I always joke that here in Florida, we have two seasons: summer and not summer. We also have kitten season and more kittens season.
It’s sometimes hard to remember that it doesn’t work that way in the rest of the country. I have driven legs of transports that took kittens north during the winter to rescue organizations who didn’t have any kittens available. In the depth of winter, the snowy parts of the country see the number of kittens in shelters and rescue organizations dwindle to nothing. Female cats have enough trouble fending for themselves under the difficult conditions and don’t procreate successfully that time of year.
But when it’s kitten season, there are cats and kittens galore, more than rescues can handle, right?
Well, that’s why I was surprised to learn that in some parts of the country, this year there aren’t as many cats and kittens needing care as last year or the year before that. The shelter intake numbers are actually down. From where I sit in the part of the country that seems to be a feral cat factory, this seems impossible to imagine. What’s going on?
Cats, by the Numbers
The ASPCA noticed this trend, and they dug into the numbers to figure out what’s going on. Most important, the numbers reported by their partner shelters across the country confirmed that overall cat intake is trending downward.
When they took a closer look at the American Pet Products National Pet Owner’s Survey, they found that in the past 12 years, they discovered that while the numbers of cats living with families has increased, the way that people add a cat or kitten to their family has changed. Less people report adding cats to their family as a result of kittens born from their own cat. Less people are also reporting they got a cat from a friend or took in a stray. At the same time, people who say they adopted a cat more than doubled.
If people are responsibly having their own cats spayed or neutered, they’re going to have to turn to these outside sources for new pets to join their families, so that’s actually really good news!
What Could be Causing this Change?
Just like the dropoff of supply in kittens in winter happening in some parts of the country and not others during the winter, rescue organizations and shelters everywhere don’t seem to be seeing these gradual shifts in numbers yet. But the trend seems to be real enough that years of spay and neuter campaigns and trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs to try to control the feral cat population are finally starting to show results.
Everyone who has reminded a friend or neighbor to spay or neuter their cat has made a difference. Every time you let people know there are reduced-price options for sterilizing their cat when they can’t afford a full-service veterinarian has made a difference. Every feral cat you feed who you also get spayed or neutered has made a difference. The effort isn’t over, but it’s making a difference.
It’s hard to believe when change seems so slow to come, especially if you are in one of the parts of the country like mine where the supply of cats seems absolutely endless. But there’s evidence on a broad scale even if it’s not in your community yet that the years of effort to educate the public into caring better for the cats among us is paying off.
That’s something we can all be happy about.
Image credits: depositphotos/cynoclub, depositphotos/Lusoimages, depositphotos/Cherry-Merry