Shelters Are Brimming With Cats, ADOPT


Dena Fitzgerald, publications and communications manager at American Humane

Dena Fitzgerald

In 1975 American Humane named June, Adopt-a-Cat month. “Cat overpopulation was a real issue, a big problem back then,” says Dena Fitzgerald, publications and communications manager at American Humane. “Unfortunately, most shelters are still over-filled with cats.”

That’s same filled to the brim scenario isn’t any longer true for dogs in many parts of the country. Today, many shelters find themselves “importing” dogs from nearby communities, other states or, controversially even other countries.

However, Fitzgerald doesn’t know of any shelter that actually has a shortage of adoptable cats. As a result, in most places more cats are euthanized in shelters than dogs.

There are lots of reasons for this discrepancy, explains Bob Rohde, president and CEO of the Denver Dumb Friends League. “It all begins with the value of cats – they simply don’t enjoy equal regard as dogs,” he says. “Cats are more often relinquished to shelter (than dogs). Sometimes cats are just let outside to fend for themselves.”

June is American Humane’s Adopt-a-Cat monthFitzgerald, who is also in Denver, says that compared to 1975 the public perception of the importance spay/neuter has changed dramatically. “Today, most pets are spayed or neutered, particularly among dog owners, people realize it’s the socially responsible thing to do.” However, too many indoor/outdoor cats and outdoor only cats remain in tact. And if there’s one thing which all cats excel, it’s breeding. “Cats are more prolific than dogs and they tend to have larger litters,” adds Fitzgerald.   

The issue of stray and feral cats – a problem which simply doesn’t exist in the dog world, is also a significant concern.

Alley Cat Allies – a non-profit dedicated to non-violent approaches to deal with these stray and feral cats – estimates there are 40 to 80 million of these cats in America. American Humane and an increasing number of shelters are supporters of trap, neuter, return or TNR to deal with the problem. It’s an alternative to prevent overloading shelters with feral cats, which are temperamentally not suited for adoption anyway and are usually euthanized. Since these stray and feral cats typically form colonies, volunteer caretakers humanely trap the colony members one by one, have them spay/neutered, vaccinated for rabies and then return them to the colony to allow them to live out their lives without contributing to the over-population problem. The caretakers also work with shelters, so young kitties and friendly cats which have been rescued can be placed for adoption.

While in some communities, spring and early summer remains “puppy season,” with boxes of puppies delivered to shelters – this event is far more rare today than in the mid-1970’s. However, people are still bringing kitties to shelters at about the same rate of 30 years ago, and in many places June is the peak month.

More cats are relinquished to shelters than dogs, and fewer are adopted,one reason why the CATalyst Council was formedMore good news for dogs doesn’t translate to cats. Today, lost dogs who land in shelters are increasingly being recovered by their families. “That’s directly attributable to microchipping,” says Rohde. “Nowadays, all shelters scan pets (for a microchip) on intake. More dogs are recovered at our shelter because we’re able to contact the families (as long as the family of microchipped pets register their contact information, so they can be reached by the shelter). However, fewer than five percent of all cats are microchipped.”

In other words, lost dogs are increasingly being claimed. Lost cats are not being recovered. What’s more, many families with lost cats consider their felines so disposable they never bother to search for them at shelters or people just assume lost cats will return. “That assumption isn’t necessarily accurate,” Rohde says. It’s that discrepancy between our feelings about dogs verses cats which sparked Rohde and others to form the non-profit CATalyst Council. Representatives from veterinary medicine, animal welfare, academia and others are working together to elevate the status of cats.

Using the Denver metro area as a test market, Chip Your Cat is an initiative from HomeAgain (cq) to microchip 150,000 cats at no charge with a lifetime registration. Rohde says he’s confident the cat focused promotion has already saved lives

Fitzgerald rattles off many benefits of adopting a cat or kitten, or two. “Cats are easier to care for than dogs,” she says. “They’re clean, so there’s no bathing involved, which definitely makes most cats happy. They’re quiet, which is sometimes best for apartments (or condominiums). I can assure you that having a cat or two at home will make you laugh, they’re definitely entertaining. That’s why I have four (cats) of my own. Purring in a package is actually healthy for people. Besides, we have too many cats in shelters – maybe four million. You really can save a life if you adopt.”

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services