woman had been feeding him outdoors about a mile from where we went missing. Not wanting to leave him outside all winter she finally got him inside, but he wasn’t having any of it. He was miserable being kept indoors and he was making her miserable. She was so exasperated that the took Slinky  to a vet to be put down. Thank goodness the vet suggested checking for a microchip …..BINGO!

In any case the vet would have had Slinky put up for adoption if no chip was found. But not all vets are as compassionate. Under other circumstances, Slinky might not have been so lucky. Some vets are victimized by their compassion. We know of one who has a large farm in northern Ohio that has turned into a sanctuary for unwanted pets she was asked to put down. Currently she is feeding and caring for almost one hundred cats and dogs!

Slinky’s story is only one of many many we have heard – reunions that have taken place after months and even years, improbable reunions that would never have happened if the pet were not chipped.

OBJECT LESSON:
Microchips work! Have your pet chipped!
Microchips are not expensive and they are not painful to insert.

 

Sam The Cat Recovered After Six Years!

cat face

Sam

This report was submitted by Sam’s Mom, Amy.
He recognized her after six years of being lost!

I found Sam as a feral kitten. He was the only kitten left in a litter that had been killed by a neighborhood dog. When I finally caught him he was a nasty little ball of hissing fluff, but he was safe. Eventually he came around and became a little more trusting of humans. I moved 3 hours away from my hometown where I lived with my significant other at the time out in the country and Sam was happy. He loved it there because he could be indoors but still go outdoors when he wanted. He had never really been able to adjust to being a strictly indoor cat.

I worked at the local animal shelter and I got all of my pets microchipped while I worked there. I learned that it was such a wonderful way to protect my pets that I loved so very much. When my relationship ended I needed to move back to my hometown but I knew that Sam would be miserable there. I would be living in town, where it wouldn’t be safe for him to be outside. It was a heartbreaking decision but at the time, what I felt would be the best option for his happiness. I know now that I was pretty naive to think that. In almost every instance, no one else is going to love your pet as much as you do…. I kept his microchip info in my name and updated it to my new info.

I found out that shortly after moving that my ex, for whatever reason, had to move and he just left Sam there. I made several trips back and forth, putting up signs around town and at the shelter where I used to work. I contacted the animal control officers and had them set out live traps as well as ride thru from time to time when they could. 6 years passed and every timeSam the cat I moved or got a new phone number, I updated his microchip info. Then one day, out of the blue, I got a call from that old shelter saying they had a cat named Sam there whose microchip was registered to me. He had been turned in by an elderly lady as her cat. She wanted him put down because he bit her! They said he acted quite feral and he was very sick. Luckily, instead of just taking her at her word, they managed to scan Sam for a chip.
Six years he’d been gone. Had he turned feral again? Would he remember me? Was he going to be ok? I took a day off and rushed the three hours back to to pick him up. When I got there I walked up to the cage and he was huddled up in the back corner hissing. I called him “Sam Sam” as I used to do and he instantly walked to the front and I rubbed his head thru the bars. He was really snotty and sneezy and a little underweight but I’d imagined a lot worse on my long trip there. He was still my Sam Sam. He remembered me. I was so happy to have him back. We made the long trip back and many many trips later to the vet he was finally on the mend. He still hates being indoors all the time but he is now an indoor only cat.

Why can't I go out?

Why can’t I go out?

He’s 13 now and still as frisky and playful as he ever was. No he’s not happy about not being able to go outside and he watches doors like a hawk just trying to catch a moment to dart out but we are very careful. We keep him busy with lots of toys and windows to lay in. This was all about three years ago and he is doing well. Happy and healthy and very much loved. He is affectionately nicknamed Sam the ginger-haired jerk. He shares a home with a 13 year old female cat I rescued from my old shelter, a 13 year old min pin and a 5 year old rat terrier. A crazy happy little family

OBJECT LESSON:
1 Get your pet microchipped!
2. Keep the microchip registration up to date!
3. If you find a pet and the microchip information is outdated, Pet FBI may be able to help.you. We have a volunteer who has access to non-public  subscription databases. He can cross reference and usually can come up with current contact info. Just use the contact link at the bottom of this page.

