Catnapping is Leading Cause of Death for Shelter Pets
The evidence is in: if animal shelters in the USA stopped kidnapping and killing cats, we could be a No Kill nation overnight. That may sound like an extraordinary statement. It is, however, fundamentally, true. But, don't just believe me. Take a look at some basic facts.
According to nearly every source that has studied it, the national intake of companion animals to animal shelters in the United States is approximately 8 million, with the majority (often as much as 66%) of intake being felines. Some national organizations have said that of those, about two thirds are taken in as "stray." That translates into - conservatively - about 3.5 million "stray" felines taken in by animal shelters every year.
That is a shockingly large number, especially when you consider the fact that in the overwhelming majority of the nation, cat owners can - and do - allow their cats to roam outdoors. I recently wrote about the stream of happy, healthy felines that visit the catnip patch in my garden each day. I plant it for the cats, and in exchange they help keep the number of rodents eating the garden down to a reasonable level. In that context, what is a "stray" cat?
Most people think of stray pets as lost, or in need of rescue. A cat on a legal walkabout does not fit the bill. Yet, shelters everywhere routinely scoop up these kitties, or in the very least, encourage other people to scoop them up and bring them to the shelter, which generally equates to catnapping. Once at the shelter, the felines are usually held for ransom, in the name of "impound fees." Due to a variety of factors, including the terribly broken lost and found systems in the sheltering industry, along with the unique relationships between free-roaming cats, and the people who care for them, they are rarely reclaimed once taken to an animal shelter.
The fact that few "stray" cats that enter shelters are ever reclaimed, combined with the fact that nearly half of these cats will be killed by the shelters that take them in, exposes a falsehood put forward by people who advocate for these kinds of shelter intake policies. They say that free-roaming cats are in danger from a host of outdoor horrors: cars, coyotes and worse. Yet outdoor cats do remarkably well. Some of the cats in my neighborhood have been here for more than a decade, that I know of. We have cars. We have coyote. We have a host of potential dangers for any living creature. Yet, none of them are nearly as deadly as is an animal shelter.
Obviously, I strongly condone taking action to help a cat that is obvious need of assistance. But, scooping up free-roaming cats willy-nilly is catnapping, often with deadly results, and animal shelters should not do it, endorse it, or participate in it.
Of the 3.5 million "stray" cats taken in by animal shelters, about 1.6 million of them are killed, with significant effort and expense. Let that sink in for a minute... shelters all over the nation are wasting time, money and other resources rounding up, taking in, housing millions of animals that don't need shelter or rescue at all. As terrible as that is, it gets worse, because in total, animal shelters are still killing about 2.6 million pets. That amounts to about 1 million pets they could save with the resources they are squandering killing stray cats.
There is another meaning to the word "catnap" which relates to a short, restful nap. In a way, it applies here, too. Shelter directors and members of boards of directors and such that have failed to connect the dots between their intake policies and their outcome numbers are woefully asleep. And, when you are at the helm of a nonprofit organization whose mission is saving animals' lives, being asleep at the wheel isn't a good thing, even if it is just a little catnap.