Everybody seems to love dogs, but what about cats?
In this exclusive monthly column, Steve Dale, CABC, radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and contributing editor at USA Weekend, will look at some of the key issues of the veterinary industry, always with an eye to the perspective of the client and pet owner. This month's entry? All about cats.
I'm worried about cats. Dogs are man's best friend, but since 1987 (according to the AVMA Pet Demographic Sourcebook) cats are the most popular pet in America. Still, cats count as being second rate in so many ways. As a result, it's come to this:
While at least a significant number of animal shelters are moving in the right direction when it comes to adopting dogs, that doesn't seem to be the case for cats. Shelter adoption numbers are guestimates, but what's known for certain is that some shelters don't have enough dogs in their facility which they deem adoptable, so the solution is to “import” canines from shelters in other counties or states. I don't know of a single shelter with a shortage of available adoptable cats. Bottom line is that overall shelters are likely euthanizing as many cats as they did a decade or two ago.
There are a lot of reasons for the increased success of adoptions for dogs, including rescue and fostering programs. However, fostering cats is more complex, and far few families volunteer. Cat breeders are suffering too-it's no surprise that interest in pedigreed cats is on the decline if demand for all cats is down. What's more, in some places, intrusive legislation makes it challenging to breed. Also, to do it right is costly. Despite the selfless work of legions of volunteer care takers responsible for trap, neuter, return of community cats, pressures from bird groups and others have in some places made their efforts to minimize stray/feral cat numbers in a humane manner more challenging. Increasingly, there are lots of tips and ideas to assist veterinary professionals and pet owners.
These are all terrific resources, but what do they really about increasing adoptions, and overall elevating the status of cats? I'm not certain. And I can't say that I know the answer. One observation is that most everyone loves dogs, whether they have one or not. We appreciate what they do for people, dragging grandma out of a burning building-real stories we all know. In regards to cats, there are two camps: people who like them and people who don't. Most who don't like cats have never experienced sharing their life with a kitty. My goal is to continue eradicating myths about cats-there are many. And support cats for what they are-independent, bright, and noble companions. Though, in truth, I remain worried.