 

Long Missing Cat Reunited !

Spooky has been missing from his Delaware County home since September. Our Capital Area Humane Society volunteer Lisa R. recognized him from his Pet FBI Ohio post when she was checking out new arrivals at the shelter. Ten-year-old Spooky is now microchipped and on his way home to reunite with his kitty sister. Mom and Dad want to thank the Good Samaritan who brought him in.

Moral of the Story for Pet Parents:  Don’t give up hope too soon!
Moral of the Story for Shelters: Please take advantage of the lost and found pet database at PetFBI.org! Assign a volunteer to follow and post reports. People cannot get to the shelter often enough and long enough to assure recovery! 

Quick, Efficient Reunion for a Lost Dog via PetFBI.org

happy reunion of lost doghappy reunion of lost doghappy reunion of lost dog

The darling little chihuahua snuggled up to the little boy in this photo went missing in Columbus, OH. At the time, she was not wearing a collar or ID tag. She was picked up by a Good Sam who submitted a Found Dog report to the Pet FBI database. Fortunately, the pooch’s family also thought to use the Pet FBI database, searched the “Lost Dog” reports, and there she was! A speedy, efficient reunion, thanks to technology and the Pet FBI site which is well known and widely used, especially in Ohio. We have been helping people recover lost pets in Ohio since 1998 with great success.

This story was reported to us by Pet FBI Special Agent, Teresa. She heard about the virtually instantaneous reunion when she contacted the person who posted the Found Dog Report only to learn that there had already been a reunion. All too often, people who have lost or found a pet only post in one place and stop there. This is where our Special Agents like Teresa come in. They look for match-ups on many other online resources  like Craigslist and alerts from microchip companies, and they often contact posters to remind them of other important resources.

Our goal at Pet FB is to achieve the same high level of success that we have in Ohio on a national scale. It has been just a little over two years now that we extended our database to cover the entire US, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. We were awarded a Google Adwords grant which allows us to have our link show up high in search results, but what is really needed is a grassroots effort for people to tell their friends about Pet FBI.

We have a Facebook page for Ohio with almost 43,000 friends but to be optimally effective, more people need to use the database. Nowadays, lost and found pet Facebook pages are hugely successful in recovering lost pets, but only for people who have a Facebook page (and there are still plenty who do not!) and only in the short term. Posts tend to get buried pretty fast and that is where a searchable database is especially effective.

Tracing a Lost (or Found) Pet Online

 Lost or found a pet?
This post is about using online resources.

Here is an example of a narrowly missed reunion due to the multiplicity of online resources:

10:23  Woman with missing dog posts this on the Pet FBI Ohio Facebook page

lost dog

 

10:26  Teresa, a  devoted Pet FBI Facebook follower finds a matching Found Dog report on the comprehensive  searchable  database at petfbi.org and posts it to Facebook:.

found dog report matching

Comments follow: Pooch is quickly recovered

comments FB

Teresa is a self-appointed Pet FBI “special agent”  who makes it a daily endeavor to “connect the dots” . Without her vigilance, the people who lost their dog might not have recovered it – at least not so quickly. All the while, there was a link on our Facebook page for our web site and database. If the Facebook poster had used it, she would have found her pooch’s Found Dog report without further ado! But the petfbi.org link is easily overlooked, especially since people who lose a pet are generally in a state of panic. The good Sams, in their turn, might have come across the Facebook post, but generally good Sams tend to be less less motivated.  Once they have posted a found report they expect that the owner will find it.

OBJECT LESSON: To recover your lost pet using web based information, you must be thorough and use all possible resources. We are here to say that the best place to start is the database at PetFBI.org because it is arguably the most comprehensive and the easiest to use. If this sounds like self-promotion, or bragging, we invite you to compare. You will find links to the most helpful online resources on our web page Other Online Resources..

