Cats are the most popular pet in the United States. In fact, about one in three US households – more than 30 million – have at least one pet cat. And many of these families have two or three cats!
As the most common pet, cats are also the most commonly surrendered animal in shelters throughout the country. At the MSPCA alone, more than 5,000 cats are surrendered each year.
These are a few of the most common reasons:
1) Money. Cat ownership can be expensive. There are the usual costs: food, supplies (food dishes, litterpans, litter, scratching posts, toys), and medical costs (wellness exams and vaccines), but there is also the likeliness of additional expenses. These could be medical costs, including emergency treatment for a trauma, or a disease or other illness that is difficult to diagnose or expensive to treat. Cats who are destructive might cost their owners hundreds of dollars in replacement furniture. In many cases, those who surrender for this reason have lost their income, or cannot afford necessary, but expensive medical procedures.
2) Behavior. Some cats are surrendered because they exhibit unwanted behaviors. These might include “kitten-like” behaviors like destructive scratching, but they might include more difficult-to-manage behaviors like urinating outside the litterbox. Many cats develop these behaviors as a stress response to change (new baby, pet, home, or schedule), while others will develop them seemingly out of the blue. The success of managing these behaviors depends on the cat and the family’s commitment to modification.
3) Strays. Stray cats are owned cats; they are not feral (wild). In some cases, stray cats are indoor cats that have accidentally escaped from the house. Others are indoor-outdoor cats who may have wandered too far from home and are unable to find their way back. Still others are free-roaming cats who are fed by multiple families in a neighborhood, though no one person may be assuming responsibility for the cat’s overall care. Statistics show that less than 2% of stray cats are reunited with their families unless they have some form of identification – a collar and tag or microchip. Nearly one in four cats surrendered to the MSPCA is a stray.
4) Accidental litters. Hundreds of kittens and dozens of pregnant cats are surrendered to the MSPCA in the late spring and summer months, affectionally deemed “kitten season.” And while kittens are easy enough to place for adoption, each home that adopts a kitten in turn does NOT adopt an adult cat – who are generally more difficult to place and undoubtedly just as deserving of a great home. Many families with a single, indoor female cat don’t realize that all it takes is one escape into the outside world to become pregnant. Spaying and neutering alone would greatly diminish the number of cats residing in shelters.
Some people believe that shelter animals are somehow damaged or second-rate because they were given away by their first families. This is simply not true. Many of the animals that we take in are here because of an issue their families couldn’t resolve. Many have little to do with the animal’s temperament or behavior. This isn’t to say that our cats are perfect, but then, who is? Each of our animals, just like us humans, has his own quirks and character traits that make him special. And since we are all different, it is convenient that we have such a breadth of adoptable pets to choose from.
Among our adoptable cats, you’ll find kittens (some are even born in the shelter, the result of cats surrendered while pregnant) as well as “mature” cats upwards of 10 years in age. Our adoption centers feature plenty of domestic short- and long-haired breeds, as well as more “exotic” breeds including Himalayan and Persian cats. We have cats of all colors and patterns, including lots of calicos, tigers, tuxedos, and torties. Some of our cats can be placed with other cats, dogs, or kids, while some prefer to be the only “baby” in the house.