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Canada’s cat overpopulation problem is hurting animals — but there are fixes

A new report says Canada has a cat overpopulation problem.
A new report says Canada has a cat overpopulation problem. Getty Images

Canada has a cat overpopulation problem, according to a study by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

The federation released a report titled “Cats in Canada” on Thursday, noting that felines are the most common pet in the country, with nearly 37 per cent of households owning one. There are about 9.3 million owned cats in Canada.

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The federation said that in recent years there have been improvements — more pet owners have been spaying and neutering their cats, euthanasia is down, adoption is up, and there are fewer cats in animal shelters. About 94 per cent of cat owners said their cats are either spayed or neutered. Fewer owners are also letting their pets roam outdoors, which the report says is encouraging, because outdoor cats are at greater risk of pregnancy and injuries.

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But the report flags that progress is too slow.

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About 73 per cent of animal shelters included in the study were running at capacity in 2017 — and there are twice as many cats being admitted than dogs.

This poses a serious risk for felines, who the study explains tend to fall ill faster in overcrowded situations.

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Most cats (37 per cent) were brought into shelters by a member of the public who found them as strays, the report revealed. But 26 per cent of the time, owners have brought in their cats citing several common reasons, among them housing problems, too much responsibility, or financial problems.

Solutions to the problem?

The report asked organizations such as humane societies, veterinary clinics, SPCAs and rescue groups whether they believe Canada has a cat overpopulation problem.

About 64 per cent answered yes. Respondents added that spaying and neutering cats is the most effective way of curbing the population, with many advocating for a mandatory and/or subsidized program. Cat adoption, education, animal control were come other viable options.

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While sterilizing cats is becoming more common, it’s not always an option, the study explained. Often, the animals are too young, have other medical problems, or there are financial reasons owners can’t afford the surgery.

The study described euthanasia as the “most difficult” form of population control, but said it is necessary at times.

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“While euthanasia is a necessary practice to address suffering that cannot be alleviated, cat stakeholders are working to reduce the need for euthanasia by reducing the number of unwanted cats, improving protocols to prevent disease and illness, and increasing the number of viable homes,” the study said.

The number of cats put to sleep fell to 18 per cent from 40 per cent over the past five years. But still, 20,753 cats were euthanized in Canada in 2016. That’s compared to 3,799 dogs.