This article is an open discussion about cat overpopulation, why it’s happening, and what can we do to reduce the number of unwanted cats born each year. Not just in the USA, but worldwide.
I apologize for the long read with all the numbers, but this is necessary to tell a more complete story of what’s happening in this country with the overpopulation of pets. Although the numbers here only deal with the U.S., the cat overpopulation problem is a global issue (e.g. there is a recent story from the RSPCA in the UK about over-populated rescue facilities – the RSPCA are asking for more donations).
SPAY USA WEBSITE FOR LOW/NO COST CLINICS
Before I get into the numbers, I’d like to tell the readers here about a website in the USA that may help. Hopefully those in other countries can go online and find a similar site. Feel free to list any others in the comments section. The Spay USA website at http://www.spayusa.org offers a well rounded site that can put those with unaltered cats in touch with clinics that perform low cost or no cost spay and neuter. The website has an easy to follow page where you enter your state and county and a list of participating clinics pops up.
Now for the numbers and what’s happening with all the unwanted cats and dogs. According to the Spay USA website, there are 70,000 pets born each day in the U.S. This is roughly seven times the number of people born in this country. So the idea for each family to go out and adopt a portion of these unwanted pets based on pet to people ratios won’t work because pets continue to be born at an alarming rate (on the basis that they are correct).
The Oxford Lafayette Humane Society has an excellent website, and I’d like to give everyone a rundown of some startling figures taken from their home page.
Now lets look at some math. Prepare yourself for a headache! 70,000 born per day x 365 days in a year = 25,550,000. There are approximately 6000 animal shelters in the U.S. who take in the 6-8 million pets turned over each year. This figure doesn’t really give an accurate picture, as there are also around 70 million stray cats and dogs who are living without homes in the U.S. What I find heartbreaking, and this is also the reason so many shelter animals are euthanized, is that only 16% of cats and 18% of dogs are adopted from shelters
So where do those in the U.S. acquire the majority of their pets? From friends who are looking to rid themselves of a pet they once loved. Many also turn to the freebies in the newspaper or online. Seventy percent of animals going into a home in this manner eventually end up in a shelter. My guess is most of the 70% have become pregnant or gone into heat and the family doesn’t want to take responsibility for the problem they created by allowing their pet to breed. Here are the figures from a survey that break acquiring a pet(cats AND dogs) down into even more statistics.
- Family member or friend 42%
- Animal shelter 15%-16%
- Breeder 15%
- Found as stray 14%
- Pet store 7%
- Local animal rescue group 2%
- Other or unsure 5%
Another heartbreaking statistic is that only 10% of pets turned into a shelter have been spay/neutered.
I did check a few other sources about these statistics and found one that really shocked me. According to a 2012 poll by American Pet Products Association (APPA), 75% of cat owners stated they got their cat from a family member or friend. This leaves very few to have come out of shelters or from rescue groups. Which I might add, is where you’re SUPPOSED to adopt an animal from.
Taking in a cat from someone you know may seem like a good deal until you do the math. I’m not going to give you the math here, because I did that months ago. The cost of surgery, tests and vaccines can add up quickly. My article is at http://cat-chitchat.pictures-of-cats.org/2012/06/advantages-of-adopting-shelter-or.html.
WHY PET OWNER’S DON’T SPAY/NEUTER
So why do cat owner’s not have their cat spay/neutered? The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (April 2009) listed family income as the main reason. Those with yearly earnings under $35,000 were almost half as likely to have the surgery done on their pet than those homes bringing in over $75,000.
This doesn’t match the statistics gathered in a poll by the APPA that told a different story. The number one reason in the APPA study was the family just hadn’t bothered to get the surgery done(29%). This was followed by the desire to breed their animal(16%). Cost was the excuse in only 9% of those taking the poll. The end result is a family having a mama cat with a litter on average of 5 kittens either two or three times a year. Those kittens are eventually given away or taken to the shelter.
Sometimes I just don’t know what’s wrong with people. It’s dangerous for the mother cat to have multiple litters, and most likely means the kittens will die young, as the majority turned into shelters are cats and kittens under 18 months old. Shelter overcrowding means death. So does having to live outside and face the dangers from traffic and other animals.
We had to wait a month and a half for Lola’s spaying spot to come open back in 2010 when Greenwood still had a clinic operated through the Humane Society of Greenwood, but we were able to have Furby done almost immediately. We had enough sense to keep the two cats apart so they wouldn’t mate. Furby thought of Lola as his “mother”, but that doesn’t matter when a female cat goes into heat. I imagine there are a lot of incestuous kittens born because people don’t take natural mating behavior into consideration.
DON’T BLAME THE SHELTERS
I see every day where shelters take the blame for euthanizing beautiful, healthy, adoptable animals. The problem is, the shelters are overwhelmed and there’s no place to put the hundreds turned in each week. While I really REALLY hate the statistics, euthanasia may be a more humane option than a cat having to live on it’s own, constantly hungry and many times sick or injured. Let’s not forget producing litter after litter of stray kittens to add to the number of cats on the streets without a home to call their own. It’s a tough call to compare life as a stray with a humane end given by lethal injection. I imagine a lot of cat owner’s think a stray’s existence is better than euthanasia because at least the cat has a chance to survive.
It’s estimated that the total amount spent to care for or euthanize the unwanted cats and dogs in our shelter system runs $2 BILLION per year. I’m afraid that until spay/neuter becomes a requirement by law (good luck enforcing that one)with pet ownership, the problem is only going to get worse.
WHERE I STAND PERSONALLY?
I support TNR and spay/neuter clinics. Unfortunately my area no longer has a local clinic. The cats and dogs in my area have to be bussed by the Humane Society of Greenwood a distance of 70 miles away to Spartanburg to have the surgery. Greenwood used to have a wonderful vet who operated the local clinic, but he died a few years back and a replacement(to my knowledge) hasn’t been found. Those practicing TNR in my area now pay for the surgical, testing and vaccine expenses out of pocket.
In closing I’d like to say PLEASE rescue from a shelter or a legitimate rescue. If you must take in a stray, that’s fine. I urge all of you to help as many cats as you feel comfortable helping in any way you can. If you can’t adopt, donate to your local shelter. Pay the sponsorship for a rescue to pull a cat. Shelters as well as rescues are very happy to get gift cards for places that sell pet products. Donate unwanted household items when animal organizations have fundraisers. Don’t just sit back and allow a handful of cat lovers to handle everything. Pet overpopulation is one problem ignorance will NOT make go away!