Christmas has come and gone, but one holiday story straight out of Berlin has caught the world’s attention. A black and white cat named Miko returned to a neighborhood just miles from its original home after disappearing all the way back in 2008.
“A family from the Charlottenburg [neighborhood] this year experienced a Christmas story with a particularly ‘happy ending’,” explained an association that runs a local animal refuge, per The Guardian. “They learned on Christmas day that their cat, Miko, had been found—seven years later.”
The refuge identified Miko thanks to an identity chip that had been implanted. Owner Elena Hanke was just 11 when her cat went missing. She initially searched for it to no avail. But seven years later, she ventured to the shelter with her dad and sister to finally retrieve Miko.
According to a veterinarian at the shelter, Miko was “a bit too thin,” but otherwise in fine condition.
Now 18, Elena can only imagine what Miko had been going through all this time. It’s possible that the cat has simply been wandering around Berlin, but it’s also conceivable that another family temporarily took it in.
While the story is a heart-warming holiday saga, it’s also a reminder that getting your outfitted with a microchip can be the difference between one day finding it and losing it forever. The evidence on behalf of microchip implants is pretty overwhelming.
One study by the American Veterinary Medical Association analyzed the rates at which pets returned home to their owners from 53 different shelters around the United States. Only 22 percent of dogs and under two percent of cats were returned from shelters to their owners. But those numbers skyrocketed to 52 percent and 38 percent (respectively) when dogs and cats were given microchips.
Dr. Emily Weiss is an animal behaviorist and vice president for shelter research and development for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and she recommends placing easily identifiable contact information on your pets’ collars.
“We suggest that the tag should have the cell phone number of the pet parent, the cell number of an emergency contact, the land line of the pet parent, and if the person is comfortable doing so, the street address of their home,” she said.
Dr. Weiss also suggests that those seeking lost pets check nearby shelters within the first day of when the animal went missing. Having a good photograph of the pet handy won’t hurt, either.
The ASPCA performed a study about lost pets in 2012, and it sheds some light on situations faced by those like Elena and her family. Indeed, many of the pets found in shelters may not really be lost at all.
“There were several surprises from our study,” Dr. Emily Weiss said. “I think we have made an assumption about the stray pets in shelters—assuming that those animals are lost pets with owners that are actively seeking them. While some of those dogs and cats are in fact lost, many of them are likely to be dogs and cats that are truly homeless.”
Of course, microchips can help tell the difference.
The study also noted that about 15 percent of pet owners reported a missing dog or cat in the past five years. According to the ASPCA, about 7.6 million pets come into animal shelters in the U.S. each year. About 3.4 million of them are cats. Despite the significant influx of animals into shelters, only 2.7 million sheltered pets are adopted each year. Another 2.7 million are sadly euthanized.