Every minute, around four cats are euthanized in U.S. cat shelters. It’s tragic and shameful, because the majority of these cats are adoptable.
June is American Humane Association’s Adopt-A-Cat month. It’s easy enough to visit a local shelter, and even easier to let your mouse sniff out a new pet a Petfinder.com. There is no shortage of adoptable cats.
Dog shelter over-population can be less of an issue. Many shelters lack enough adoptable dogs, so they seek transfers from other shelters with too many dogs. When it comes to cats, I’ve never heard of a shelter that complains of a shortage of adoptable cats.
I have some ideas that I believe can go a long ways to solve this horrible problem.
1. Bring Housecats Indoors
Spayed or neutered cats obviously can’t contribute to an overpopulation problem. If people can be convinced to keep their cats indoors exclusively, I can assure you nearly all these cats will be spayed or neutered. If you ask me how I can make that guarantee, I’ll ask you this: Have you ever lived with indoor-only intact cats?
This approach will benefit cats in two ways. First, being indoors-only, cats stay safer and will more likely live longer and healthier lives. Second, as I mentioned, indoor-only cats will be spayed or neutered.
2. Help Cat Behavior Issues
Let’s lower the intake of cats by solving cat behavior problems. Heart or kidney diseases are not the most common causes of death in cats — bad behavior is. The cat misses the litterbox or scratches at the sofa once too often, and the bond fractures with the family. When that happens, the cat may be readily given away to a shelter or just booted outside.
The answer to all this is to somehow prevent behavior problems from happening in the first place. Increasingly, accurate information appears regarding cat behavior – sources range from books to podcasts to Jackson Galaxy’s Animal Planet TV show, “My Cat From Hell.” My colleague Marilyn Krieger, CAT FANCY and CatChannel behavior columnist and Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, is a great resource; I hope my media platforms are as well.
Increasingly, shelters offer behavioral advice to the community, and certainly to people who have adopted at their facility. Their training and expertise ranges from certified cat behavior consultant to people who just really like cats.
3. TNR Feral Cats; Keep Feral Cats in Their Environment
Why are there so many cats in the first place? Spay/neuter is only a part of the answer. Trap, neuter, return (TNR) is also a part of the solution. Shelters still use their precious resources (shelter space and employee/volunteer time) attempting to socialize and adopt out feral cats. Instead, I endorse TNR for feral cats. I argue, overall, most feral cats will be more content living out their lives in their colonies, while shelter space and personnel can focus on other, more adoptable cats.
Can solutions be this easy? Actually, yes, if these initiatives are actually put into place. But if you’re thinking, “What can I do?” You can adopt a cat! If you currently have a cat or several cats, that’s cool – you can still volunteer at your local shelter.
Also, a great resource for all cat owners, called CATegorical Care: An Owners Guide to America’s No. 1 Companion is free to download.