If you ask your pet-owning Facebook friends where they got their cat, a small minority will say they adopted from an animal shelter. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, about 65 percent of pet owners acquire their pets free or at low cost. This means from friends or family members, or as a “rescued” stray (American Pet Products Association).
Nationwide, only 20-30 percent of pet owners adopt from a shelter or rescue.
Shelter pet adoption in the Portland area is probably higher. Just last year, 11,335 cats and kittens were adopted through the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland’s coalition of shelters. If that were just 30 percent of all the kitties who got new homes last year, what a lot of cat-owning homes there would be!
In a shelter, it takes a village of professional shelter staff, dedicated volunteers, and the cat-loving public to care for and find homes for all the cats. Just think of the daily attention you give your cat and multiply that by a couple hundred. That’s a lot of bowls to fill and boxes to scoop. Not to mention chins to scratch! And this is all done on a schedule designed to reduce stress.
Cats thrive with routine; it is the unpredictable that causes them anxiety while in a shelter. That may be why you won’t see fresh food in a shelter cat’s bowl at 12 noon. There is a precise schedule for feeding, cleaning, and quiet time.*
It takes more than a clean cage and swept floor to get these felines a home. Making sure shelter cats are healthy, physically and mentally, is top priority. Cats need room to stretch, scratch, get up high, play, and do their business. Basically, room to be a cat.*
That’s why you’ll find some cats in free-roam or colony rooms, larger cages housing just one kitty, a variety of toys available, boxes or perches inside cages, and even cats being walked around the facility on leashes.
Volunteers are extremely important for the cats’ mental well-being. They come daily to do more than clean; they provide lots of playtime and laps to snuggle in. It’s that loving human bond that keeps shelter cats engaged and cat-like.
This village includes all the cat lovers in Portland. The people who share or forward featured pet posts on Facebook or Twitter. Those who send their friends to a shelter for a new family pet. And those who unabashedly post dozens of photos of their shelter-adopted pet on their Wall or newsfeed — bragging about their baby.
Be part of a shelter cat’s village; volunteer at a Northwest shelter. Share your cat’s story — everyone loves tails of happily-ever! And be sure to send your friends to a shelter, first, for a pet!
*Guideline for Standard of Care in Animal Shelters, The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (2010)