The cat that came back

Written by Monique Butterworth for Australian Seniors.

Many dog and cat owners consider their animals a member of the family, so when a much-loved pet goes missing, the impact can be heartbreaking.

Anne-Marie (surname withheld for security reasons), owner and founder of Arthur & Co Pet Detectives, has helped hundreds of pets find their way home with her team of private investigators, ex-police officers, technology experts, and use of equipment such as thermal drones.

“We get an extraordinarily high number of calls,” says Anne-Marie, who established her business in 2017. “Initially we offer free advice and search strategies because I believe the ability to pay shouldn’t impact someone’s access to the best tools, strategies, resources and information to find their pet.

“For people who contact us within the first 24-72 hours, we have a far greater chance and higher success rate in getting their pets home,” adds Anne-Marie.

Success stories and remarkable returns

There have been many remarkable tales of pets finding their way home after a long time. In 2020, Master Sox, a seven-year-old cat from Adelaide, was found 400km away across the Victorian border in Mildura, after going missing for eight months. His microchip reunited Master Sox with his distraught owners; they now assume he had been stolen and then dumped interstate.

Incredibly, in 2018, a frail and dehydrated 18-year-old cat called Chelsea found her humans again after roaming Sydney’s streets for 14 years. The black cat disappeared when she was four and despite the best efforts of her family, could not be found and was listed as deceased. When she was taken by an animal welfare group to a vet for emergency treatment, the information in her microchip helped track down her very surprised owners. In both these cases, the cats’ microchips were key to their safe return.

Steps to take to avoid your pet going missing

According to Anne-Marie, these are the other steps you can take to help you recover your pet if they go missing:

  • Ensure they are wearing a collar and an identification tag with their name and your phone number on it.
  • Install an app on your phone or browser linked to a GPS pet tracker or collar tracking device, so you can always know exactly where they are. 
  • Microchip and register your animal with your local state’s companion animal registry. Ensure your details are always up to date. 
  • Make sure your yard is secure. 
  • CCTV camera systems not only protect your home, they can monitor your pet and their movements. 
  • Never leave your dog tied up outside a shopping centre. Arthur & Co says it has seen numerous pets go missing from this scenario. 
  • Make sure your pet is in good health , to give them the best chance in life.

What to do if your pet goes missing

Anne-Marie gives her advice on the steps to follow if they go missing:

  • Act immediately. You have a far greater chance of finding your pet if you report it missing in the first 24-72 hours.
  • Report your pet missing on your state’s companion animal register immediately. This will prevent a person who may claim to be your pet’s owner from transferring ownership. 
  • Whatever database your pet is registered on, check their microchip contact details are up to date. There are even national pet registry databases  you can register them on. 
  • Contact animal welfare organisations to ask if your pet has been found. 
  • Make your community aware. Put up ‘lost’ flyers around your neighbourhood and at your local vet; door-knock your neighbours. 
  • Post on community lost pet social media pages. 
  • Look for the evidence. Talk to your neighbours and obtain any CCTV security camera footage that might be helpful. 
  • Consider circumstances as to why your pet might go missing. Were there visitors to and from the home? Did a tradesman leave a gate open? Could your inquisitive pet have crawled into a removalist or tradesman’s van?

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