Cat overpopulation pyramid chart points to cat overpopulation being a national crisis.

While these cat pyramid overpopulation charts are not accurate, they draw attention to cat overpopulation being a national crisis.

There’s no doubt too many cats can come from one cat

Cat and dog overpopulation is a huge problem, so much so that some animal advocacy organizations call it a national crisis, a crisis that could be averted by having your pet spayed or neutered.

Cats are particularly hard-wired to reproduce, according to Stephanie Heikkinen DMV, of Maine Wood Mobile Vet, Livermore Falls, Maine. A cat can have a litter of kittens two to three times a year with up to six kittens in each litter, resulting in quite a few extra kittens. Each kitten can have a litter at six months. The results are exponential cat overpopulation with one cat having an average of 2.8 kittens per litter. The controversial cat overpopulation chart, while known to overstate the problem, does illustrate how big the problem is.

For dogs, the numbers are smaller, but still overwhelming. One dog’s offspring can result in 4,372 dogs in seven years. But chances are they don’t all survive. If they survive kittenhood or puppyhood, many succumb to illness, neglect, predators, or end up being euthanized in shelters around the country. That’s one reason the chart is flawed.

Cat overpopulation huge with over 70 million cats in US

Mallory Kerley, Media Coordinator of the ASPCA, says, “It’s impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States. Estimates indicate there are up to 70 million cats. The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year with the average litter being from four to six kittens. An average dog produces one litter a year with four to six puppies.

Cat overpopulation pyramid, while not accurate portrays just how much of a national crisis cat overpopulation is

Cat overpopulation pyramid, while not accurate portrays just how much of a national crisis cat overpopulation is

Cat overpopulation pyramid, while not accurate portrays just how much of a national crisis cat overpopulation is[/caption]

Yet, only ten percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, she said. About 75 percent of owned pets are neutered. The ASPCA estimates that five out of ten dogs in shelters, and seven out of ten cats in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them.

This cute kitten was a product of feral parents. He's a wonder. With TNR, perhaps another kitten would not have been euthanized, waiting for a home.

This cute kitten was a product of feral parents. He’s a wonder. With TNR, perhaps another kitten would not have been euthanized, waiting for a home.

70% of cats euthanized in shelters due to cat overpopulation

According to the ASPCA website, an estimated 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage euthanized may vary from state to state.

The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) offers the following statistics. Less than 2 percent of cats and only 15 to 20 percent of dogs that end up in shelters are returned to their owners. Most were identified from tags, tattoos or microchips.

Keeping cats inside doesn’t solve cat overpopulation crisis

Heikkinen pointed out that some people think they can just keep their cats inside. It’s not that simple. A cat can go into heat every two weeks or so. They go out of heat for five to six days and then if they are not impregnated, they go back into heat.

Cats are hard-wired to try to reproduce

Cats are hard-wired to try to reproduce, she said. And the animals are physically constructed to virtually guarantee females become pregnant.

Even when the female comes out of heat, she can conceive from one to two days afterward. While in heat, the female will mate several times; sometimes with one male, sometimes with several. They are trying their darndest to reproduce, Heikkinen said.

It’s best to have a cat spayed or neutered as early as possible, she said. Heikkinen works doing spay and neuters at the animal shelter on cats as young as eight weeks so they can’t be adopted and then not fixed. It’s a little risky at that age for the anesthesia, she said, but if they aren’t fixed, it could result in hundreds of unwanted kittens.

Spay/neuter cats as early as 8 weeks

People also say they keep their dog hitched, but that doesn’t mean some strolling male cannot find her, resulting in a litter of pups. Heikkinen said shelters are reporting more mixed breeds of large dogs. However, for the most part, she said dogs are more contained and considered more valuable than cats. People figure they have to feed multiple puppies. That’s not always the case with cats.

Alison Grasheim, Deputy Director of Communications, Alley Cat Allies,  explained spaying and neutering is important because:

• No new kittens are born
• It improves the cat’s health
• Changes of mammary and testicular tumors are virtually eliminated
• Female cats or dogs don’t go through the constant strain of pregnancy
• Mating behaviors—like spraying, yowling, and fighting—stop.

She added, ‘Even young cats who have been in heat only once have a significantly higher risk of developing mammary cancer.’ The same benefits apply to outdoor feral cats. It improves and lengthens their lives.

What better day to share this post on the 15th anniversary of #National Feral Cat Day. While this blog post was written as a an unpublished news article a few years ago, Paws for Reflection feels this story needs to be shared. Paws for Reflection makes note that some of the people quoted in this post may no longer be in these positions. However, Paws believes this is a very significant article that should be shared because cat overpopulation is a national and worldwide crisis. What do you think can be done to deal with this all important but not-sexy issue? We certainly won’t hear about this in Presidential or Gubernatorial debates, but we sure will at the City Council or even at the County Commissioners.

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About the Author

BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

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At Paws for Reflection, we're serious about cats, writing about cat health, cat rescue and cat news. We delve into why cats are the absolute best soul mates. We spring in a little humor with lots of travel tips, photos and a few feline tales, making Paws for Reflection a must stop for cat information on the cat crazed Internet. BJ is an award-winning blogger/journalist, communications professional and photographer.

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