There’s a good chance that if Spot the dog gets lost after chasing that infernal squirrel through the park and ends up in a animal shelter, he’ll eventually return to his master’s loving arms.
But when Felix the cat fails to come back from his nightly rounds, odds are his owner won’t see him again.
That’s of concern to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.
The federation’s annual report for 2014 shows 69 per cent of stray dogs taken in by humane societies or SPCAs that year were reunited with their guardians compared with 56 per cent in 2013.
For cats, however, the figure is significantly lower. Just five per cent get back home to purr on their front-window perch.
The report is based on 89 responses to a survey the federation sent to 168 humane societies and SPCAs across Canada between April and September 2015.
The federation says the data represents only a fraction of homeless companion animals in the country. Private shelters, rescue and foster groups and municipal animal services were not surveyed.
"There’s a pervasive idea out there that, ‘Well, the cat will come back’ or, ‘I’ll just wait a week or two for it to return,’" said federation CEO Barbara Cartwright. "It’s too late for the cat. They’ve been absolutely lost from their owner."
Canadians are steadily getting the message about responsible dog ownership and are ensuring their pooches have collars, tags, tattoos and microchips, Cartwright said. They also search for their pets if they go astray.
But it’s a different story for felines.
"With cats, they’re often not microchipped, are rarely collared and people don’t look for them."
The stray-cat problem has been dogging shelters for years. The federation’s report shows that over 85,000 cats and more than 38,000 dogs were taken in during 2014. Since 2001, there have been about twice as many cats transported to shelters as canines — a factor behind overcrowding in the facilities.
The number of cats euthanized in shelters also continued to be twice as high as the number of dogs put down, although overall figures were lower for both species than the previous two years.
But not all is gloom and doom in the kennels.
Nationally, 20 per cent fewer animals were taken in by shelters in 2014 compared with the year before. Staff noted that more strays had already been sterilized before their arrival.
Cartwright said there’s no hard data to explain the lower intake, but she’s optimistic that improved animal guardianship and better spay-neuter programs are behind it.
The slow but steady changes are heartening, but the federation executive notes that Canadians still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to ensuring Felix stays home safe and sound.
"These are important evolutions in our understanding about how we can best care for cats, so that they’re not being lost, they’re not reproducing and creating such an over-population of cats that we see thousands being euthanized a year."