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Keep an eye on outdoor cats

JULIE SUTOR
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Summit County Animal Shelter employee Traci Bratton rearranges the shelter's bulletin board with missing cat "Beta" - a Bill's Ranch cat.
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BILL’S RANCH – Cherie Zorilla’s 9-year-old cat, Beta, was a happy, indoor/outdoor, green-eyed, calico cat that loved to go exploring around her Bill’s Ranch home. That is, before she disappeared.Zorilla came home one night several weeks ago to discover a bat trapped in her house, and opened the door to set it free.”I saw Beta wander out, but she doesn’t usually go very far, and she’s never gone for more than a few hours,” said Zorilla, who has since moved to Lakewood. “I went out in the middle of the night and looked for her and couldn’t find her. We searched and searched.”That Saturday, we went out all over the neighborhood with posters and flyers, but she never came back,” Zorilla added.

Zorilla’s story is a common one in Frisco lately, where seven other cats have also disappeared.”There certainly has been an increase in the number of missing cats in Frisco,” said lead animal control officer Lesley Craig. “There are always a lot in Summit Cove and Swan Meadow, because there are a lot of coyotes over there. But we have eight lost cat reports in Frisco out of a total 11 in all of Summit County.”Craig said she has seen a number of foxes in the Frisco area which could be to blame for the high number of missing cats. But cats can disappear in other ways, too.They can get in fights with each other and catch infections. Especially if left to roam free in cold weather, cats may seek shelter in sheds or under the hoods of cars.”We had some people driving past Frisco on Interstate 70. All the sudden, this paw came out from under the steering column swatting at their legs. It took hours to get that cat out of there,” Craig said.

The only fail-safe way to keep a cat from disappearing is by not letting it outside at all: On average, outdoor cats have a life expectancy of two to three years, while indoor cats live an average of 15 years, Craig said.”A lot of these people are never finding (their cats) again, and they never know what happens to them. I can’t imagine anything worse than not knowing what happened to your animal,” Craig said.If found, at-large cats will come home to their owners with a ticket, just like dogs.But for owners who choose to let their cats out from time to time, keeping a close eye on them in a fenced-in area is the next best strategy. It’s also important for cats to have tags and/or microchips for easy identification by animal control if a cat does escape.

When a cat is missing, Craig advises against giving up hope. Owners should call the shelter right away to file a report and visit the shelter frequently to see if the cat has turned up.”People can say it’s a brown tiger, but actually it’s a black tiger. It’s not like looking for a German shepherd,” Craig said.Occasionally, lost cats can survive for several weeks outside their homes. The shelter has dozens of stray cats that are never claimed, because some owners assume their pets have died.A Frisco cat without ID tags once escaped from its home, only to be found weeks later in Keystone by animal control. The owner thought the cat was long gone, and another Frisco resident adopted it from the shelter. The wily creature, then with tags, escaped from its new home and returned to its previous owner.”He called the new owner and said, ‘My cat’s been missing for months. How come it’s got your phone numbers?,'” Craig said. “Now, they share the cat.”


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