For the last several years, the shelter has had a 97% or higher live outcome rate for dogs. With creative solutions, including: enrichment, behavioral modification and medical intervention, dogs have always had the best quality of care. However, we needed to find creative solutions to manage the overpopulation of cats in our community.
- Our biggest area of weakness as a shelter was in the care of cats and the significant overpopulation of cats in our community.
- In 2018, West Valley Humane Society had 4,618 cats come in for services. With stray cats being the largest population of animals served at the shelter, finding positive solutions became a top goal.
- Of the cats that came into the shelter, we found many who were affected by preventable disease like upper respiratory infections, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. This largely has to do with limited access to low cost vaccine services combined with an over population of cats.
- With limited funding or support from our community, the shelter has struggled to care for cats that come through our doors for services. The community cat program provides a solution that both servers the cats and our community in a humane and effective way.
West Valley Humane Society has the ultimate goal of providing the healthiest outcome possible for all cats that come through shelter services. Our overall goals include:
- Return healthy cats back into their community in better condition than they were found. This includes spay/neuter services, vaccines and other necessary treatment needed (flea treatment, ear mite treatment, tooth extraction etc.).
- Return friendly cats back to their owners. All friendly cats that are returned to their community are returned with a collar and microchip. This collar asks the owner to call the shelter and report their cat back as returned. If no call is made, some cats are followed up on by door knocking of flyers in the community.
- Return feral cats back to their known area. Healthy feral cats that are well fed and have treatable medical prognosis are returned to the area where they have a known food source. Relocating feral cats to other areas (like barn homes or other colonies) have shown to have less success than returning them to the area they are familiar with.
- Reduce the population of homeless, stray and community cats in Canyon County through Spay/Neuter Services.
- Reduce the spread of preventable diseases in the area through vaccine services.
- Engage community members in advocacy for the cats in our community and help us create more live outcomes for our feline friends.
The Community Cat Program works in the following ways:
- Reduce the number of cats coming into the shelter environment through:
- Community education and outreach on which cats should receive shelter services and which cats should be left in their community.
- Placing healthy and thriving cats back into their community to return to their owner or caretaker.
- Providing some support and assistance for people considering surrendering their cats due to medical or behavioral problems.
- Helping well intended Canyon County residents with locating owners of lost cats prior to bringing them into the shelter environment.
- Asking for community support and assistance through:
- Requesting participants contribute either their time or their money to use the program. Participants can either pay a $50 fee per cat to go through the program, or agree to drop off and pick up the cat to be returned to where they were found.
- Donations to support spay/neuter surgery and vaccine costs.
- Volunteer help with trapping, releasing, door knocking, hanging flyers and community outreach.
The overpopulation of cats in Canyon County has been an ongoing issue for many years. We are hopeful that through the dedication of our community and resources like our community cat program and low cost spay/neuter clinics that one day things will be better.
The average cost of care for a cat in the shelter is $75+. We currently adopt adult cats out from the shelter for an average of $5-25 which leaves us at least $50 in a deficit for every cat we care for. In 2018 we took in 4,618 cats which you can imagine is a cost to the shelter that relies almost completely on dog adoptions to sustain the care for cats in our community. If we plan to serve more cats and provide spay/neuter and vaccination services for all cats that come into our care we will need financial assistance.
This $50 offsets a financial burden that we cannot carry without the support of our community. That fee can be waived through the assistance of a community member in re-releasing the cat back into the community.
No, but we do try to get an understanding of which cats do and do not have caretakers and work towards making sure caretakers and owners of the cats are found.
Research shows that when returning to field the cat is familiar with the area, already has a known food source and likely has a social group for protection OR a home that is missing them. We want to make sure they are vaccinated and spayed/neutered and return them right to where they are familiar. Our goal is to do no harm and return cats to where they are familiar in better condition than when they were found.
Upon intake, every participant is asked: 1) Are you the caretaker of this cat? 2) Do you know the caretaker of this cat? 3) Do you not know if this cat has a caretaker? This set of questions helps us sort who does and does not have a caretaker and who those people are. When we don’t know who the caretaker is, then we can do some additional outreach.
Friendly cats are returned to their community with a microchip and collar. The collar asks that the owner of the cat contacts the shelter to let us know that the cat returned home and we can then register the microchip to the proper owner.
Feral cats are returned to their location point and we have 1) sent mailers, 2) door knocked, 3) hung flyers to see if anyone in the area is a cat caregiver. Through this outreach we can also sign them up for the Feed the Ferals Program and offer spay/neuter services.
We have already seen successful reunions for a majority of the cats that go through the program. From our service survey and the tracking of returns we can say that the majority of cats being returned to field have either a caretaker or a home. This program works for happy reunions and is truly a Return to Home Program.
At West Valley Humane Society we wish that all domestic cats were kept indoors and had loving homes where they were well cared for. However, these wishes do nothing to address the cats that are already outside (especially cats who are born outside and are behaviorally not a fit for a home environment).
Feral cats are undomesticated and are not suited for indoor living. Trying to tame an adult feral cat can be incredibly difficult and stressful for the cat. We have to keep the cats emotional health in mind as part of our decision making and many times that involves going back to where they were found to roam freely in where they have made their home.
Due to the overpopulation and uncontrolled breeding of feral and semi fractious cats we will continue to support Trap/Neuter/Return + Vaccinate (TNR+V) initiatives as a safe and humane community approach to reducing the number of free-roaming cats.
A follow up question we are often asked is, Why can’t you just euthanize all the feral cats?
West Valley Humane Society does not believe that killing cats in our community is ever the solution. We do not advocate for the euthanesia of healthy animals whether they are owned or feral/free roaming. Nationwide, organizations like Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA have proven that TNR is a humane and effective solution to the overpopulation of cats in our country.
To learn more about TNR and some success stories, here are some resources:
What Research Tells Us:
Newburyport, MA Success:
Chicago, IL Success:
Risk to Wild Life: West Valley Humane Society agrees that there is little question that cats have contributed to the reduction of population (and in rare cases extinction) of some species. Times where complete extinction have occurred have been in specific contexts (like being confined on small oceanic islands). We are completely aware and concerned about the risk to wildlife that can occur from having too many free roaming cats in an area. This is why we are dedicated to reducing the population of outdoor living cats as quickly and humanely as possible (which is where TNR+V efforts come through).
Just as we are concerned about wildlife, we are concerned that “risk of extinction” can be used to justify indiscriminate killing of cats in shelter systems even when there is no guarantee that cat euthanasia would save a particular species of concern. Our goal to reduce the overpopulation of cats is effective and we hope that in the future we will see the positive environmental impacts of the decisions we are making today.
Risk to Public Health:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, it is very unlikely for people “to get sick from touching or owning a cat.” Because free-roaming and feral cats tend to avoid human contact, the likelihood of a disease being transmitted from cat to human is quite remote.
The CDC also provides great information to minimize potential exposure to any unwanted germ transfer such as: washing hands with soap and water after touching feces or after being scratched or bitten. The CDC as well as West Valley Humane Society recommends that all pets be vaccinated against rabies to prevent the risk of any virus spread.
The two most common concerns that are brought up during discussion of free-roaming cats are rabies and toxoplasmosis. Although both of these diseases are serious health threats it is good to put them into perspective. According to the CDC, rabies in cats is extremely rare. In fact, since 1960, only two cases of human rabies in the U.S. have been attributed to cats. Additionally, the vast majority of animals that have tested positive for rabies were wildlife. The possibility to contract toxoplasmosis from a cat is also incredibly small. The CDC explains that it is more likely to get toxoplasmosis from gardening or eating raw meat.