Missing cat search tips: A debriefing from the Pikachu case

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Claudia Allen has been a crucial players in both the George at Edmonton Airport and the Pikachu Travelling Kitty case. She gives search tips in the aftermath of these cases. Claudia is also starting a new missing cat search network.

Claudia Allen drew up the following valuable missing cat search tips as a debriefing on the Pikachu case; they reflect the wisdom gained by Claudia in her searches for Pika and other cats, and are generally applicable. Claudia kindly allowed us to share them here.

Additionally, Claudia has just started a new missing cat search network called Meownty Hunters, and gives us a run down on how it will work.

Pikachu case de-briefing
What went right, what could have been done better and my thoughts

Safety
When traveling with any animal, all escape points must be checked several times a day. In this case, it was a zipper. We still don’t know if it was broken or if it came undone, but if it came undone, a simple fastening device for the zipper could have prevented Pika from escaping. Thankfully, he was not on a major roadway at the time. In the case of George, it was a bolt on the kennel. His escape could have been prevented by the use of zip-ties to keep the kennel together. We were concerned about the harness and leash. He was found without it, so, as we already know, cats can slip their harnesses if they need to, and it still needs to be this way, because if Pika had been caught on something and could not get to shelter, he may have died of exposure or may have been taken by a predator. Some may say that GPS is the answer, but I do not believe so. It can only help you if the harness and unit is still attached. There are currently no units small enough for a cat.
GPS also requires a handheld for locating and if that is stolen, one is out of luck unless they have a paid service that locates. RFID tags are small enough but can only be read to a certain distance (GPS and RFID are different). In this case, Pika may have already been too far when Ted noticed he was gone, to have used RFID. The benefit, even if the harness and tag were lost, would have been a definite location for searching.

Timing
Do not put off starting to search. The longer you wait, the further they get. Try to get help immediately.

Notification
Posters and ads work. Get out as many as possible in the area where last seen and
spread out from there. Posters are to get info to passing cars and bikes fast — very little info, just enough to notify. Flyers need more detail and should be handed to people or left at their homes if possible. Always include the direction for people to check their outbuildings and under things on their property. This saves lives. The mail out that was planned but not implemented for Pika, because he was found before it could happen, included this information that would have gone to every household in the zip code — 5,000 people. Use social media as much as possible and update often. Post and check lost and found sites and paper ads. Notify vets and shelters. Offer a reward, even if small.

Ground search
Most important is to get correct details from the people who were on scene when the incident/loss happened. Too many people with differing information makes for a
confusing search. Use logic when assessing the search area, talk to people who are in the area on a regular basis. Current maps with key locations for sightings and areas searched are very important. Baiting/feeding stations and trapping are useful to determine if anything is in the area at all. Unmanned infrared cameras can confirm the presence or absence of animals at feeding stations without having to trap and release wild animals. Carry bear spray or pepper spray when in areas frequented by predators (e.g. coyote).

Cat behavior
Most cats will not wander far. Pika probably kept looking in the area for food and the most comfortable shelter until he found the shed. He was there for some time judging by the feces he had left behind. Always look near first, then, branch out.

Recovery
Being able to respond immediately when the cat is located is also important and they ALWAYS need to go to a vet to be assessed if they’ve been lost in inclement weather or for more than a couple of days or if they seem injured or ill. Time for recuperation is necessary for those who have lost considerable weight as they can encounter a “refeeding syndrome” if they are allowed to eat as they please. Hepatic lipidosis is always a concern when food has been scarce.

My personal, closing thoughts on this case
Prevention is the key to safety in an ambitious trip like this, but not everything can be predicted. Someone could steal Ted’s whole bike and trailer, or just the trailer with Pika in it. The bike and/or trailer could break down and not be easily fixed or they could run into unforeseen bad weather in the middle of nowhere. Ted’s phone, a lifeline, had already gone missing after Pika was lost. That could mean the difference between life and death on the road. With the notoriety that has come from this very frightening incident, Ted has the opportunity to make an even bigger impact on the lives of animals that get adopted from shelters by promoting a message of safety and lifelong commitment to pets along with his initial message of pro-shelter adoption and low cost spay and neuter. Now that he knows, first hand, how a lost cat can wind up at a shelter in poor condition, his story, his movie, his message, could truly be told from the eyes of his much-loved Pikachu. They
don’t need to travel the world to get the message out to it. Everyone will listen and
respect him for putting Pika’s welfare first. After all, isn’t that what the ASPCA and
rescue groups are all about? There’s nothing like the comfort of a warm home, good food and a loving family for a growing kitten. There are many back yard adventures to be had even in a supervised, safe and limited environment.

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Claudia gives an introduction below to her new missing cat search network. 

Meownty Hunters has a new Facebook page st up, and is working on cases already. Missing cat search networkers and participants do not need to live in close proximity to the area where the search is operating on the ground.

Meownty Hunters exists to help individuals find their lost cats, worldwide, by providing information on cat behavior and search strategies. We can also help coordinate searches through our network of experienced Deputy Meownty Hunters.

The organization was founded to assist those looking for their lost cats. Many people do not know all the tools available to them to conduct thorough searches in their neighborhood. We can assist with poster and flier design, recon equipment, strategic planning and Internet searches of lost and found ads and shelters.
Once an individual is involved in a successful search and recovery operation, they are eligible for the Deputy Meownty Hunter designation. These individuals become a local resource for a particular area. They have the knowledge and skills to do proper searches and can be consulted when cats go missing.
Our mission is to bring all the lost cats home to their beloved families who are desperately missing them.
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Here is Claudia’s explanation of how the group is getting to work, and how members use their experience to help others:

Meownty Hunters and the idea is that once someone is a particular city has done a successful search and recovery of a missing cat, they become a Deputy Meownty Hunter and are a “go to” person for that area for people who have lost cats.

Felicia, who was instrumental in the ground search for Pika is the first deputy and she has now started a FB page for the lost animals of New Mexico. She is currently working with Lava (another searcher) for her missing cat, Mia. They now are equipped with the tools and know how to go on a cat search and hopefully retrieve Mia. Once they find her or have exhausted all efforts according to current research, Lava will also be eligible for deputy status. These are strictly volunteer services and they won’t be involved in all searches directly but will be able to provide resources that average people don’t know about.

Right now, I’m trying to assist in finding Sylvester, lost at a rest stop near Fayetteville, NC back in July. This one’s tough.

I can’t go on searches in places other than my own city, which I do, but I hope the FB page helps others and if I can assist people looking for their lost cats through the deputies, all the better.

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