Homeless Cat Problem in Switzerland is Minimal

I have it from an excellent source that there is a minimal homeless cat problem in Switzerland.  This does not surprise me. What is the reason? The reason should be interesting to people who are concerned about the “feral cat problem” or shelters overflowing with unwanted but healthy cats resulting in the inevitable euthanasia of many of them. Anything to help resolve these problems should be welcome. There is no simple, one line reason.

Swiss Cat Geneva
Swiss Cat Geneva. Photo by Sin Amigos
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

A friend of mine says this:

Stray cats would mess the place up…(meaning the Swiss like it tidy)

Marc, who lives in Switzerland and who regularly comments on this site says:

…the homeless cat issue here exists, however the degree
to which it exists is minimal…..The Swiss have money, and they always seem to neuter their pets and take them to the vet regularly.

Marc mentions a tough law that exists in Belgium:

In the paper this morning there is an article which talks about Belgium’s law which requires a person to have a breeders licence in order to be able to ‘own’ an un-sterilized cat (as they call them). Anybody owning a cat privately therefore is required by law to have it spayed/neutered.  Now the Swiss are talking quite seriously about having this law implemented so that the situation here never has a chance to get totally out of control as has happened in so many other countries – America probably being the worst of them.

I think this law that Marc mentions is a nice balance between over legislating and not legislating at all.

Marc also says about Switzerland:

For a country that has so few feral cats, and yet they are panicking about the few they have, I think something good must be inherent in the average Swiss person. They have many animal rights type laws. You can’t go to the pet shop and buy one hamster. By law you must buy 2 so they are not alone. I think they care about animals. The food products containing animals are of a much better and more humane quality than other countries. (not that its good anywhere per se) but even the cheapest eggs are not that cheap and are made according to Swiss standards of animal keeping practices which are quite stringent as I understand…..I have NEVER seen an unhealthy cat on the street here but I have seen plenty of cats who don’t have collars but belong to people. At first I thought some were stray but they were not – I asked around.
So when you see a lot of happy cats wandering around its quite appealing after what I saw in Canada. Canada was awful. Awful. Very sad indeed.

In relation to farm cats he writes:

I have read about many situations of barn/farm cats here in Switzerland, so they do have them. And in fact I have seen adoptions of barn cats and farm cats in the cases where the farmer has too many. That’s a lot better than just drowning the kittens which is what most farmers would do in other countries and this one too I’m sure. But it seems some farmers here care a lot about their cats which is nice. And I’m sure elsewhere.

We can conclude that the Swiss are good about minimizing unwanted cats and feral cats. It is difficult to put a finger on the cause. There are probably many reasons such as:

  • A refined sense of community spirit supported by a culture of discipline. A socially aware and responsible culture. To be honest, I think this is the single biggest factor. You need to be aware of the feelings of others (people and cat) when keeping a cat….”The Swiss are responsible to the extent of being boring and all Swiss kids grow up being good little boys and girls. They would not be irresponsible with much. It’s actually pretty boring to some extent since they are so careful…” I feel that although Americans are in general civic minded they are also prone to being more competitive on an individual level and less good as a team (socially aware). That is a pure guess though but it could be one factor in the reason why there appears to be a feral cat problem in America.
  • If you go to Switzerland you see very tidy, litter free and organised public places. Do they consider feral cats a form of litter and do anything they can to prevent them from occupying public places including preventing their creation through responsible cat caretaking?
  • Money. The standard of living must be a factor. Wealth is linked to education too. Better education leads to a more responsible attitude toward looking after a cat and that includes going to the vet when required and to have your cat neutered or spayed.
  • The Swiss are very independent minded remaining outside of the European Union. Perhaps they feel they are better than the rest. They probably are. It takes discipline to do that.
  • Excellent animal welfare laws (Swiss Federal Act on Animal Protection 1978) but not particularly better than a lot of other countries. American animal welfare laws are at a state level and are similar to European laws. The issue really is whether people want to abide by the law because animal laws relating to animal cruelty for instance are hard to enforce.
  • Good law enforcement. I am guessing that law enforcement is good in Switzerland. There is no doubt that where law enforcement is weak the law is pointless and worse. In Mexico animal welfare law is not bad but completely unenforced. In America it appears to me that people can shoot feral cats with impunity. Even the police do it and therefore animal welfare law is not enforced adequately. In the UK it is a charity, the RSPCA, who enforce the Animal Welfare Act 2006. That is a  good idea. Police are not the ideal people to enforce animal laws.
  • Animal welfare laws that have been in existence for a long time. I would guess that countries where animal welfare laws have been in place for the longest time are also places where animal welfare is the best. This is because laws gradually enter the communal consciousness. A classic example is the wearing of seat belts in cars. Before laws making it obligatory no one did it and now it feels odd not to do it.
  • Climate. The climate should be a factor. Warmer countries tend to have more feral cats it seems to me as survival is easier.
  • Switzerland and England are about 1000 years old although you can’t date the beginning of these countries accurately. I think the age of a country should be a factor. It certainly seems that way. America is relatively young at about 400 years of age on my reckoning. Australia is a young country too. They have some controversial attitudes towards cats. Generally they are overly tough in my view and in some places shooting a cat is legal. The age of a country may have a bearing on attitudes.
  • The size of a country is a factor. Smaller is better where the attitude, government and motivation is good towards animal welfare.

