By Phillip Snyder, Executive Director
Published in the Englewood Sun on June 22, 2014
It's estimated that 88 million cats share our homes (or allow us to share theirs) as opposed to 74 million dogs. Even though more households own dogs, many people have more than one cat, pushing their numbers up over dogs.
Sadly, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, APPMA, far fewer cat owners take their cat to a veterinarian than dog owners. People spend less money on cat toys, food and grooming. Part of the problen may be what some consider the financial worth of the two species.
According to the APPMA, people pay an average of $331 to purchase a dog, while only about one-tenth of that is spent on buying a cat. This may be better understood by the fact that 75 percent of the cat owners pay nothing and one third of owned cats are taken in as strays.
Adoption fees at Suncoast Humane Society are equal at $85, with even lower fees for senior adopters and long-term residents, both canine and feline.
Studies have shown that cats suffer from a public relations problem in many of America's animal care and control facilities. If this is true, the very essense of the cat may be a contributing factor.
Dogs, with their wagging tails, soulful eyes, and eager-to-please demeanor, endear themselves to us and give them the distinction of "man's best friend." Many cats, however, are much more independent by nature and often have trouble "selling" themselves to potential adopters.
On top of that, many animal adoption facilities seem to "feature or promote" the dogs more than the cats in adoption advertising such as Pet of the Day, Week, or Month.
Again, not the case with Suncoast Humane Society, which strives to advertise and "market" dogs and cats equally.
Even lost or straying cats get less attention than dogs. Some people do not search for their lost cats, especially cats kept out of doors, the way they do for dogs.
Sometimes they don't even miss them for days or weeks. When someone sees a loose dog, they immediately become concerned and try to catch it or call an animal control agency to report the incident. If they see a loose cat, they are much more accepting to the theory that "kitty is out for a stroll or a hunt and will go back when it's ready."
We at Suncoast Humane Society strive to overcome this second-class pet theory that has been created. Cats and kittens recommended for adoption are presented in a spacious, homey, open-air environment at our animal care center. Many are "free roaming" in the adoption cattery enjoying the many toys provided for them, or simply lounging on the kitty condos, countertops, and pet shelves. All of this says, "Please take me home!" and "What you see is what you will get when I become a member of your family." Volunteer "cat cuddlers" receive special training in socializing cats that need special attention, while also working to maintain gentle dispositions of longer-term feline residents.
More cats than dogs are featured at our off-site adoption centers in Englewood and soon-to-be North Port and Venice. Our latest feline enhancement project is the availability of SoftPaws. These are caps while fit over the cat's claws. They even come in assorted bright colors to project that fancy nail polish look. This is proving to be a humane alternative to declawing.
I think that it is safe to say that with all the focus on our feline friends, cats will never be second-class citizens during their stay at Suncoast Humane Society. The goal is, however, for them to become a first-class citizen in a new adopted home. Are you ready?