Cartoonist Matthew Inman would like to see every housecat wearing an orange collar with its name and number on it. Then if the cat gets loose or lost, by escape or mistake, the collar will signal, "Help me!"
Inman calls the collar campaign the Kitty Convict Project, and its aim is to up the percentage of cats that can be reunited with owners.
While loose dogs are often picked up on the assumption that they're lost, loose cats are usually ignored on the assumption that they're either allowed outside by their owners or that they are feral.
"We want to change what people see when they see a cat," said Inman, Seattle-based author of The Oatmeal blog.
This isn't Inman's first venture into the feline world. Inman was part of a trio that created the popular Exploding Kittens card game, now an app.
"It was a horrible name for a game," said Inman, adding that the Kitty Convict orange collar project is cat atonement (he calls it catonement).
Fifteen percent of pet-owners have lost a dog or cat, according to the ASPCA's most recent study on the topic. Of those lost pets, 85 percent are recovered — 93 percent of dogs but just 74 percent of cats, according to Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of ASPCA shelter research and development.
"People look for their cats differently than their dogs," Weiss said. "Overall use of collar IDs is lower for cats than dogs. And the likelihood of you being reunited is lower if it's a cat. People wait longer to look and about 25 percent don't come home."
Weiss said she was astonished by the findings of a 2011 study about collars and identification tags. Over 80 percent of pet owners said it was extremely important for pets to have them, but only 30 percent of those same owners said their pets wore them.
Matt Hucke lives in a small apartment in Seattle and has put the Kitty Convict orange collars on his cats, Harold, 6, and Harold's mom Maude, 9.
"Because they have always been indoors, they don't really know what to do when they are outside," he said. The collars, he says, provide "assurance they will be safe" in case they ever do get out.
Inman said thousands of the orange collars have been sold. They're available on Amazon.com for $14, a price subsidized by the $9 million raised on Kickstarter for Exploding Kittens, said Inman, who created the game with Elan Lee and Shane Small. The collars are custom-stitched with the cat's name and a contact phone number.
But no matter what color a collar is, if you see a cat outside, said Weiss, "see if you can him get home."