June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month!
There’s no question that Americans love pets. There are more pets than children. Most homes have a pet, including about 40 million homes with at least one cat, adding up to over 86 million pet cats, according to the American Pet Products Association. Also, polls suggest that over 90 percent of pet owners consider their pets members of the family.

Despite all that, estimates are that every minute, approximately four cats are euthanized in U.S. shelters. It’s tragic and shameful because the majority of these pets are adoptable.

June is American Humane Association’s Adopt-A-Cat Month. It’s easy enough to visit a local shelter, and even easier to let your mouse sniff out a new pet at Petfinder.com. There’s certainly no shortage of adoptable cats.

There’s a “no kill” movement spreading across America, celebrating the notion that far too many pets are needlessly killed in shelters. Of course, I’m on board with that general notion. As a cat lover, this month is especially close to my heart. Please, if you have the means to adopt a shelter cat, please do so as you may be saving the life of an animal which doesn’t deserve to be euthanized.

There’s only one way to solve the problem: Reduce the numbers of pets coming into shelters in the first place. In many places, this has been achieved for dogs. Some shelters actually have a shortage of what they consider adoptable dogs, so they “import” from other local facilities, other counties, or other states. I don’t know of a single shelter complaining about not having enough adoptable cats.

So, how do we impact cat overpopulation? Here are three steps I believe can change the equation:

1. Indoors Only: If “indoors only” really becames the mantra for pet cats, spay/neuter compliance would increase. Confining intact cats indoors, and living with their “idiosyncrasies” can be challenging. One added benefit is that life indoors is safer, and as a consequence cats live longer,healthier lives.

2. Bad Kitty: Kidney disease and cancers kill many cats, but bad behavior is likely the No. 1 cause of death. When family members get frustrated and fed up with a cat eliminating outside the litter box, scratching the sofa, or yowling overnight, the human/animal bond fractures, landing the pet in the local animal shelter. Worse, the “offender” simply gets the heave-ho. Either way, the odds of survival aren’t great.

More resources are available than ever before to solve behavior issues, but not all cat owners know that help exists or can afford such help. Increasingly, shelters offer low cost or free behavior counseling. You can locate a cat behavior consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists or American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. 

Encouraging owners to get qualified help before behavior problems become overwhelming is key.

3. Trap, Neuter, Return: TNR programs utilize community volunteers (often in conjunction with non-profits who raise dollars for this purpose or animal shelters) who humanely trap feral cats, have them spay/neutered and vaccinated for rabies before releasing back to their colonies.

Some shelters still use their precious resources (shelter space and employee/volunteer time) attempting to socialize and adopt out feral cats. Instead, I endorse TNR. I argue, overall, that most feral cats are more content living in their colonies, letting shelters focus on other, more adoptable cats.

If you’re thinking, “What can I do?” Adopt a cat! If you already have a cat or cats, volunteer at your local shelter.

A great and free resource for all cat owners is called “CATegorical Care: An Owners Guide to America’s No. 1 Companion.

But what if you can’t adopt? Here are some easy ways you can still help:

  1. Donate your Facebook status. Just paste this message into the “What’s on your mind?” box at the top of your page: “June is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month. Save a life: Adopt a cat! http://www.petfinder.com”
  2. Tweet, retweet and repeat the following (or your own brilliant message): “June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. Save a life: Adopt a cat! http://www.petfinder.com”
  3. Contact your local shelter or rescue group (you can search for groups near you here) and ask if they have a donation wish list or other flyer they’d like to you to post around your office or neighborhood. They may be holding special events for Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month which you can help promote.
  4. Share an adoptable cat or a Petfinder cat-adoption Happy Tail on your blog, Facebook or Twitter page each day of the month.
  5. Sign up as a foster parent or shelter volunteer then tell your friends how great it is. Contact your local shelter or rescue group, or register in our volunteer database.
  6. Add a Petfinder widget or banner to your Web site or blog.
  7. Write an op-ed about the importance of pet adoption for your local paper.
  8. Contact your local shelter or rescue group and offer to photograph their adoptable pets and upload the pics to Petfinder.
  9. Donate to your local shelter or rescue group or to the Petfinder.com Foundation in honor of Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month.
  10. Pass on an understanding of the importance of pet adoption to the next generation. Talk to your kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and other up-and-comers about animal shelters and why Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, and pet adoption in general, is important.

If you decide to adopt a kitty, here are some tips to keep in mind:

“TOP TEN” CHECKLIST FOR ADOPTING A CAT

  1. If you’re thinking about adopting a cat, consider taking home two.
  2. Find a cat whose personality matches yours.
  3. Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption.
  4. Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before it comes home.
  5. Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat.
  6. Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives.
  7. Cat-proof your home.
  8. Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family.
  9. Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan.
  10. If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process.

No matter how you decide to help, whether its through actual adoption, volunteering at a shelter, or simply donating your facebook or twitter status, every little bit helps and goes a long way in the fight against euthanization.

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