One million homeless and abandoned cats may get a new lease on life over the next five years thanks to the efforts of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California, Davis; the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida; and hundreds of animal shelters throughout North America.
Together, they have launched the Million Cat Challenge in an effort to dramatically reduce the loss of life among cats in animal shelters. They hope to challenge both municipal animal control facilities and private shelters of all sizes, drawing on the experience of numerous related animal-welfare organizations.
The United States alone is home to more than 13,600 animal shelters, which annually receive about 7.6 million companion animals, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Approximately 3.4 million of those animals are cats, and 1.3 million of the cats are euthanized each year.
The newly launched challenge is designed to dramatically decrease those numbers by helping animal shelters implement one or more of five key initiatives, which offer every shelter, in every community, practical choices to reduce euthanasia and increase live outcomes for shelter cats.
"Participating shelters can focus on one, some or all of the initiatives, depending on what's right for their organization and community," said Kate Hurley, a professor in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and director of UC Davis’ Koret Shelter Medicine program.
"We welcome the help and participation of everyone who wants to find new approaches to saving cats' lives," Hurley said.
The five initiatives for the Million Cat Challenge are:
- Finding alternatives that will keep cats in homes or the community rather than in shelters;
- Managing admission to correspond with a shelter’s ability to provide safe, humane care;
- Matching the number of cats in a shelter at any given time with that shelter’s capacity to assure the animals’ welfare;
- Removing barriers to adoption such as cost, processing and location; and
- Returning to the field — rather than euthanizing — healthy, un-owned cats, once they have been sterilized and vaccinated.
Resources available to shelters, organizations and individuals participating in the challenge include a private online forum that provides support from their peers and shelter veterinarians, and a website with articles, forms, case studies, webinars and more. "We expect some of the most valuable information each shelter will get will come from the other participating shelters," said Julie Levy, the Maddie's Professor of Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine. "This effort is based on collaboration and the sharing of resources.