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It’s been less than three years since veterinar- ians Julie Levy and Kate Hurley sent out the challenge to North American shelters: Can we save a million cats in five years?
So far, it looks like the answer is “Yes!”
Levy is director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine program at the University of Florida, and Hurley heads the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. Since they started the Million Cat Challenge, more than 750,000 lives have been saved, and more than 1,100 shelters in the US and Canada have signed on to help reach that million cat goal.
Soon the number of participating shelters could get a boost from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Earlier this month, the huge nonprofit announced a partnership with the Challenge that will, among other things, bring more attention to the plight of shelter cats. ASPCA statistics show that cats are less likely than dogs to get out of shelters alive.
Five Initiatives Could Save 1 Million Cats
Other initiatives include removing some of the barriers to adoption and returning feral or outdoor cats to their outside homes after they’ve been neutered/spayed, vaccinated and ear tipped.
Your Own Million Cat Challenge
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- Neuter/spay your house cats and any outside cats you feed. Every spring, the shelters are flooded with kittens, and there aren’t enough homes for them all.
- Ask your local shelter to participate in the Million Cat Challenge. Even if the shelter works on just one initiative, it will save lives.
- Become a foster for your shelter. Every cat who leaves makes room for another coming in. Shelters should never have to kill cats to make room for more. And parting with that foster when the time comes is easier than you may think. There’s nothing more rewarding than saving a cat’s life and seeing him or her go to a wonderful forever home.
- Resist the urge to “rescue,” and leave feral cats outside. They’ll be happier and healthier if you trap and neuter them and return them to their outdoor home. And feral cats rarely come out of shelters alive.
- If your cat has behavior issues, seek advice from someone who truly understands cats. That person might not be a vet!
- If you have to move, search until you find a place where your cats are allowed instead of taking them to a shelter. Don’t give up! You’ll find a place eventually.
- If you cat has a health problem that’s too expensive for you to treat, ask for financial help. It’s there. All you have to do is be determined to find it.
- Make arrangements for your cats’ care if something happens to you, no matter how young or old you are. Too many cats relinquished to shelters because their people are ill and are no longer able to take care of them.
- If you must rehome a cat, adopt him out yourself instead of taking him to a shelter. Cats “show” better when they’re in their own homes. And remember, most shelters kill cats to make room for more. So if you keep your cat until he gets adopted, you could be saving two lives, not just one.
My all-time favorite cat