Ditch the posters: New app for missing cats launched in Flanders

Ditch the posters: New app for missing cats launched in Flanders
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A digital marketer and an IT student teamed up to create an app that will help cat owners who have lost their fluffy feline friends and, with the help of technology and friendly neighbours, find them again.

At some point, you have probably seen the self-printed posters with a picture of a runaway cat and an urgent call to return them or call the owner. But according to the app developers, people do not read them, let alone write down the number of the owner.

"We can do better in these days of the internet," pondered David Olthaar and Tom Beusch, who then created the 'KattenRadar' (Cat Radar), reported Gazet van Antwerpen.

Olthaar himself does not have a cat although he does adore them; what stops him from having his own is his cat allergy. "People who don't have a pet don't realise it, but when a pet suddenly disappears, it's quite emotional." David experienced it first-hand: when he was eight, his hunting dog ran off. "For two and a half days he was without a trace. Untraceable. Until suddenly he was there again. I was incredibly lucky."

Now social media is lending a hand. "I am a digital marketer by profession and regularly place ads on social media. When I saw a soaking wet poster with a bleached picture of a runaway cat while cycling, I came up with the idea of KattenRadar. When it turned out that people google 'cat missing' 3,000 times a month, I thought there was potential," explained Olthaar, who set up the site together with Beusch, an IT student.

The idea behind it is quite simple. The owner registers the missing cat on the site, leaves their contact details and uploads a photo. "Our system then automatically creates a tracking message with name and photo and posts it as a targeted ad on Facebook and Instagram.

This way, we make sure your cat ends up in the timeline of neighbourhood friends, in a radius of one to several dozen kilometres. These can then provide tips on the website, which are automatically emailed or texted to the owner."

1,180 cats recovered so far

For €29, the basic formula reaches 4,000 neighbours in a one-kilometre radius. The larger the search radius, the more expensive. But the investment pays off as in a year and a half, the website stated that it has already reunited 1,180 critters with their owners, a 68 % success rate - although there are no figures on what the success rate is without digital help. "[There may be] more successes, because not everyone lets it be known when the cat is back home," Olthaar said.

Since this summer, KattenRadar has also been active in Flanders. "Of the 38 missing cats already reported, 24 have returned home safely," David said. "Meanwhile, the site has been translated into English and we also help people in England, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia."

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