My Pet World / Pets

My Pet World: Adopt-A-Cat Month Addresses Cat Overpopulation

There's no question that Americans love pets. There are more pets than children in America. Most homes have a pet, including about 40 million homes with at least one cat, adding up to over 86 million pet cats, according to the American Pet Products Association. Also, polls suggest that over 90 percent of pet owners consider their pets members of the family.

Despite all that, estimates are that every minute, approximately four cats are euthanized in U.S. shelters. It's tragic and shameful because the majority of these pets 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 at Petfinder.com. There's certainly no shortage of adoptable cats.

In fact, feline overpopulation is a serious problem.

There's a "no kill" movement spreading across America, celebrating the notion that far too many pets are needlessly killed in shelters. Of course, I'm on board with that general notion. However, many passionate individuals and organizations espousing this movement are, in my opinion, a tad too fervent -- blaming any shelter which isn't "no kill" for euthanizing animals.

No one I know who works at a shelter wants to euthanize. But if there are, say, five shelters in a community, and three become "no kill," the reality is that the problem only shifts to the remaining two facilities, which then carry the euthanization burden.

There's only one way to solve the problem: Reduce the numbers of pets coming into shelters in the first place.

In many places, this has been achieved for dogs. Some shelters actually have a shortage of what they consider adoptable dogs, so they "import" from other local facilities, other counties, or other states. I don't know of a single shelter complaining about not having enough adoptable cats.

So, how do we impact cat overpopulation? Here are three steps I believe can change the equation:

1. Indoors Only: If "indoors only" really became the mantra for pet cats, spay/neuter compliance would increase. Confining intact cats indoors, and living with their "idiosyncrasies" can be challenging. One added benefit is that life indoors is safer, and as a consequence cats live longer,healthier lives.

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