Million Cat Challenge Reaches Halfway Milestone

UC Davis and University of Florida Partner with Shelters, Already Saving 500,000 Cats

White and tan cat sits in shallow box, peering through cage door.
The Million Cat Challenge aims to prevent euthanasia of 1 million shelter cats. (Debbie Aldridge/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • 500,000 cats saved from euthanasia in two years
  • UC Davis and the University of Florida veterinary schools partner with animal shelters
  • Online celebration planned for Monday, April 11, at 3 p.m. EDT

Saving the lives of 1 million cats in North American animal shelters over five years seemed like an audacious goal, but in just two years the Million Cat Challenge is halfway there.

Founded in 2014 by veterinary faculty members Kate Hurley of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program and Julie Levy of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, the Million Cat Challenge will hold an Internet celebration on Monday, April 11, to mark reaching its milestone with the nearly 400 participating shelters.

The challenge was designed to dramatically decrease euthanasia of cats by helping animal shelters implement five key initiatives.

A roadmap for change

“From the far north of Alaska to the southernmost cities on the East Coast of the United States, this is a social movement we’ve been waiting a long time to see,” said Levy. “The Million Cat Challenge is a map for change.”

Shelters, which have made the challenge available to all cat lovers in their communities, have taken the Million Cat Challenge to the half-million milestone more quickly than anyone predicted, she said.

Levy and Hurley are both pioneers in the study and practice of shelter medicine.

“We’ve learned to design better facilities, optimize operations and market adoptable pets and services more creatively,” Hurley said. “Most importantly, we’ve found new ways to engage the community as our partner in lifesaving.”

Maddie’s Fund, a leading animal welfare foundation, provided the financial support for the challenge that took the conversation from a dream to a reality that has already changed the animal sheltering landscape.

“The lifesaving work of the Million Cat Challenge and the mind-shift they are creating is extraordinary,” said Amy Zeifang, Maddie’s Fund board chair and executive leadership team. “Through the efforts of their participants, more than 500,000 lives have been saved so far, with the goal of 1 million — or more — clearly in sight.”

How to join the challenge

In celebration of 500,000 feline lives saved, participating shelters, supporters and animal lovers everywhere are invited to join the challenge on its Facebook page at on Monday, April 11,  at 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Confetti, a celebratory video and kittens galore will be part of the festivities as supporters gather to watch the Million Cat Counter roll over.

“We’ve reached a tipping point; nobody wants to turn back now,” Hurley said. “Shelters now have strategies that are more humane, are more effective and better serve cats and communities. These strategies really work, and on April 11, we’ll have 500,000 witnesses to prove it.”

About the Million Cat Challenge

The Million Cat Challenge is a shelter-based campaign to save the lives of 1 million cats in North America over the next five years. The core strategy of the campaign will focus on five key initiatives that offer every shelter, in every community, practical choices to reduce euthanasia and increase live outcomes for shelter cats. 

About Maddie’s Fund

Maddie’s Fund is a family foundation founded in 1994 by Workday co-founder Dave Duffield and his wife, Cheryl, who have endowed the foundation with more than $300 million. Since then, they have awarded more than $172 million in grants toward increased community lifesaving, shelter medicine education, and pet adoptions across the U.S. The Duffields named Maddie’s Fund after their miniature schnauzer, Maddie, who always made them laugh and comforted them during stressful business times when Dave was launching a startup software company. Maddie was with Dave and Cheryl from 1987-1997 and continues to inspire them today. 

Media Resources

Amanda Newkirk

Kate Hurley, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine,

Julie Levy, University of Florida Veterinary College, 352-258-6658,

Trina Wood, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, 530-752-5257,

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