The title is a shocking statement but one made by an experienced person, the director of the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department, Barbara Bruin. She was talking about the influx of unwanted cats over the spring and summer season. This is when cats, that are not neutered, breed. It puts a huge burden on animal shelters and associated facilities. The number of cats and kittens that find their way to shelters in the spring and summer doubles compared to the winter and autumn.
The phrase, ‘cats are throwaways’ is disturbing. It stems from Barbara’s experiences that people are more likely to:
- fix (neuter) their dog than their cat;
- microchip their dog than their cat and
- claim a lost dog than a lost cat at a cat shelter.
We know there is a very low success rate of reuniting a lost cat with his/her owner (2-3%). A lot of the kittens die because they are so vulnerable and prone to illness and it seems the staff are somewhat overwhelmed by the numbers.
Do we know why the cat gets such a raw deal? I would hope that one or two visitors give me some ideas in a comment. I’ll have a go at an answer myself.
It has to be due to the nature of our relationship with our cat and that has to be due to our character/behavior and the cat’s character/behavior.
As we are comparing the differences in keeping cats and dogs I’ll focus on the cat’s character. The cat is not a pack animal. He or she does not look to us for leadership as the alpha dog. It is a one-to-one relationship.
Accordingly, the relationship is more laissez-faire. We have less control over the cat. A cat will do her own thing. The connection is looser. I think it is this looser arrangement with the cat which lets people let go of the relationship more easily if their cat disappears.
However, responsible cat caretakers who have a knowledge of cat behavior accept and respect the cat and enjoy this kind of relationship. As a result they have a close relationship. People who might have misplaced expectations about cat behavior and/or a lack of knowledge of cat behavior are more likely to not form a bond and let the cat go or worse abandon their cat, which explains why they do not try and recover their cat from a shelter.
How to provide cats with an even playing field? There is only one overarching solution: education. That very important concept will cure all ills in the cat to human relationship.