Effective February 1, the City of Chico Animal Services will no longer be accepting healthy owned or stray cats, including trapped cats. This policy change is designed to decrease the number of cats euthanized in the shelter, especially healthy stray and un-owned “community” cats, and is a result of emerging philosophies across the nation on how communities handle healthy cats.
Nationwide, an average of 2 out of every 100 stray cats that enter a shelter are ever claimed by their owners. In Chico that rate is slightly higher, around 4 for every 100 cats. The rate for dogs in Chico is 63 out of every 100. One of the reasons is that unlike dog owners, most cat owners do not start looking for a lost cat right away. Cats are only required to be held for 4 full days after being brought to the shelter. This means that many cats are transferred, adopted or possibly euthanized before the owner ever visits the shelter.
Studies have shown that cats are 13 times more likely to get back home if they are not brought to the shelter. In addition, more people get their cats as neighborhood strays (34%) than by adopting from a shelter (15%). "What we’re finding," said Tracy Mohr, Animal Services Manager for the City of Chico, "and has been proven in communities across the country, is that bringing healthy stray and feral cats to the shelter is not necessarily in the best interest of the cats, or the community."
Many “stray” cats that are brought to the shelter are not lost, but rather they are “community” or “neighborhood” cats. Some are friendly while others avoid people, but “home” for them is within the community rather than as part of a single household. Some are routinely fed and others forage for food, but all seem to survive quite well on their own, and in many cases it is hard to distinguish between an owned and un-owned cat. Many community cats are feral, making them hard to adopt, and their outcome if brought to the shelter is usually euthanasia.
It is estimated that there are 14,600 community cats in Chico. In order to reduce the current community cat population, 50% of stray cats would need to be euthanized or 75% would need to be sterilized. The animal shelter currently sees approximately 6% of those cats, and will never have a significant impact on the stray population.
Simply removing cats creates a "vacuum effect", with new cats - or other wildlife - taking the place of the animals removed. By having stray cats spayed or neutered then returned to their home territory, the population will slowly stabilize and eventually the cat population will start to decline naturally.
The City of Chico Animal Services will continue to accept sick or injured cats, or orphaned kittens – those that are too young to care for themselves and do not have a mother. All cats for Rabies quarantine and owner requested euthanasia will also continue to be accepted.
Contact Animal Services at 894-5630 for more information on how to live with the cats in your neighborhood. Visit their website at www.chicoanimalshelter.org for more information on stray and feral cats. You can contact the following organizations about helping with the cost of spaying and neutering cats: Butte Humane Society, PAWS of Chico, PAWS of Oroville and Pawprints Thrift store in Chico.