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Animal abandonment: Causes and consequences

Every year, the Affinity Foundation Observatory publishes a report called the “Pet Abandonment and Adoption Study White Paper”. The 2019 edition uses statistics gathered in 2018, and shows similar numbers to the previous five years with regard to animal abandonment. While we’re glad the numbers haven’t increased, the figures are still higher than they should be.

The main cause of animal abandonment is unwanted litters. With regard to cats, the cases generally involve female cats that live in homes or buildings with outside access. When mating season arrives, they escape, get pregnant, and have litters, which are then discarded. It’s very common in the breeding seasons (spring and summer) to find litters of kittens abandoned in street bins or other improper locations. This is why vets are so insistent on the importance of neutering all pets. Aside from helping avoid health problems, it also helps control reproduction, reducing the number of unwanted litters that would very likely be abandoned.

The fate of these abandoned animals is almost always tragic. When it happens at a young age, especially when they are still nursing, if they aren’t rescued within a few hours, they will likely die of dehydration and starvation, or become prey to a local predator. An older cat is more likely to survive in the short term by hunting or feeding itself. But there are other risks such as abuse, accidents, fights, attacks by dogs or people, poisoning, and starving to death – especially if it has lived for a long time in a home and is unable to find food. Any animal exposed to outdoor conditions without veterinary care is likely to contract infectious and parasitic diseases that are often life-threatening.

Best-case scenario, the luckiest strays are picked up by animal protection workers and end up in facilities. But these are still not best suited for the animals because the associations are generally underfunded and overcrowded, leading to cramped conditions. While the people who care for them in these facilities do so with the best intentions and all their love, the majority of their efforts are focused on finding a family to adopt them. This is not easy, and there are consistently more animals abandoned than adopted. Only 3% of cats that are taken to a shelter are reclaimed by their owners. The reason for this is generally due to the common misconception that it is not necessary to implement the microchip identification system with cats. So, when a cat leaves home and gets lost, it is very difficult to find its owners.

Having a cat is a big responsibility, and when you bring one into your home, it’s important to come to terms with the fact that it’s a commitment for their entire life, which can last up to twenty years or more. During this time, there may be all kinds of problems: financial issues, moving house, job changes, births, illnesses, deaths, unforeseen costs due to changes in your cat’s behaviour or health problems, etc. These issues must be taken into account before making the decision to adopt the animal. You should never make the decision alone or by impulse because when problems arise, it’s usually the cat that bears the brunt, and can result in abandonment. It’s best to properly inform yourself and address all the doubts you may have by talking to an experienced professional.

Have you chosen to bring a pet into your home? Let us know!

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