While many Canadian cat owners are not getting the message about spaying and neutering their pets, Greater Victoria appears to be an oasis of responsibility.
Five years ago, the SPCA’s Napier Lane shelter would have housed 500 cats looking for homes, but today has about 30, says manager Penny Stone. Those cats are brought to the shelter by families that no longer want them or by Good Samaritans who find them wandering.
Animal shelters and humane societies across the country are crammed with homeless animals, and most have as many cats as they can hold. Victoria’s numbers stand in stark contrast to those in the rest of the country.
The key to reducing the number of homeless animals is to make sure pets are spayed or neutered, Stone says. That’s just common sense, but what is making the difference in Victoria?
Stone credits education and the SPCA’s low-cost spay-and-neuter program with dramatically reducing the number of kittens being turned over to the Victoria shelter. This not only cuts the overall number of cats up for adoption, but makes it more likely that the older cats will be adopted. Kittens find new homes much more readily.
A new report from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies says the overpopulation of cats has reached crisis proportions, and it lays the blame at the door of careless owners. About 10.2 million cats are owned in Canada, the report says, and the number of cats is rising at 3.6 per cent a year, faster than the growth in the number of households.
For most of those cats and their owners, it’s a warm and loving relationship, but for thousands of cats, life is not all catnip. Twice as many cats as dogs are brought into shelters, and for a lot of those animals, the outlook is grim. Many more cats than dogs are killed.
The main reason for the large number of cats is no surprise. The report says irresponsible owners don’t spay or neuter the animals and then let them outside, where they do what cats do: Make kittens.
Although surveys of cat owners report that 80 per cent say their pets are neutered, statistics reveal that only half of one per cent of the animals brought into shelters have been fixed. That suggests either that owners are fibbing on the surveys or the 20 per cent who don’t neuter their pets have a terrible time keeping hold of their furry friends.
The result of all that roaming and kitten-making is thousands of homeless cats. The society says cats take much longer to find adoptive homes than do dogs and they are much less likely to be returned to their owners. Stone says a cat can be in the Victoria shelter for as long as a year, while dogs are usually adopted in a couple of weeks.
The average wait for cats is 58 days at the Victoria facility.
The study looked at many possibilities for stemming the tide. The most obvious is making sure that any pet sold or adopted is spayed or neutered. Another is to make identification of cats mandatory, through tags, tattoos or microchips.
Calgary’s cat licensing bylaw, which requires identification, has resulted in 50 to 56 per cent of found cats being returned to their owners, compared to one per cent nationally.
If you are one of the many Victorians heeding the call for responsibility, well done. If not, and you want your feline to be an outdoor cat, make sure it’s spayed or neutered, and has some kind of identification. It’s more likely to come home to you — without leaving a trail of kittens behind it.
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