While the status of cats in 2017 is increasing, cats still cats remain second class citizens.
Paws for Reflection reached out to renowned pet columnist and member of the Winn Feline Foundation’s Board of Directors, Steve Dale to talk about the status of cats in the United States. When Paws heard him speak some six years ago at BlogPaws, he had said cats were in trouble. It’s a statement Paws has never forgotten.
Steve Dale advises status of cats improving
He advised the status of cats in 2017 is improving. Some shelters home from 90 to 100 percent of all their cats. Others have far less impressive numbers.
Not all is well with cats, and Paws found that according to the ASPCA (American Association of the Protection of Cruelty Against Animals) 860,000 cats are euthanized every year.
People seem to either love cats or hate them, Dale advised. There’s little in-between. While cats rock the Internet, the Catalyst Council cites a Morris Animal Foundation 2009 Cat Perception Study Survey which shows:
- 53% of non-owners had a negative perception about cats
- 43% said they “just didn’t like cats” as the reason for not owning a cat
Cats are the Rodney Dangerfield of pets
While more cats are owned than dogs, Dale pointed out they remain second class citizens. ‘I consider them The Rodney Dangerfield (the comedian who always said he got no respect) of pets. Despite cats being more popular than dogs, still in many ways, we live in dog-nation. There is Genetic evidence that cites people are hard wired to like dogs, unless they’ve had a bad experience with one or are allergic to them. Most people smile when they see a dog. With cats, you either love cats or you don’t.’
The changing demographics of the Millennial Generation is a big plus for cats. More people that have a blended dog/cat household. Because of our lifestyle changes, melded families are coming together. Bringing all these families together is also combining various pets together in the same household. About a quarter of pet owners, have mixed cats and dogs’ homes…. The old expression, cats and dogs can’t live together is absurd, and it’s a positive change to cats.
Millenials resulting in blended pet families
For more about the Millennial Generation and cats, check out Paws’ blog post, Millenials now outnumber Baby Boomers as owning most pets.
Our lifestyles make it more conducive to adopt a cat. Gone are the days when Mom stays home while Dad is at work. Millennials are not going right back home to walk the dogs… they are going to the kid’s sporting events. They are incredibly busy. Cats don’t need people to be on a fixed schedule.
Cat Cafés a real boost for cats
Another real plus for cats are Cat Cafés. Ten years ago, cat cafés didn’t exist, and today there are at least 81 in America alone, if not more. Many work with an adoption partner and adopt cats out. It’s another place where cats can find forever homes. These cafés are not like a shelter…. People are sipping on coffee or tea in a comfortable atmosphere. People get to see cats in a relaxed way, and these same people might not walk into a shelter. These cafés enhance a sense of community. People start talking about the cat that just walked by to a total stranger. It’s good for the cats, and good for the people.
Additional pluses for cats include:
- Many cats are inside-only.
- Spay/neuter education has reduced the number of cats
‘While cat overpopulation is still an issue, it’s better than I would have predicted. In some places in America, ‘it’s way better. In some places, it’s great. In other places, it’s not so great. There is some good news out there.’
That lends itself to shelters being able to move cats to places where they can find homes. In New York City, it might be moving cats to a shelter in another bureau or to a near-by state. Certain areas desire more of a particular breed than others, and moving the cats or dogs to that area enhances adoption rates.
Lots of negatives for cats
There’s no doubt dogs fare better than cats; however, cats are catching up. There are still lots of negatives, including:
- You don’t have stray dogs, but you do have stray cats.
- More cats are given up to shelters than dogs.
- More cats are abused than dogs.
- Cats see the vet less often than dogs.
- TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) is still controversial.
- Feral cats, also called community cats, are not well respected by the community at large.
- People who lose their cats don’t go looking for them and they end up in shelters. According to the ASPCA, about 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats.
The Catalyst Council and AAFP doing wonders for cats
However, there’s been progress in all these areas. Another huge factor in improving the status of cats has been the formation of:
- The formation of The Catalyst Council. In 2014, their mission was revised to be connecting and collaborating to advance the health, welfare and value of companion cats.
