While municipalities across Nova Scotia have taken steps to control the canine population, almost nothing has been done to deal with what is becoming a growing problem nationally – the staggering number of cats left in the wild to fend for themselves.
Recently, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies released a report on the crisis of cat overpopulation in Canada. The report finds the animal shelter system is at, or dangerously over, capacity to care for the cats that arrive at their doors.
The fact is, cats are twice as likely as dogs to end up abandoned at a shelter. Some of these cats are surrendered pets, others are found as strays roaming the streets. The data shows that cats entering the shelter system have less than a one per cent chance of being reunited with their families compared with dogs, which have a 30 per cent chance.
Cats make wonderful pets. They’re friendly, loyal and affectionate. Unfortunately to some, they’re also easily disposed of. While letting a dog run loose comes with a financial penalty, there is really nothing to prevent a cat owner from kicking Whiskers out the door and forgetting he exists.
At the same time, there are many cat owners who, for whatever reason, fail to make sure their friendly feline is spayed or neutered before exposing it to the great outdoors. They also fail to vaccinate their cats against numerous feline diseases that are out there.
Spaying or neutering your pet comes with a financial cost, but it’s part of the responsibility of pet ownership. The ability to provide a loving home to an animal should not be dependent on income, but the decision to take a pet into your home should also come with the understanding that there are some expenses.
In Shelburne County, an animal welfare group has come up with a novel idea to help control the cat population. Anyone who pays $25 to adopt a kitten from the group this winter will get their money back once the cat has been spayed or neutered.
It’s certainly an idea that could be considered in other communities as just one method of controlling feline overpopulation.
There is no easy solution to this issue, but even small steps are steps in the right direction. Enacting and enforcing municipal bylaws to require all cats to be spayed or neutered is one option, requiring cats to be leashed could be another, but in the end it is up to the cat’s owner to make responsible decisions in the best interest of their pet and their community.