A quartet of felines relax in the cat room at the SPCA in Red Deer Thursday.

A quartet of felines relax in the cat room at the SPCA in Red Deer Thursday.

Cat crisis taxing shelter system

The plight of hundreds of thousands of unwanted cats across Canada each year is causing great concern among animal shelters and other organizations, say attendees at a provincial meeting in Red Deer on Thursday.

The plight of hundreds of thousands of unwanted cats across Canada each year is causing great concern among animal shelters and other organizations, say attendees at a provincial meeting in Red Deer on Thursday.

The Red Deer and District SPCA, Edmonton Humane Society and Calgary Humane Society hosted a meeting that drew 38 people representing more than 20 organizations from around Alberta. All were on hand to begin seeking community-based solutions to cat overpopulation.

Barb Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, was leading the meeting as part of a national tour to find out how to deal with Canada’s cat crisis.

“Our shelter system in Canada is at or over capacity to deal with cats that come through our doors,” said Cartwright after the day-long session at Sheraton Red Deer Hotel. “Only about 44 per cent of them get adopted out. Many of them have to wait and the longer they wait, the likelier they’ll become ill or become euthanized.”

Cats are five times more likely to be euthanized than dogs, said Cartwright.

This data, collected from more than 478 stakeholders, was compiled in the federation’s recent comprehensive report, Cats in Canada. The report says there’s an estimated 10.2 million owned cats in Canada and the owned cat population is growing faster than the number of households.

A total of 37.7 per cent of all Canadian households owned a cat with an average number of 1.9 cats per household. Based on market research, 80 per cent of owned cats have been sterilized, leaving 20 per cent unaltered.

It’s projected that more than 600,000 homeless cats in Canadian shelters did not find homes in 2011. More than one-third of the cats surrendered to shelters were surrendered due to issues of housing, followed by the animal taking up too much time or responsibility.

At this point, if large-scale, targeted action is not taken, the cat overpopulation problem will worsen, says the report.

Cartwright said they hope these meetings will result in concrete actions at the local level in the next year. The federation will look at how it provide resources at the community level.

A Central Alberta strategic alliance has been formed which includes Red Deer and District SPCA, Whisker Rescue Society of Alberta, Town of Innisfail bylaw department, and Alberta Animal Services, which is contracted by the City of Red Deer to provide animal control.

Tara Hellewell, executive director for the SPCA, said that everyone in this industry is feeling the strain of cat overpopulation due to irresponsible pet ownership, lack of spaying and neutering, and the view that cats are disposable.

“People are very concerned — they don’t want to see kitties out in the streets, going hungry and getting frostbite,” said Hellewell. “And sometimes people don’t like them roaming around their backyards and attacking songbirds. So there’s a number of reasons why it’s a challenge for our population. The Red Deer and District SPCA wants to be at the forefront of solving the problem.”

The shelter is always full and so the shelter must often turn people away who have cats to drop off. The SPCA doesn’t euthanize for space, but other organizations or municipal services are having to do this, she added.

“Veterinarians are key because some of the initiatives we want to start are spay and neuter programs, especially for low-income folks,” said Hellewell.

Erica Coomber, shelter administrator with Alberta Animal Services in Red Deer, said the cat crisis is highly evident in Red Deer. Ninety-five per cent of the cats that end up with Alberta Animal Services are not neutered or spayed, not tattooed or micro-chipped, or collared.

“We claim out maybe one per cent,” she said.

The biggest problem in Red Deer on why cats are given up is due to rental housing rules, she said.

Coomber said they have a really good adoption program where the cats are given to Petland Canada to adopt. Not one adoptable cat has been euthanized so far, she said.

They may receive 700 to 800 cats a year and of those, about 20-30 per cent are euthanized because they are feral or sick and therefore deemed unadoptable, Coomber said.

Stacey Worobetz, founding director with Whisker Rescue, said it’s hoped that a fund can be set up, perhaps with the help of corporate donations or other sources, where it can be accessed for low-income families so that spaying or neutering can happen.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Attendees of the Downtown Red Deer Market, which runs every Wednesday during the summer on Little Gaetz Avenue, have complained about the lack of public washrooms. (Photo contributed by Red Deer Downtown Business Association)
Portable washrooms to be set up in downtown Red Deer this summer

More data is needed before the city invests in a permanent structure

A survey of 3,083 Red Deer residents was done by an online platform on behalf of the City of Red Deer, generating about 11,607 comments.. (File photo)
Red Deerians speak out about COVID-19 concerns in survey

More than 3,000 city residents were surveyed

A Calgary energy company's request for a tax break was turned down by Lacombe County. About $31,000 was owed by a company that went bankrupt and Silverleaf Resources Inc. bought some of their assets.
(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe County turns down oil company’s tax break request

Silverleaf Resources Inc. hoped for break on $31,000 in back taxes

RCMP recovered hundreds of stolen items, including Bibles and historical items stolen from the Bowden Pioneer Museum.
(Photo from RCMP)
Museum artifacts among hundreds of stolen items recovered by RCMP in central Alberta

Second World War and other historical and religious items recovered

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly (44) reach for the rebound from Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson (30) during second-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 1, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman watches his solo home run during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros Monday, March 1, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
In-game video returning to baseball for 2021

In-game video returning to baseball for 2021

Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu (88) clears the puck in front of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) as Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson (40) looks for the rebound during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Monday March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Three first-period goals pace Vancouver Canucks to 4-0 victory over Winnipeg Jets

Three first-period goals pace Vancouver Canucks to 4-0 victory over Winnipeg Jets

Rugby training gear is shown during a Torotno Wolfpack during a practice at Lamport Stadium in Toronto. Bradford, Featherstone, Leigh, London,  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson
Plans announced to create a grassroots Canadian rugby league co-op

Plans announced to create a grassroots Canadian rugby league co-op

Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) and centre Chris Tierney (71) get sandwiched between Flames defencemen Rasmus Andersson (4) and Juuso Valimaki (6) during second-period NHL action in Ottawa on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Batherson scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 5-1 win over Calgary Flames

Batherson scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 5-1 win over Calgary Flames

Skiers may be safe from COVID-19, but not those working to keep slopes open: experts

Skiers may be safe from COVID-19, but not those working to keep slopes open: experts

Armas likes what he sees in Toronto FC camp but there are still issues to resolve

Armas likes what he sees in Toronto FC camp but there are still issues to resolve

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver on February 5, 2020. The Canadian women's hockey team opened a camp Monday in Halifax, which is co-hosting the upcoming world championship. Hockey Canada invited 35 players to participate in the seven-day camp closed to the public and media at Scotiabank Centre. The women are training under restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a limit of 25 players on the ice at one time. "They will continue to follow strict COVID-19 testing as per team health and safety protocols that have been detailed and approved by Nova Scotia Public Health," Hockey Canada said Monday in a statement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian women’s hockey team preparing for possible May world championship

Canadian women’s hockey team preparing for possible May world championship

Most Read