When it comes to pet overpopulation, the Best Friends Animal Society says that together “we can help save them all”. This includes cats, even though the statistics for the number of abandoned cats is overwhelming: about 3.2 million enter shelters every year and there’s an estimated 40 million homeless cats. Given the magnitude of the problem, what can any of us do to make a difference? If you own a cat, there are three simple ways you can reduce cat overpopulation.
“In the 2007 study by Lord et al, the owners of lost cats did a pathetic job of trying to get their allegedly beloved kitties back. Only 14 percent of lost cats had any identification.” –Nature historian and conservationist, Thomas McNamee
- Provide your cat with some form of identification. There are a lot of statistics to support the idea that more animals could be reunited with their owners if more pets wore identification. This is especially true of cats. According to a study reported on by Adopt a Pet, ID tags or microchips were responsible for 15% of dogs getting home. In contrast, of 1,000 surveyed cat owners, only one credited their cat’s tag or microchip for their pet’s return. Adopt a Pet argues that if more cats had ID, no doubt many more could be reunited with their owners. Backing up this belief is another study, this one reported on by Animal Planet, which found that more than 38 percent of microchipped cats that arrive at shelters are returned to their owners, as opposed to under 2 percent of those that aren’t microchipped. How are these statistics connected to efforts to cat overpopulation? The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes that the decline in euthanasia rates can be partially explained by an increase in the number of stray animals returned to their owners. The ASPCA goes on to say that of the 710,000 stray pets that enter shelters and are reunited with their owners, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats.
“The woman who found her fed her for a few days and then took her to a veterinarian. The vet checked to see if the cat was microchipped. She was. And was reunited with her owner.” –Nature historian and conservationist, Thomas McNamee
- Spay or neuter your cat. About 11,000 infants are born in the U.S. each day, compared to about 70,000 puppies and kittens. That’s more than six dogs and cats for each new person, and yet the average pet-owning household has only 2.4 pets. Does that suggest there isn’t enough demand for the number of puppies and kittens being born? Another statistic reveals that 2.6 million puppies and 5.64 million kittens are produced annually from unplanned litters. When you consider that “only” three million are euthanized each year, that means that just cutting the number of unplanned litters in half would eliminate the euthanizing of adoptable homeless pets. One last scenario: The director of Animal Adoption Services in one city tells of a man who started out with one cat and then did a marvelous thing by adopting a stray cat. Unfortunately, this man did NOT get either of these cats fixed, and so by the time authorities stepped in a few years later his home was filled with hundreds of diseased and inbred cats. The moral of the story? Have your cat altered!
In the 2007 study by Lord et al, the median time before any of the people got in touch with an animal agency was three days, and for those who went to an agency more than once, the median interval was eight days [between contacts]. Because the holding period at most of the agencies was three days, some of the lost cats were euthanized. –Nature historian and conservationist, Thomas McNamee
- Keep your cat indoors. This one’s a bit like assembling the pieces of a puzzle. I haven’t yet found an article that puts the pieces together, so the best I can do is suggest how I think they fit together. Here are the pieces: cat owners tend to wait longer than dog owners to check shelters for missing pets; shelters report a much lower live-release rate for cats than for dogs; many cat owners allow their cats to roam freely; pet cats commonly do not have tags or microchips; we tend to ignore outdoor cats. Here’s how I think these pieces fit together. We’ve normalized roaming cats, and so we ignore them. Cat owners even ignore long absences of their outdoor cats. Roaming dogs are not normal, and therefore we act quickly when we see them. If cats were kept indoors, it would be easier to recover a lost cat: anyone finding a cat outdoors would know that it was lost or homeless, and anyone who couldn’t find their cat would know it was lost. In either case, action would be immediately taken.
I recently heard this advice given by a cat expert about what to do if you see an unfamiliar cat in your neighborhood: wait a few days to give it a chance to return to its owner, check for a tipped ear (if its ear is tipped, it belongs to a community cat colony and has been spayed/neutered), and only if it continues to hang around and has no ID and doesn’t have a tipped ear you should then contact a shelter. Can you imagine this advice being given about a stray dog? No wonder LiveScience titled their article “Dogs Get Found, Cats Stay Lost.”
“Their lives are shorter than ours. We can witness their lives from beginning to end, not just witness but be in their lives, from naming to knowing and from wonder to love. We can, we must mean to be kind.” –Nature historian and conservationist, Thomas McNamee