Lastly, a measure of the development of the people of a country is a factor too. This is called the Human Development Index. Switzerland is high in this list as expected at 11th. This is just one element of a complex bundle of reasons why the homeless cat problem in Switzerland is minimal.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

13 thoughts on “Homeless Cat Problem in Switzerland is Minimal”

  1. Still researching 🙂

    7 myths about living in Switzerland

    It is impossible to get a residence permit:
    Wrong. There are many ways to get a residence permit, and for example if you are retired or willing to do business in Switzerland, we will be happy to help you get a permit.

    Switzerland is as cold as Siberia:
    We grow wine and kiwis in Switzerland and in the summer temperatures rises above 30 Celsius in many parts of the country. We do have a winter season, with snow and all that, but it only lasts a few months.

    Life in Switzerland is more expensive than in Tokyo:
    Switzerland is expensive, but no more than Paris or London. And, let’s face it, you probably pay a lot more tax now than you would pay if you lived in Switzerland. This largely compensates for the cost of living for many people.

    Living in Switzerland is only for pop stars and steel barons:
    Wrong again. Many foreigners who are neither as famous as Tina Turner nor as rich as Ingvar Kamprad live in Switzerland. It is true that you must be moderately wealthy to qualify for some residence permits, but not as much as you think.

    The Swiss are very cold:
    Visitors often judge the Swiss from the welcome the receive at the souvenir shop in the airport, which is like judging the kindness of the American people from the immigration officers at JFK. In fact, it all depends on the area and on the situation. Rural, Catholic cantons have reputedly the most sympathetic people, and many people who live in Switzerland and make a small effort to understand the country find open and trustworthy friends.

    There are just cows and ski-lifts in Switzerland:
    No, we have cities, operas, industries, great hotels and restaurants, and the highest per capita number of Nobel Prizes in the world. And if you really need the thrill of a huge city, you are never far from other European cities in Switzerland.

    The Swiss don’t let you buy a house:
    They do if you get a residence permit. With a B permit, you can buy a house anywhere in the country (the law changed recently).

    (Gotta love Google)

    1. You are giving me the desire to retire in Switzerland. I speak a bit of French too. For me one of the most admirable things about the Swiss is that they stayed out of the European Union which is a failure as far as I am concerned except for one thing, it probably stopped World War III 🙂

    2. Tina Turner lives about 60 meters from where I live. No joke. She is a neighbour. Accross the street in a huge fancy house with video cams at the entrance. I’ve seen her in the supermarket and walking her dog. Funny that. I live in a very un-fancy place that happens to be right accross the road. Of course she lives actually on the lake – lucky for her 🙂

    3. I have a B permit and own a small apartment 🙂 …oh, and they are very friendly. Perhaps a little harder to get close to once you are friends but I’d say the same of Canadians so its no big deal.

