HUMANE CANADA, the Federation of SPCAs and Humane Societies, has provided us with a very useful chart. It tells us that with respect to cats at their shelters there has been a 45% reduction in euthanasia rates over the period 1993-2020.
In addition to the 45% drop in euthanasia of cats at these shelters, there has also been a 66% drop in the number of cats admitted to their shelters over the same period. The Covid-19 pandemic helped to reduce the numbers of cats admitted. In 2019, 78,462 cats were admitted while in 2020 (the year when the pandemic hit) 58,793 cats were admitted.
It appears that the lockdown or limitations in movement throughout the pandemic in Canada, and indeed in the UK and USA, has increased the desire to adopt a pet. Or, companion animals have become more important to isolated people, which is entirely consistent.
The number of cats adopted in Canada in 2020 was at the highest rate ever. Almost 70% of cats taken into shelters were adopted.
And, as you can see from the chart, there has been an approximate 20,000 drop in cat intakes into their shelters over the period 2019-2020. The simple reason must be that people are retaining their cats when otherwise they would have relinquished them.
This may partly be due to Covid and partly due to improved strategies by the shelters who place more emphasis on supporting families who want to relinquish their cats so that they retain them.
Improved return rate
The return rate for reuniting cats with their owners was, according to the Windsor Star, an online newspaper, at its highest level ever in 2020 at 17%. Another good statistic is that more stray cats are being returned to owners to become cared-for domestic cats. The reason? More micro-chipping? More efforts to reunite?
Shelters say that a stray cat is more likely to return home of their own volition and be reunited then be reunited thanks to the efforts of a shelter.
Some reasons for these improved numbers
These pleasant statistics are also partly due to an increase in the number of foster homes. This, as I understand it, improves their care because foster homes are less stressful for the cats. It is better accommodation than in a noisy shelter with more activity. When cats become stressed at shelters, they become less adoptable and they might be euthanised as a consequence.
Another reason for the success, they say, is that shelters are “taking a more inclusive approach to adoption applications”. I interpret this as meaning they accept people as adopters nowadays who would not have been accepted in the past. This doesn’t necessarily translate to being careless or too lenient. It just means that they might ignore or waive certain elements of the applicant’s background and focus more on their ability to care for a cat.
And finally, as mentioned, they are “looking for more ways to support families to keep their companion animals”. This appears to mean that Humane Canada with funding from PetSmart Charities of Canada are providing grants “for the development and delivery of pet food bank programs across Canada”. The result: keeping pets with families rather than abandoning them.
Less cats compared to dogs survive shelters
A consistently disappointing statistic is the much lower euthanasia rate of dogs compared to cats. You can see from the chart 60% of shelter cats were euthanised in 1993. In the same year 30% of dogs were euthanised. And even in 2020, there is a difference with 12% of dogs being euthanised compared to 15% of cats. Although, pleasingly, the difference has dramatically narrowed.
The reason for this anomaly is that 15.8% of dogs and 2% of cats to enter animal shelters are reunited with their owners according to American Humane. Dogs are far more likely to be reunited with their owners compared to cats. Why is this? Is it because more dogs are micro-chipped than cats? It probably is, at least partly. It may partly be due to the fact that dog owners want to be reunited with their dogs more often than cat owners.