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In today’s world, pet theft is a sad reality and opportunistic people steal cats and dogs from their own homes. The American Humane Association estimates that more than 10 million cats and dogs go missing every year. It’s difficult to know though, exactly how many pets are stolen, versus being lost or missing.
If you’re a cat parent with an outdoor cat who has a tendency to roam you may not know whether your cat is missing, is lost and can’t find their way back home or has been stolen from your front yard by a quick handed thief.
In this article, we discuss why people steal cats and dogs, and our top tips to keep your pets safe at home and protect them from becoming a victim of pet theft.
Why do people steal cats and dogs?
Motivated by money
The number one reason that people steal cats and dogs is for financial gain:
- individuals looking to make some quick cash by selling or rehoming your pet for an adoption fee
- people who want to breed your purebred cat and sell the kittens
- scammers who steal your cat, only to ‘find it’ and return it so they can claim the reward
- thieves who steal your cat and demand a ransom in exchange for its safe return
- people who want a cat for free rather than paying to adopt from an animal shelter or breeder.
Personal and emotional reasons
People also steal pets for personal reasons:.
- individuals who want your cat for themselves (including animal hoarders) or to give as a gift to someone else
- an ex-partner or roommate following a relationship break-up who genuinely wants the cat, or wants to hurt you
- a neighbour who wants to stop your free roaming cat from accessing their property.
Less commonly, some people steal pets with the intent to harm or abuse them:
- dogfighters will steal cats as bait animals
- people sell stolen pets to research laboratories for scientific experiments.
Are some cats more likely to be a victim of pet theft?
Purebred, rare or expensive cat breeds such as the Bengal, Siamese, Persian, Sphynx, Russian Blue and Maine Coon are often targeted by thieves as they are in higher demand and can be resold for a bigger profit. Unsupervised kittens and young cats are at greater risk of being stolen, and are easier to snatch than adult cats.
It’s similar with dogs – purebred dogs, toy breeds, designer breeds and puppies are most often targeted by thieves especially if they are left unattended in public places or your yard.
Don’t be a victim of pet theft
There are many things you can do to protect your cat or dog from being stolen and to get them back home safely to you if they are grabbed by thieves.
Keep pets indoors and supervise them
Cat and dog doors are great inventions, and they give our pets unrestricted access to the yard day or night. But, it’s much harder to keep track of your pet when they have easy access to the outdoors. Cats and dogs who slip over (or under) your fence are at immediate risk if there is someone in the neighbourhood looking to steal pets. They’re also at risk of being hit by a car, fighting with other animals or cruelty from people who just don’t like roaming cats and off-leash dogs.
Neighbours can often be a cat’s biggest enemy, especially if they are bird lovers or garden obsessed. Free-roaming cats who stalk and hunt birds or dig up a prized flower bed or vegetable garden are often trapped by neighbours and relocated a long way from home, or worse.
Cats are always safest indoors where you can keep a close eye on them. We recommend forgoing the pet door and supervising your pets in the yard at all times. Our cats are all harness & leash trained and enjoy supervised walks in the garden – it’s safe for them and gives us peace of mind too.
To prevent dogs accidentally escaping if someone leaves the garden gate open you can install spring latches on gates or padlock them for extra security. At the same time you may like to add a bell to your gate that alerts you to anyone coming through it when it’s unlocked.
Pet theft protection technology
Instal a home security system if you don’t already have one, with an obvious camera in your yard where anyone entering can see it. A security camera system is a strong deterrent for any would-be thief
GPS trackers can also be effective in helping prevent pet theft by enabling you to track your pet’s whereabouts. GPS devices give you real-time location tracking so you can quickly identify your pet’s location and notify the authorities to take immediate action. Some devices allow you to set up a virtual boundary or geofence, and notify you if your cat or dog is outside the designated safe zone (usually your property). Some trackers also have tamper alerts which let you know if someone (in this case a thief) attempts to remove the tracker from your pet’s collar.
Check references of pet professionals
Would you trust your child to a babysitter whose references you hadn’t checked out first? If you’re thinking about hiring a pet sitter, dog walker, trainer, or groomer we recommend conducting a background check first. Ask for references and call them to ask questions, read any online business reviews and see what people are saying about their services. Better still, ask your local vet to recommend a pet professional they know and trust. It’s always best to be safe than sorry when you’re trusting someone else to care for your best feline or canine friend.
Keep ownership records
You say it’s your cat or dog – but can you prove it? Make sure you have evidence of ownership stored somewhere safe in case such as:
- ownership records
- adoption or purchase papers
- veterinary reports
- microchip papers
- correspondence with the breeder
- local authority registration
- photos or videos of your cat.
Take photos of any unique markings or distinctive features your pet has.
Charlie has a black pigmentation mark on his right rear paw pad whereas all of his other paw pads are pink.
Have your pets microchipped
Microchipping your pet is a legal requirement in many countries, and whilst it may not prevent pet theft it can make it harder for a thief to onsell your cat or dog. Microchipping may also help in reuniting lost pets and owners, especially if your cat is stolen and later dumped at an animal shelter. Collars and tags are okay but can be dangerous if your cat gets caught on a branch or fence wire, even if it has a quick release feature.
A microchip is an ID for life. It is injected underneath your pet’s skin, between the shoulders, and contains all of your contact information – just remember, to keep your details updated anytime you move house.
There are also many Lost & Found pet websites available, which allow you to register your pet’s details. This provides additional peace of mind and means your records are only ever a few mouse clicks away if you need to start a search.
Spay or neuter your pets
If you own a purebred cat or dog and don’t intend to breed or show them, desexing is a smart idea. Spaying and neutering prevents unwanted litters of kittens or puppies but also makes your pet less valuable to thieves targeting your cat for breeding purposes. If your cat wears a collar with your name and phone details, add their spayed or neutered status. Lastly, desexed pets are also less likely to stray far from home, reducing their risk of being stolen in the first place.
Don’t leave your pets unattended
More relevant for dog owners, but those who fall victim to pet theft are often heard afterwards saying things like: ‘I only popped into the shop for a few seconds”, “our back yard is fully fenced”, or “my dog was alone in the car for less than 2 minutes”.
Pet thieves are clever and they’re quick. It only takes a few seconds for them to successfully lure your dog away with a piece of meat, and herd them into a parked car across the road. You wouldn’t leave your child unattended in a public space, and your dog is no different. Never leave your dog tied up outside a shop while you pop inside, or alone in a car – it’s just not safe. And really, is it worth the risk? We don’t think so.
Dogs are often dog-napped when they’re out walking with their owners, or running around at an off-leash park. We had an instance of this only a few months ago in our local park, thankfully the attempt was thwarted by concerned passers-by.
We cannot stress enough, how important it is to take proactive measures to keep your pets safe. Being aware of the potential dangers is the first step in ensuring your cat or dog doesn’t become another victim of pet theft.
This post was originally published in recognition of Pet Theft Awareness Day which is observed annually on Valentines Day – when there is often a spike in pet thefts. Pet Theft Awareness Day was created by the Last Chance for Animals Foundation in 1988 to educate people on the best way to protect their pets from unscrupulous thieves.