The problem referred to in the title is the problem of unwanted cats who end up at animal shelters where too many are euthanized.
“If we can control the population, then overpopulation is not a concern. Then overcrowding in the shelters is not a concern. Subsequent euthanasia can go down, which is really a big key in the transition that I think is sweeping the industry.” – Phil Nicholls, Toronto Humane Society chief operations officer.
It’s great to read these words. It is great to see people effectively tackling the problem at source rather than simply reacting to it. There have been great successes in Toronto. Toronto Animal Services tell us that nearly 5,000 cats were put down by them in 2006 but by 2018 the number had dropped to 793. This represents a decrease of more than 80%.
The success is due to several factors one of which is a mobile spaying and neutering service which, as I understand it, is free. It is paid for using donations and a grant from PetSmart Charities.
This mobile service is able to go to places where discount services or veterinary services are not provided. It appears that a major barrier to getting your cat spayed or neutered is money. A lot of people want to live with domestic cats but in all honesty they often do not have quite the finances to be responsible cat guardians. I deduce this from the fact that staffers working from the mobile clinic say:
“It’s so valuable. It’s the most feel-good job you can have. You see people crying, hugging you. People are so appreciative. People say, ‘I’ve done the right thing. I’m a responsible pet owner.'”
They know what to do and want to do it but don’t have the money to carry out their desires. Another benefit of the mobile clinic is that a lot of cat owners are not mobile themselves. It has clearly been a resounding success. There is also a mobile “chip truck” which provides a discount service to microchip cats and dogs.
In addition, there are effective TNR programs in the area. For example, a colony of nine feral cats is looked after by volunteers in the Gerard and Carlaw area (see photo above). And the Annex Cat Rescue operates TNR programs. They are part of a group of 10 organisations along with Toronto Animal Services and the Toronto Humane Society which belong to an umbrella group called the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition.
These TNR operators, largely staffed by volunteers, as I understand it, have made a tremendous impact on the number of unwanted cats and have therefore lowered the intake rates at shelters. This means that the Humane Society now has the resources and the room at shelters to take animals from outside the city.
Mary Lou Leiher, a manager at Toronto Animal Services makes a good point when she says that when animal shelters are full they don’t have much time to work on prevention. She is the person who made the statement that makes up the title to this page.
The Toronto Humane Society say that they have experienced a 25% decrease in the number of owners surrendering their pets over a five-year period. The society is a no-kill shelter.
The key point of this article, which is based upon an article by Patty Winsa in The Star online newspaper is that if you tackle the problem at source and control the stray and feral cat population then cat overpopulation ceases to be a concern. The benefits ripple through the entire animal services program.