Canada's Cat Overpopulation Crisis
Canadians love cats. They are still this country’s most popular pet.
While cats are actually found in more Canadian households than dogs, sadly, they do not receive the same care and consideration as their canine counterparts. Education about dog behaviour is prevalent, dog-owner responsibilities are well established in municipal bylaws and canine companions are highly valued by Canadians. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for cats.
In most of the country, there is no dog overpopulation and, in some areas, there is even a shortage of dogs for adoption, while cat overpopulation continues to challenge communities across Canada. The impacts of this overpopulation are serious and include cats languishing in shelters long term, or worse, succumbing to stress-related illnesses. For cats who remain outdoors, risk of disease transmission, as well as illness, injury and death are daily realities.
What are the root causes of this overpopulation? If cats are not spayed or neutered and allowed to roam outdoors, the result is a lot of kittens on the streets and in animal shelters. And without permanent ID, a cat who gets lost might stay that way.
But the tide may be turning. After months of ground-breaking and intense industry research, the Humane Canada™ (formerly as CFHS) National Cat Overpopulation Task Force has released a brand-new study about how the issue of cat overpopulation has evolved in the last five years. In our newly released report, we’re seeing evidence that cats are starting to be treated with the level of care they deserve. Attitudes are shifting, spay/neuter rates are going up and we’re seeing more cats with permanent ID, like tattoos and microchips – which help them to find their way home if they ever get lost or separated from their owner. Overall, we seem to be shifting to a more proactive approach to cat ownership in Canada, which is encouraging.
The good news is that we’ve taken some giant leaps forward in cat welfare since 2012. The bad news is that it’s not happening quickly enough to overcome Canada’s cat overpopulation crisis. We still have a long way to go. Shelters in your area are likely still overwhelmed with the number of cats in crisis – just like almost every other SPCA and humane society across the country. And, they need the help of Humane Canada™ today, more than ever.
As our members deal with these issues in their local communities, Humane Canada™ is working at the national level to develop new and innovative programs to help them address overpopulation and its impacts. We are also tracking how these innovative approaches are working.
While the situation may be improving, the pace of change is still too slow. That’s why Humane Canada™ is working to engage even more stakeholders in this next phase of work to overcome the crisis.
Click the image below to download an English copy of the report:
Click the image below to download a French copy of the report:
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Humane Canada™ is a national, member-driven federation with members and associates from coast to coast.
Humane Canada™ welcomes allied organizations to become non-voting associates in the Humane Canada™ network. All of our associates are listed below, grouped by province or territory. Click on any of the "+" signs to find contact info for our associates.
Animal welfare organizations and veterinarians widely agree that a key solution to the crisis of overpopulation and homelessness of companion animals is accessible, affordable spay/neuter surgery. Furthermore, accessible spay/neuter initiatives have positive outcomes for public health and safety, which translates to reduced public spending.
Read the Humane Canada position statement on spay/neuter here.
Humane Canada's report, The Case for Accessible Spay/Neuter in Canada, lays out the evidence for these benefits and savings, and provides examples of successful initiatives that can be modeled in other communities. The report also makes recommendations for how animal welfare organizations, the veterinary community and governments to advance accessible spay/neuter.
Click on a heading to download each document:
"The invaluable information gathered in this report provides the foundation for all stakeholders to move forward working together to reduce the number of homeless and stray pets and, ultimately, end the need for euthanasia as a means of population control. By working in partnership, veterinarians, municipalities and animal welfare groups can spearhead efforts through accessible spay/neuter programs to create communities that are safe for everyone – both animals and people.” -Lisa Koch, Executive Director, Regina Humane Society
Take action to advocate for accessible spay/neuter in your community
This section provides tools for you to advocate for accessible spay/neuter initiatives in your community by raising awareness of this critical animal welfare issue with local media and politicians. Key messages for meetings and interviews are provided, along with templates for letters and presentations to decision-makers.
Click on a heading to download each document:
This section provides tools to help you implement accessible spay/neuter initiatives in your community.
"We experience the reality of pet overpopulation every day at our shelter. We firmly believe the key solution that will end the cycle of shelter overcrowding and unnecessary euthanasia will be providing greater opportunities for more pet owners to spay and neuter their pets. We intend to use this report to help ensure that becomes a reality in our province in the very near future.” - Kelly Mullaly, Former Executive Director, PEI Humane Society
Below are some inspiring public service announcements and documentary videos about spay/neuter.
Alberta Spay/Neuter Task Force
Cote Saint-Luc Cats Committee
Community Collaborations for the Advancement of Accessible Spay/Neuter
Presented by Kathy Innocente, Animal Care Manager, and LeeAnn Sealey, Clinic Director
This session will focus on the challenges and successes that shelters may face in collaborating with community veterinarians and rescue organizations. The webinar will share perspectives from both an animal welfare organization and veterinary point of view. Learn what worked and what didn’t, and what they are still learning today.
The Alberta Spay/Neuter Task Force: A Community-Based Solution for Managing Companion Animal Populations
Presented by: Nancy Larsen, President and Co-founder and R.J. Bailot, Executive Director and Co-founder of the Alberta Spay/Neuter Task Force
The Alberta Spay/Neuter Task Force (ASNTF) is a dedicated and compassionate team of volunteer veterinarians, animal health technologists and general volunteers that provide pro-active, community based pet wellness clinics for areas that are experiencing pet overpopulation issues, including First Nation communities. ASNTF’s primary goal is to improve the health and well-being of the dogs and cats in the community and to reduce human health issues that have resulted from this pet overpopulation. The Task Force has the ability to set up a MASH-type surgical unit in a school gym, community centre or other venue within the community to spay and neuter up to 420 animals over one weekend.
Saving Lives Through Prevention: Getting Serious about Cat Spay/Neuter
Presented by: Amy Morris, Manager, Public Policy and Outreach, BC SPCA
This session for sheltering organizations focuses on making an effective transition to a prevention model, specifically around spaying and neutering. It reviews the importance of partnership, technology and data, and effective messaging to create long-term societal change. The webinar uses concrete examples to help you take your spay/neuter program from feeling like a drop in a bucket towards an empty shelter!
Funding for this project was generously provided by PetSmart Charities of Canada.
Special thanks to Lisa Koch of Regina Humane Society for her extraordinary contribution to this project.
We would also like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their contributions:
AASAO; Airport Animal Hospital, Regina SK; Alberta Animal Services; Alberta Spay/Neuter Task Force; ASPCA; BC SPCA; Dr. Johanna Booth, Toronto Animal Services / Toronto Street Cats; Calgary Humane Society; Kelly Campbell, PetSmart Charities; Lorne Chow, City of Regina; City of Ottawa Spay/Neuter Clinic; City of Regina; Canadian Veterinary Medical Association; Edmonton Humane Society; Sandra Flemming, Nova Scotia SPCA; Fredericton SPCA; Guelph Humane Society; Humane Alliance; Kelly Mullaly; Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society; Meow Foundation; Montreal SPCA; Newfoundland Department of Natural Resources; Ontario SPCA; Stephanie Rigby, Prince Edward Island Humane Society; Saskatoon SPCA; SpayAid PEI; Spay Day HRM; University of Guelph Library; Winnipeg Humane Society.
Finally, thank you to our celebrity spokescats Tiny (Fredericton SPCA) and Earl Grey (Spay Day HRM).
Project documents were translated by Pierre René de Cotret.
Design work for this project was provided by: Lola Design and Phil Communications.
Support Humane Canada today so we can create more critical resources like this toolkit!