Say your pet goes missing. Your first impulse  – using web based resources – is probably to post on your Facebook page and ask your friends to “share”. But you must not stop there!

You could use a search engine like Google with search terms like “I lost my dog, what should I do?” Or “lost pet website”. Then you probably find yourself confronted with a zillion results. Information about lost pets is scattered everywhere, not just on dedicated web sites, like Pet FBI, but also on Facebook pages, Craigslist, neighborhood sites, shelter sites, etc.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a single, central source of information, just as there is a central registry for stolen cars? If everybody used the same database, lost pets could be recovered quickly and efficiently. This could avert the traumatic – and risky – stay at the pound.

Realistically there will always be multiple sources of information about lost pets. One reason is that there is profit potential in offering various types of assistance for locating a lost pet. Your online search will yield numerous web based businesses. They offer – for a fee – to contact shelters, or neighbors via flyers, faxes, robo-calls, postcard mailings, etc. (For an analysis of the relative merits of pet finding contact services go to our page Other Online Resources.)

Our vision at Pet FBI is to attract as many lost and found reports as possible to optimize the chances of “losers” and “finders” connecting with each other. In Ohio where, after 18 years we have reached a critical mass of users, our success rate is about 40%. Since we only went national in May of 2014, the overall success rate is about half that. But still we have the largest of all lost and found pet databases and all features are FREE!  Most importantly, our web site provides links to other national databases and educates people about how to identify the most helpful online resources for their area.

The bottom line is that your success in recovering your lost pet through online resources is determined by knowledge of where to look and how thorough and persistent you are. It is not enough to use only one resource.

 

Senior Dog Reunited With Senior Dad Via Pet FBI Ohio

Senior dog and Dad

Bear and his grateful Dad, happily reunited

Bear went missing in Ohio and was found by Good Sam Kait who posted on our Pet FBI Ohio Facebook page.

Nikki, one of our numerous followers, remembered that her uncle had helped a senior citizen search for a lost dog the day before. She informed her uncle who fortunately had made note of the Dad’s phone number.

Bear’s Dad had never heard of Facebook and did not understand how  “the FBI” was involved. Hehe! But thanks to the wonders of modern technology and our dedicated Admin, Char, Bear and his Dad are back together again.

Miracle Reunion For Lost Ferret

ferret and family

Stella the ferret, happily reunited thanks to Pet FBI Ohio Facebook!

As reported by our Pet FBI Ohio Facebook admin, Char:

“HOORAY for Stella from the Columbus area!!

Please file this under MIRACLE along with the importance of posting your lost or found pet on our page yourself.

Stella’s Mom posted her lost ferret on the side of our page yesterday. Good Sam Kathleen posted this morning that she spotted a ferret in her yard and was wondering if anyone was missing it.

A magical reunion eventually transpired thanks to both the pet finder and the pet owner posting on the Visitor Posts area of our page!

Good Sam’s family and Stella’s Mom searched 3 acres of wooded area for 2 hours. Everyone searching was astonished to receive word from a kiddo indoors that Stella showed up on the deck and he snagged her. Yay Kiddo!”

“Baby” is Home From the Vet

Girl and emaciated dog

Baby and Bri – on the first day of his new life

A few posts back we reported on a poor emaciated pooch with what looked like a huge tumor on his side. Thanks to the compassion and generosity of a good Sam, a 16 year old girl with a big heart and the “kindness of strangers” – the many Pet FBI Ohio Facebook friends who donated to help him get proper vet care, “Baby” has begun the rest of his new, transformed life with a caring, loving family.

The big mass on his side was an abscess not a tumor, it has been drained and Baby is much younger than he appears, about three years of age. Here are some exchanges from our Facebook page:

From the Mom of his the 16 year old gal who rescued him:

“Baby is home with us. Brianna and Jordan pick him up this evening. He has a lot of recovering to do, but we made a promise to him to have the best life from this point on. God chose us to care for him by sending him to Bri. She loves him completely. He is such a sweet, gentle, and loving little guy. They are curled up sleeping together now.”