  2. Rudolph.A.Furtado

    Had the opportunity to spend a few days in Switzerland during a packaged tour with “Thomas Cook” in 2010. Explored the tiny “One horse town” of Engelberg and coming from one of the World’s most densely populated City’s Mumbai was surprised to find myself the only human walking the street at approx 1700 hrs in the evening! Never came across any stray cats or dogs and baffled by the neatness and beauty of this small Swiss town.Had toured the tourist sites of Jungfraujoch Mountain, Interlaken,Mount Titlis,Lucerne and the Rhine falls.We were staying in Engelberg during our 3 day stay , in a century old hotel called “Edeilweiss”.Hence got to know Engelberg a bit better as also understand a bit of Swiss living than the other Swiss tourist locations which were quick tourist visits.No doubt the Swiss are the envy of the World, reasons being the beautiful scenic climate and scenery, besides the “SWISS BANKS” and high living standards. Definitely, Swiss cats would also be the envy in the cat World.

    1. Rudolph you have seen two completely contrasting places. It must have been interesting although you are a well travelled person so the impact would have been less. It seems an extremely tidy place and think that indicates a desire for order and control which is also behind the low stray cat count.

  3. What a great summary of possible reasons behind the apparent way of things here Michael. I think your point about law enforcement is a very good one and one I have not particularly mentioned. It’s true the Swiss abide by laws without question. The police do have a normal sort of presence around here, nothing over the top, and crime is extremely low. I have never lived anywhere you can leave your bike unlocked outside the supermarket, other than here. There is alot of beaurocracy and paperwork here and in a sense they really keep tabs on you at your local area council or government building. I’m not sure how or why, but it has ended up for the better in that people do stick to the rules and go above and beyond – as you said Michael – it’s very tidy. There’s a joke here that even a teenage punk will pick up his litter if an old granny tells him to. It’s true. I’d say the only parts of Switzerland that fall below this level are where the non swiss live but thats another subject. The flip side is that one might say the Swiss are pretty boring and formal and unexciting in general. But they are happy and friendly so they have no reason to care what people think. They have the oldest government in the world – last year they had their 700th birthday since the first government and forming of the country. There is not one president or minister in charge, but 7 and everything requires alot of voting and laws take ages to get passed because everybody has to agree if it is to be passed nationally. The 7 heads are from 7 states if you will that have their own slightly different laws in each of these ‘cantons’ as they are called. So the way things are here come from long and thought out processes which is why I would say that when a law gets passed, people tend to follow it and agree with it. In france they pass laws every day which nobody cares about. I guess the attitudes towards animals and laws concerning their welfare are therefore very seriously considered and I have no doubt that if you were to break one of them there wouldnt be any of this getting let off with a light sentence because its only animals type thing. They say once you break the law here they do follow through on it to the end.
    It makes sense therefore that people are the way they are here in that context.
    So futher to all this it then makes sense that in the newspaper they are talking about adding this new law concerning licenced breeding and the requirement to spay/neuter your cats. I think this sort of law will be agreable to the typical swiss person when they also read about the possibilities of serious problems down the line with homeless cats. The Swiss tend to care about laws in their communities so there’s no reason why they would not care about this one. That’s a really great thing for our cats I can tell you. In other countries I think it’s just that people don’t care. Thats the main problem. They don’t even know if such a law is being considered. Here its in all the papers and probably on TV – somebody getting a cat here will know about it – if not from somebody else who told them. It is a small country and all of what I am describing about the way of things here is partly enabled by that smallness. Zurich, the capital where I live is under 1million people and its the biggest city.
    So to conclude my copmment quickly I think Michael is right about the age of the country mixed with the laws and the abiding of them as being massivly important factors to the good situation here all in all. The number of feral cats here is just under half a million according to an article I read – also in the newspaper. They said between 2 and 3 hundred thousand as an estimate. I have not seen even one of these cats. I wonder where they are. I can’t volunteer at the local shelter because they have a waiting list and too many volunteers – how bout that 🙂 (and I have tried all of 5 or 6 in my area and they are all without need for help)

    1. Thanks for adding to the page, Marc. Interesting..there are 500,000 feral cats, we are told, in London, England. It makes you think. They are estimates though and it is always going to be difficult to differentiate between a feral, stray and time share cat from behavior observed at a distance.

      1. Wow I used to live in London and I had no idea there were so many. I guess the bulk of them live farther out from the center. I lived near Hammersmith/Shepherds Bush and I never really saw any at all. But I can’t imagine how they would have survived in that concrete jungle. Surely then its that they live in the suburbs of london or the statistic is drawn over ‘greater London’ which goes just about all the way to Heathrow. The center is too horrid for them to survive without at least having an outdoor caretaker who provides a bit of a shelter too.

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