A new comic from Exploding Kittens creator Matthew Inman aims to brand indoor cats as convicts in an effort to make lost kitties more easily identifiable.

The Kitty Convict Project, which has gone viral, encourages cat owners to purchase an orange collar for their feline friend so that if the animal slips outside and gets lost, people will recognize that the orange-collared kitty isn’t an outdoor pet.

"I don't know if it will work,” Inman told KING5. “It's a tall order. We're asking the world to change their perception of what a collar should be."

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Inman partnered with GoTags to create two orange collars, which are available on Amazon at a subsidized price, thanks to extra revenue from Exploding Kittens game sales.

"Basically we had a really successful game and we wanted a way to give back in a creative way," Inman said.

But will fastening an orange collar around your kitty’s neck make a difference?

Kitty Convict ProjectPhoto: Kitty Convict Project

Should you brand your kitty as a 'convict'?

“Anytime we can highlight that not all cats should be outside and that not all lost cats get home is good,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, a certified applied animal behaviorist and vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA. “Whether or not this will be effective though, I don’t know.”

Weiss says the Kitty Convict Project provides a great opportunity to talk about the very real issue of pets that never find their way home. However, she points out that the lost pet statistics cited in the popular comic — that 26 percent of lost dogs are returned home and only 5 percent of cats are — aren’t quite so dire.

“The good news is that our statistics are a bit different, and they’re much better than what he’s reporting,” she said.

A 2012 ASPCA study found that 15 percent of pet owners had lost a cat or dog within the past five years. Of those lost pets, 93 percent of dogs and 74 percent of cats were recovered.

However, Weiss says the Kitty Convict Project does a good job of explaining why lost cats are less likely to be recovered than dogs. For example, when people spot an off-leash cat in the neighborhood, it’s easy to assume that it’s simply an outdoor pet, whereas an off-leash dog wandering the streets is more likely to be reported.

Another reason that cats can be more difficult to find is because of how both the animal and its owner react when an indoor kitty goes missing.

“Cats tend to hide and they’re not easy to see like dogs are,” Weiss said. “Also, people behave differently when looking for a lost cat. People don’t tend to start looking for a couple of days. They wait for the cat to come home, but you need to get out there quickly and start looking.”

Another problem is that not all cats are microchipped or wear a collar and ID tags even though ASPCA research shows that pet owners know it’s important.

“Often it’s because people think their cats won’t go outside, but unfortunately, we know that’s not true,” she said.

cat pawing at screen doorIt's smart to keep a collar and ID tag on your cat, even if you don't think she'll ever go outside. (Photo: Alex Gonzalez/Shutterstock)

Choosing the right collar

A collar and ID tags can go a long way in helping a lost cat get back home, so Weiss recommends keeping them on even indoor cats. And while there are a variety of cat collars on the market, the safest collars are often the simplest.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association looked at a variety of cat collars, including plastic buckle collars, breakaway collars and elastic stretch collars. The study authors concluded that simple buckle collars are the best option for cats. This style had the fewest reports of loss, forelimbs caught in collar or mouths caught in collar.

The study also found that the first 48 to 72 hours of a cat’s first time wearing a collar are when problems are most likely to arise, so it’s important to keep an especially close eye on your pet as he or she gets accustomed to wearing a collar.

However, Weiss notes that simply putting a collar on your cat — orange or otherwise — won’t actually solve the problem of lost kitties.

“While the orange collar idea is clever, just because a cat is wearing a collar doesn't mean he’s going to get home.”

Weiss offers the following tips to help keep your kitty safe:

  • Prevention is key. Make sure windows are closed and screen doors are latched properly. If there’s construction at your home, take your cat to the vet or a boarding facility so accidents are less likely to happen.
  • Make sure your cat is microchipped and wears a collar with ID tags and your contact information.
  • Keep up-to-date photos of your cat on hand to show neighbors and to make fliers should your pet go missing.
  • Don’t wait to start looking. The moment your cat is lost is the moment you should start looking — but don’t look terribly far because your cat is probably hiding close by.
  • Check out the APSCA app, which can help you develop a customized search plan for your pet.