According to a 2015-2016 survey by American Pet Products Association (APPA), 35% of all households in the United States own a cat, with the total number of pet cats reaching almost 86 million. Of those, almost 97% of households consider cats to be family members or companions. Obviously cats are important to Americans. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that 1.4 million cats are euthanized each year, according to the ASPCA. Just as bad is that cats are being euthanized at a higher rate than dogs. For the timeframe of 1994-1997, the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy Shelter Statistics Survey reported that 71% of cats that enter shelters are euthanized, whereas only 56% of dogs are euthanized.
Even here in Nebraska, cats aren’t doing well. On its website, The Nebraska Humane Society claims to be unique among animal shelters, by being the facility that houses all animals with nowhere else to go, and states that it is “proud to say that we have not had to euthanize a healthy, adoptable dog, for lack of space, in several years.” At the same time, it states that for cats, the story is less happy. “Cats are a major challenge for every shelter in the country, due to their overwhelming numbers…. at times, we run out of space.”
If we love our cats so much, why are so many being killed? Or as the author of The Top 10 Book of Mysterious Mousers, Talented Tabbies put it, “Cats, the most popular pets in the United States, are also the most euthanized animals in the world.”
So what can the average cat owner do? Over the next few weeks, I’ll cover three ways. First, you can ensure your cat is spayed/neutered. Organization after organization is reporting that sterilization programs result in significant drops in euthanasia rates. Perhaps that’s why The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has taken the position that “the only method of population control that has demonstrated long-term efficacy in significantly reducing the number of animals entering animal shelters is the voluntary sterilization of owned pets.” In addition, the veterinary community has formally acknowledged the importance of safe, efficient, accessible sterilization programs as the “best antidote to the mass euthanasia of cats and dogs resulting from overpopulation.”
For anyone who wants to join this latter fight, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors offers a low-cost spay/neuter voucher program, in cooperation with nine Lincoln vet clinics. People pay what they can afford toward the procedure and LAA pays the rest. Coming in February, LAA will offer a Fix Me Meow voucher. For just $25, you’ll be able to get your cat spayed/neutered, and vaccinations will also be covered. Since 2010, LAA has altered about 2056 pets, averaging about 372 pets per year.
Second, you should keep your domesticated cat inside. It’s obvious why you should keep your cat inside if it hasn’t been altered. Letting an unaltered cat run freely is a recipe for accidental breeding, which contributes to the pet overpopulation. There are also indirect ways that outdoor cats contribute to overpopulation, which I’ll cover in an upcoming series of articles.
Third, you can support Trap-Neuter-Release. According to The Humane Society of the United States, cats are divided into three distinct populations: those living in homes as personal pets, those being cared for by shelters and rescues, and those residing in our communities. This latter group, known as community cats, consist of abandoned, stray, and feral (unsocialized) cats. In the United States, there are an estimated thirty to forty million community cats. Many animal welfare groups advocate for a TNR approach to their management. In future posts, I’ll share information about successful TNR communities.
Through the above efforts, many cats have already been saved! To find out more about spay/neuter, the indoor pet initiative, TNR, and check back in the weeks ahead for posts by myself and other bloggers on these important topics.