We all love our cats but because of the freedom we give them, they sometimes do not return when they should! I'm sure most people have experienced that awful feeling when they realise that their beloved cat has gone missing.

Here are some tips which will help ensure that you are keeping your cat as safe as possible.

NEUTER your cat - both male and female. An unneutered female can of course become pregnant and is often harrassed by local tom cats. This may cause her to run and become disorientated so she cannot find her way home. An unneutered male develops unwelcome habits in the house but they will also travel great distances in search of a "girlfriend" and put themselves in grave danger by crossing busy roads and fighting for territory with other male cats. Because of this, they can inflict painful injuries upon each other plus are in danger of being infected with dangerous diseases. This risky behaviour is probably the main cause of young unneutered males going missing and being unable to return home.  See our article on "WHY NEUTER YOUR CAT?"

MICROCHIP your cat. Nowadays this is a very quick and easy process. Most rescue organisations microchip all cats before they are rehomed. Your local vet can do it for you. This will give you peace of mind if your cat disappears that you have a chance of it being returned. Many stray cats are handed into vets and rescue organisations and their first step is to scan it for a microchip. They are then able to trace the name and address of the owner. Of course, it is necessary for you to keep these details up to date as it is very sad for us to take in a cat who is microchipped but we still cannot trace the owner because they have moved!

KEEP IN AT NIGHT! There are many more reported incidents of cats involved in road traffic accidents at night. Cats are more likely to get into trouble with fighting, etc at night. Cases of cruelty are more likely to happen to cats in the street after dark. So often you can read of circumstances when cats go missing that they were let out at night as usual but never returned. This rarely happens during the day. You would of course need to provide your cat with a litter tray but surely that is a small price to pay for another way to keep your cat safe.

TAKE A PHOTO! So often, when a cat goes missing, owners do not have a decent photo of the cat to show around. A good close up photo is worth a thousand words when trying to describe your pet. With modern technology, it is very easy to print out this picture to take around with you.

USE A COLLAR!  Although this item has a word of warning! Cats Protection do not advise the use of elastic collars. These can cause some horrific injuries like cats paws being trapped under the collars or collars being caught up on obstructions. We advise owners to fit their cat with a "quick release" or snap collar which opens as soon as pressure is applied to it. You should check the collar is fitted correctly - two fingers should fit snugly underneath the collar whilst the cat is wearing it.

TIMES TO TAKE EXTRA CARE!  Many cats go missing at particular times in the family's life. The most common of these is when you move. On the day of moving, try to keep the cat separate from all the hustle & bustle, maybe in the bathroom, with a notice on the door so that everyone knows the cat is shut in there. They will need a litter tray.  It is very important that you keep your cat shut in the new house for at least 2 weeks so that he gets a good chance to become familiar with its smells. The cat will of course do anything it can to get out but once outside, if anything spooks it like loud unfamilar noises, it may panic and run and so get lost.

Another common time for cats to go missing is when the family is on holiday particularly if they are not in their own home. I don't know if the cat feels it has been abandoned so goes off or some other reason, but this certainly seems to be reported as when the family cat went missing. I'm not sure what the answer is here - just be aware that it happens!

The third most common time for a cat to go missing is a change in the household - a new baby, another animal, builders, etc  Cats are very sensitive about their home environment and do not like changes so you will need to take extra care at times like this and watch your cat's behaviour to make sure it does not feel abandoned.

REMEMBER you may follow all these tips and really do your best to keep your cat safe but accidents happen and sometimes there are circumstances where there is nothing you could have done to stop your cat going missing. Cats are generally clever, self-sufficient creatures who can look after themselves very well. Most cats who go missing do eventually return home!