If you’re a proud cat parent, take a moment to appreciate the life you’ve given your little fur baby. They get all the food they want and snooze away the afternoon in their favorite sun spot. Your feline friend is one of the few lucky ones. Millions of stray cats will never experience the comfort of domestic life.
But there’s still hope! A life on the streets is easily preventable when cat parents do their part to prevent strays in the first place. Here’s how cats become strays and what you can do to reduce the stray population in your area.
How cats end up on the streets
The main reason cats become strays is because their owners didn’t think it necessary to schedule a spay/neuter procedure. Spaying or neutering a cat is crucial to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the resulting litter of kittens. Intact cats often seek out a mate, especially if they have outdoor access. A female cat could become pregnant without the owner realizing it.
When a domestic cat has kittens, the owner is left with more pets than they expected. They might not have the finances to care for multiple cats or simply don’t want that many in their home. Some pet parents take the time to find a safe, loving forever home for each of the kittens. However, some cat parents choose to release the kittens onto the streets. Since the adult cat was never spayed or neutered, the kittens are forced to fend for themselves.
Big life changes also contribute to the stray population. If a pet parent passes away, their loved ones may not bother to re-home the cat. Since the owner isn’t around anymore, the cat might seek food and shelter on the streets. In other cases, the pet parent moves and can’t afford to bring the cat with them. Pet parents who lose their jobs might become financially incapable of tending to their cat’s needs. Many circumstances might lead an owner to let their cat loose.
Sadly, many cats end up as strays because they got out of the house and got lost. Indoor-only cats sometimes find a way to get outside and wander off. The cat might climb through a window or bolt outside when you open the front door. Indoor cats have a hard time finding their way back home because their instinct is to hide or run away. It’s very difficult to reunite a cat with their owner, and doing so is virtually impossible if the cat isn’t microchipped or wearing a collar.
The problem with a high stray population
Stray cats are a widespread problem across many countries. Millions of cats are forced to compete for food, water and shelter on the streets. Strays cats often get into fights because they’re territorial over scarce resources. These scuffles can lead to serious injuries, and stray cats have no one to bring them to a vet. Close contact with other strays can also cause them to develop viral infections, which may prove fatal without medical treatment. Many stray cats are likely to become ill because they were never vaccinated in the first place.
The stray population is skyrocketing, which means there are more cats than forever homes. Unfortunately, many strays spend their whole lives on the streets because animal shelters are filled to maximum capacity. Shelters are nonprofits with limited resources, and they can only afford to house a limited number of cats. Shelter staff have no choice but to turn away people who bring in stray cats when all the cages are full.
What you can do to prevent stray cats
Reducing the stray population starts with one cat at a time. Schedule a spay/neuter procedure for your cat when the vet says it’s appropriate to do so. This will stop your kitty from producing unwanted kittens. Spaying or neutering your cat means that fewer kittens will be abandoned on the streets. This simple act can save potential cats from a lifetime of struggling to survive.
In addition to preventing unwanted litters, take the necessary precautions to keep your kitty safe at home. If you have an indoor-only cat, make sure they don’t gain access to any exit routes. Get your cat microchipped as soon as possible and update the registered contact information as necessary. A collar and ID tag can let neighbors know who to call if they find your cat.
In a perfect world, every cat would get the forever home they deserve. The stray population isn’t going away anytime soon, but there are simple steps every pet parent can take to reduce the number of strays in the future. The more cat parents pitch in, the more kitties they can save!
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