Million Cat Challenge aims to rescue shelter cats

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Two shelter medicine programs have launched the Million Cat Challenge to reduce the loss of life among cats in North American animal shelters over five years, according to a December announcement.

The Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California-Davis and the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida launched the 2014-2018 challenge with support from animal shelters and other animal welfare organizations. Organizers hope to extend the challenge to municipal animal control facilities and private shelters of all sizes.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the United States alone is home to more than 13,600 community animal shelters, including municipal shelters, private shelters, and rescues. These shelters annually receive about 7.6 million companion animals. About 3.4 million of those animals are cats, and 1.4 million of the cats are euthanized each year. The ASPCA figures are based on various estimates.

Organizers designed the Million Cat Challenge to decrease those numbers by helping animal shelters implement one or more of the following five initiatives:

  • Finding alternatives that will keep cats in homes or the community rather than in shelters.
  • Managing admission to correspond with a shelter’s ability to provide safe, humane care.
  • Matching the number of cats in a shelter at any given time with that shelter’s capacity to ensure the animals’ welfare.
  • Removing barriers to adoption such as cost, processing, and location.
  • Returning to the field rather than euthanizing healthy, unowned cats once they have been sterilized and vaccinated.