Lack of cat friendly accommodation cause for surrender – Numbers and characteristics of cats admitted to RSPCA shelters in Australian Study

Cat friendly accommodation

Cats not allowed is the main owner-related reason for surrender to shelters.

Giving up a pet to an animal shelter can be devastating for the cat or dog and their family.  Animal surrender is a heart-wrenching decision, but sometimes there is no other option for a pet owner.

This Australian Study examined 195,387 admissions to 33 Australian RSPCA shelters and six friends of the RSPCA groups from July 2006 to June 2010. The aims of this study were to describe the numbers and characteristics of cats entering Australian RSPCA shelters, and to describe reasons for cat surrender.

One of the key findings showed the most common owner-related reason for surrendering a cat was the lack of pet friendly accommodation, that is, cats were not allowed. 

Data collected included shelter, state, admission source, age, gender, date of arrival, colour, breed, reproductive status (desexed or not prior to admission), feral status and surrender reason (if applicable).

More kittens than adults surrendered 

This study found that most admissions were presented by members of the general public, as either stray animals or owner-surrenders, and more kittens were admitted than adults. Owner-related reasons were most commonly given for surrendering a cat to a shelter. The most frequently cited owner-related reason was accommodation, that is, cats were not allowed. This has far-reaching implications for potential management as it demonstrates that reducing numbers of admissions to shelters in Australia (and, thereby reducing numbers of cats euthanased in shelters), requires strategies that focus on changing rules and potentially legislative requirements related to the inclusion of pets in rental agreements and other housing arrangements.

Of the cat-related reasons, 42% were for unfriendly, aggressive or poorly socialised behaviour and 22% were for house soiling, and the frequency of these behaviours would be exacerbated, particularly in male cats, by the relatively low desexing rates.

Importantly, although the percentage of admissions where the cat was previously desexed (36%) was the highest of any shelter study reported to date, this was still lower than expected, particularly among ownersurrendered cats (47%). The percentage of admissions where the cat was previously desexed was low even in jurisdictions that require mandatory desexing.

The authors state that the introduction of low-cost or no cost desexing targeted to locations over-represented by cat and kitten intake into shelters may be more effective than legislation.

Alberthsen C, Rand J, Morton J et al (2016) Numbers and characteristics of cats admitted to Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) shelters in Australia and reasons for surrender. Animals 6:23; doi:10.3390/ ani6030023

This article ‘Numbers and characteristics of cats admitted to RSPCA shelters in Australia’ was first seen in the RSPCA Australia Science Update Issue 53 July 2016.