It’s Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month and when I look at the cat in the box I wonder – how can so many people grow tired of their cats and drop them off at animal shelters. Two 1/2 years ago, we said good-bye to the cat in the box. Scarlett lived to 19 1/2 years old, outliving her litter mate Rhett by more than four years. I adopted them both as kittens and, like so many pet parents, it broke my heart to lose my feline family members.
Unfortunately, too many cat families don’t have that same connection with their furry buddies. Although cats outnumber dogs in our homes by 12 million according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, they have become America’s disposable pet. The cat in the box to often is the cat dumped at a shelter.
National statistics show that cats are far more likely to be relinquished to a shelter or rescue than dogs. Talk to anyone who manages a TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program and they’ll tell you the percentage of friendly strays they trap is staggering because too many people leave cats to fend for themselves on the street. When cats end up in animal control, 7 in 10 are euthanized as opposed to adopted.
At any shelter, kittens tend to find a home pretty quickly, but if it’s an adult cat, a senior, a black cat, a shy cat, an FIV cat or cat with any health issues, they often have a slim chance at rescue at an open access shelter or a long wait elsewhere. The American Humane Association, Humane Society of the United States and ASPCA all have designated June as Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month to help increase adoptions and to also shed light on these sad feline statistics.
In Chicago, the shelters and rescues are overflowing during Adopt-A-Shelter Cat Month and most other days. And, the TNR groups keep finding more kittens and friendly strays, left on the street by no fault of their own. If you follow the Chicago Animal Care and Control Cat Transfer team page - you'll see the large number of cats in critical need of rescue. Between kitten season and moving season, the cages fill up fast. Even when they make it out, there are still way too many homeless cats waiting to find that forever family.
So here we are again at Adopt-a-Shelter Cat month. I would love to encourage more people to go out and adopt a cat – I can’t imagine living without one. However, don’t adopt a cat if you don’t stop and think it through first. The shelters are overcrowded because way too many people think it’s cool to have a cat but don’t think it’s cool to keep that pet for his or her life like they had promised at adoption.
Adopting a cat isn’t a short-term commitment. We lost Rhett at 15 and Scarlett at almost 20. Most indoor cats make it to 15 or more and cats have old age issues just like people. If you’re not ready for that type of commitment, get a fish.
If you'd like to celebrate Adopt-A-Shelter Cat Month by adopting a cat. Here are some thoughts.
Adopting a cat – Talk to adoption counselors at your local shelter or rescue about what you want and expect from a pet. They can help match you with the personality that fits your lifestyle. Strongly consider an adult cat and don’t overlook black cats, seniors, special needs cats, FIV positive cats and bonded pairs. These cats often wait longest for a home and may actually be the best fit for your lifestyle.
Or better yet, spend time hanging out at the shelter and don’t rush your decision, the perfect cat may just pick you. Both times we adopted, there was a cat that fell in love with us first. Scarlett picked me and many years later, Max picked my husband Tom. There is an incredible bond when they instill that trust with you while you’re starting a relationship.
Double up – Some cats don’t do well with other cats and really need to be the king or queen of their castle, others (like our late Scarlett) need a friend. If you adopt a cat that is more social, consider bringing home two. There are many bonded pairs at shelters and many cats that find their own natural buddy while in rescue.
In our family, we each have been selected by a cat over the years. But each of the cats that picked us was not alone at the shelter. My intention when adopting Scarlett was to bring home two kittens. When we adopted Max, we had just planned for one cat. We’ve never regretted adding the bonus kitties to our families.
Do the math – Adopting from a shelter or rescue is a great value. Your cat should be spayed or neutered before she or he is sent home. However, there are expenses related to having a cat – food, bowls, treats, toys, scratching posts, crate and bedding are all needed. And, include an annual wellness trip to a vet in your budget to keep your cat healthy.
Donate to a shelter or sponsor a cat – If you can’t adopt or don’t have room for another cat, consider sponsoring a shelter cat to help pay for their care while they wait for a home. You can also donate online for most shelters. Also, consider hosting a supply drive at your church, work or other organization.
Recycle for cats – Newspapers, old towels, old blankets and sheets are items that most shelters use everyday. Consider donating them to help out the animals. It won’t cost you a thing and you’ll be helping care for many furry critters.
Volunteer – Shelters and rescues need volunteers to care for the animals, provide foster care, to promote events and to work events. TNR groups in Chicago are very busy with trapping and setting up colonies this time of year…they need volunteers in the short term to help with this work.
Stay tuned to my column throughout Adopt-A-Shelter Cat month. I’ll have stories about cat health and wellness and focus on special adoption programs aimed at helping more cats find a home.
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