A concerned comment from Julie, a Pet FBI Ohio Facebook friend:
So glad he is safe and loved by your family! I hope the vet gave you instructions on how to feed him and put weight back on in a very controlled manor. These emaciated dogs are very prone to bloating/torsion of the stomach. It happens if they eat too fast or too much at once. It can kill a dog within a hour. Please Google symptoms of bloat so you know what to look for. The symptoms are not obvious. It sounds like he is in good hands with you all.”

From Bri’s Mom: “Julie, ty so much for the info. Bri wrote down everything the vet told her to make sure she wouldn’t hurt him in the process of trying to help him. She has a food/calorie intake set up on her phone so she can keep track of it.”

From Bri: “The vet went over feeding schedule with me and informed me how many kcal to feed him, when to increase it, how much to increase it, etc.

Our hearts and prayers go out to Baby, to Bri and to their whole family.

A WARNING TO GOOD SAMS:
If you find a companion animal that is obviously starving, please seek vet care immediately as Bri did. Do not give feed it too much too quickly. You can harm a starving animal with only the best of intentions. It is OK to give water in small amounts at intervals.

Persistence Pays – The Story of Recovering a Lost Cat

Today we received a thank you message from a woman named Rosanna. She used our cat attracting tips and sheer dogged (why don’t people say”catted”?) persistence to recover her lost cat. Here is the story in her own words:

I lost my cat in Astoria Oregon on May 6th at 6pm at the Astoria Oregon Co-op grocery store.

cat in repose

Stella

I am from Seattle Washington but I have a vacation home in Gearhart Oregon, about 25 minutes away from the co-op where  I stopped  to buy groceries. I did not notice it at the time, but my cat Stella jumped from my car when I was loading the groceries.

When I got to my home in Gearhart, I was horrified to discover that Stella was missing from my car! I immediately went back to Astoria with my friends and looked everywhere for Stella.

The neighborhood around the co-op helped a great deal as did the employees of the grocery store.The local public radio station KMUN 91.9 began broadcasting announcements about Stella being lost.

In the meantime I was given your website from my daughter who lost her cat in Columbus Ohio.  I followed your advice and began doing all the things you recommended.

I got up at dawn,  went to Astoria and began searching for Stella and looking everywhere in the vicinity of the co-op. I scoured the community and put flyers everywhere and talked to many people. They were so helpful. I went to the area dawn and dusk. I printed flyers, put them up with her photo and posted on local FB pages.

I went every night to the co-op. I parked in the same place where I had lost her. I put out her scratch pad, cushion and a towel with my scent on it. I put out sardines and smelly tuna fish, to lure her back to the front of the store. I did this every day!

Items to lure a cat back

Items left to lure Stella out of hiding: her scratch pad, tuna, towel with Rosanna’s scent

I did not sleep at night. I was pretty exhausted and depressed. Stella is like a member of our family. She is very important to my youngest daughter who is a freshman in college. I had to find her!

I did this for four days and nights. On the fourth night I got a call from the Clatsop County Animal Shelter saying they had a sighting of her. I went to the spot, talked to the people and left photos and food.

I thought to swing by the co-op to see if there was any activity. There were sightings of Stella at night around 9:30. Then I saw two employees by the dumpster. They recognized me. They said they had heard a cat meow…they closed the gates of the fenced garbage area  and Stella came came out!!!!! We could not believe it!

woman and lost cat after recovery

Stella and Rosanna, happily reunited

I followed your advice and even went further and tried to be there waiting for her. The lesson I learned was not to give up – you were right – cats do not go far from where they are lost.

Thank you for your helpful advice. It worked!  I reached out to the community and they helped so much!  But it was by being tenacious that I found Stella.

Thank you, PET FBI!

Warmly,

Rosanna