Here is what we know about domesticated cats: one, there are significantly more cats on this planet than good homes to adopt them; two, many individual owners are recklessly irresponsible by failing to sterilize their cats; and three, municipalities generally struggle for consensus on hoarders and feral felines. Locally, hoarding and overtaxed shelter stories break with an alarming frequency. In April, a Latham woman was arrested for collecting almost 70 cats (and one very unfortunate dog). Some 90 cats were removed from a condemned Albany house this past summer. And earlier this month, 28 cats were boxed up (in 90 degree weather) and left at the Animal Protective Foundation in Scotia.
Veterinarian Brenda Griffin writes (Prolific Cats: The Estrous Cycle): “Peak reproductive activity occurs between 1.5 and 8 years of age, with an average of two to three litters per year and three to four kittens per litter. Queens easily bear 50 to 150 kittens in a breeding life of approximately 10 years if allowed to mate naturally.” According to the ASPCA, there are some 85 million companion cats in this country and perhaps another 70 million strays. Consider this: 70%, yes 70%, of cats brought to shelters are euthanized; overall, one dog or cat is put down (at shelters) every eight seconds. Worse, only 10% of animals received at shelters have been sterilized. The end is most definitely not in sight.
In an unprecedented step, Belgium has proposed The Multi-Annual Cat Plan 2011-2016 to address their expanding problem (they have been forced to cull one third of their strays annually). The plan (not finalized yet) calls for the sterilization of all cats (save for a few exotic breeds), applying first to shelters, then breeders and sellers, and finally individual owners. Also, advertising (publicizing) unwanted kittens would be prohibited. How remarkably progressive. But, what is the endgame here? Is Belgium (are we) prepared to completely eliminate the domestic cat?
Pets are simple commodities. They are bought, sold, adopted, relinquished, transferred, and abandoned in an appallingly casual manner. The vast majority will not spend their entire lives with one family; most, in fact, will have several homes. Although the animals in mills, pits, and hoarding houses garner the most attention, millions more languish in unstimulating (or worse) environments over a period measured in years, often merely existing. And while we certainly have a moral obligation to the ones already here, the sterilization solution seems, at least to me, rational and, more importantly, right. We created this monster; we must end it. Kudos to Belgium.