The Million Cat Challenge is a shelter-based campaign, focused on five key initiatives to help shelters respond effectively and humanely to the fraction of cats presented to the shelter in any given community. This focus is chosen because it lies within the direct and immediate purview of shelter administrators, and follows the model of the Five Million Lives Campaign on which the Million Cat Challenge is modeled.
However, community-based initiatives such as accessible and affordable spay/neuter services, humane education, improved access to veterinary care, and programs to protect wildlife and public health remain vitally important. Together, we are all working to find solutions to feline overpopulation and free-roaming cats on a broad scale.
Fortunately there is synergy between the shelter-based Million Cat Challenge and community-based solutions. The initiatives of the Challenge can reduce the number of free roaming cats in communities as well as better serving cats in shelters.
By removing barriers to adoption, for example, sterilized, vaccinated cats are placed into homes that might otherwise have obtained an intact cat from another source. Bridges are built between shelters and cat owners so that if there is a problem, the shelter can help find a solution and reduce the likelihood that the cat will be abandoned to contribute to the free-roaming cat population. For un-owned cats, Return-to-Field stabilizes populations around existing food sources and can reduce the number of free roaming cats over time. This may explain the decrease in cat intake seen in communities where these initiatives are in practice.
The experience of numerous shelters has also demonstrated that balancing feline intake with each shelter’s capacity for humane care and appropriate outcomes doesn’t just serve cats within the shelter better. It also:
- Improves staff working conditions and morale
- Results in better care and outcomes for dogs as well as cats
- Enhances the shelter’s standing in the community
- Allows more effective use of resources
All these factors combine to allow shelters to better care for animals within the shelter while also reducing the presence and impact of free-roaming cats outside the shelters walls. When we can stop investing resources in a futile cycle of impoundment, holding and euthanasia of cats, we are better able to meet the needs of all animals and the people who care about them.