- The creation of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, (AAFP) and cat friendly veterinarians
- Credible, reliable information on the Internet including catfriendly.com
- The demise of some old Wives’ Tales about cats.
About eight years ago, Dale was instrumental in pulling together the team that put together The Catalyst Council. At that time, shelters were doing a much better job with dogs than cats. Experts from all the organizations from all over the country came together with the original mission: elevate the status of cats. While the mission has changed, the organization has helped better cats’ welfare.
Cat Friendly Vet Practices
The formation of the American Association of Feline Practitioners: AAFP goal was to do a better job with cats. They understood you can’t treat cats like dogs. Years ago, that was the norm. They are responsible for getting cats into a veterinary clinic, without being totally stressed out. Cat Friendly Practices, do all kinds of things to make the feline be at more ease at the veterinarian’s office including, but not necessarily limited to:
- Feliway and other pheromone sprays and diffusers
- Medical procedures are cat friendlier
The AAFP created catfriendly.com for people to learn more about their cat’s natural behaviors, the importance of routine veterinary care, how to take great care of your cats, and answer many questions with credible, valuable, and reliable educational information. There’s everything from parasite control, vaccine, aging cats, kittens and info on how to get cat to vet in the first place. Paws checked out the website, and it is amazing.
Moving the needle to help cats
Both of these organizations are ‘moving the needle and are making an enormous difference for cats. ‘What The Catalyst Council did was say to the industry we need to pay attention to cats… AMFP is paying attention to cats.’
Behavioral issues, including clawing and litter box issues are among the top reasons people surrender their cats to shelters. There’s good news on this front, as well.
Feliway and other pheromone based products can be used to de-stress cats in multi-cat households.
FeliScratch coming to the US later this year
Great news for cats will be the release of FeliScratch in the United States later this year. Already available in the United Kingdom, this product is designed to attract your cat to the scratching post so he’ll scratch where you want him to, and not destroy the sofa. Catnip attracts the cat to the post which is covered with pheromones, making it a pleasant experience for the cat. This offers a real alternative to de-clawing, which is becoming more and more controversial. Dale points out that whole procedure can lead to a whole host of other behavioral issues due to phantom pain.
Great news for cats
Additionally, more varieties of cat litter are available with tips to prevent litter box issues, often the result of illness of a bully in a multi-cat family.
Tools like FeliScratch, organized cat medicine, and an entire program to benefit cats, combined with the shelters doing great job of education, are making things better for cats.
Ole Wives’ Tales getting beaten down
Some of ole wives’ tales about pets, have been beaten down.
- It used to be if you were pregnant or had an auto immune disease or taking drugs to suppress the immune system, you gave up the cats. It’s taken decades, but the obstetrician no longer suggests getting rid of the cat. Medical doctors understand the bond with cats, people with cats, aids, cancer, or which immune suppressant, can benefit from keeping their feline companion. We still hear about Toxoplasmosis is a disease that results from infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, one of the world’s most common parasites. Infection usually occurs by eating under-cooked contaminated meat, exposure from infected cat feces, or mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy.
- In Mexico, there’s a wives’ tale that cats can make you infertile. We know that’s not true.
- Twenty-one-years ago when I began broadcasting, I’d hear the wives’ tale that cats can suck the air out of a baby. everyone understands that just doesn’t happen. There’s not one recorded case of a cat suffocating a baby. There should always be adult supervision when a baby and is with any kind of pet… It’s not an issue today.
The Cat/Bird controversy, a huge negative
A huge negative for the cats is the cat/bird controversy, and many conservationists are citing erroneous information about how many birds are being killed by cats. There’s a whole divide that is very negative to cats, particularly community cats, and indoor-outdoor felines. That’s a whole other issue, and one that Paws will address in a future post.
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Do you think the status of cats has improved over the past 10 years? Why do you think cats remain second class citizens (to dogs) even though they rule the Internet? What do you think we can do to elevate the status of cats? Please weigh in on this important discussion, and share this post with your readers to help the cats!