Dogs are Claimed from Pounds; Cats Aren't

 |  Feb 24th 2010  |   4 Contributions


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The following article from the Mankato Free Press describes a common phenomenon: while most dogs impounded are claimed by their owners, most cats are not. So here's a reminder when your cat goes missing: don't forget to check all the shelters, pounds and rescues (as well as vets) in your area. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that Fluffy has been picked up.

NORTH MANKATO — In North Mankato in 2008 and 2009, 105 dogs were impounded by the North Mankato Police Department and 93 were picked up by their owners.

In the same two years, 81 cats were impounded. Just seven were claimed.

The numbers are stark — especially if you’re a cat. But the reason for the disparity between canines and felines is less clear cut.

Ask veterinarians, cat lovers or impound workers, and they’re puzzled why cat people don’t stop by the pound when their kitty goes missing.

The only people who seem to have a ready explanation are dog lovers. Ask them why the cats don’t get picked up, the answer is immediate.

“Because they’re cats,” one dog guy said, as if the solution to the puzzle was as obvious as the whiskers on a Maine Coon’s face.

More objective observers don’t know why so many cats are cast off so casually, why they’re left to live their remaining lives like long forgotten castaways in local impound facilities and animal shelters.

Curious contrast

James Rundquist, a veterinarian and owner of Premier Veterinary Center in Mankato, said the local statistics are repeated across the nation, and he knows of no research into why there’s such a disparity between retrieval rates of cats and dogs.

“When a cat doesn’t come back home, people just give up for whatever reason,” Rundquist said.

He is sure about one thing: Cats aren’t being left at the impound because their owners simply don’t care about them.

“Cat owners will fight for their cats,” Rundquist said.

So how does that mesh with nine of 10 cats being left unclaimed compared to just one or two of every 10 dogs?

The most obvious theory — that the majority of impounded cats are feral animals that belong to no one — isn’t supported by the evidence, according to people familiar with the animals in question.

North Mankato Police Chief Chris Boyer said almost all of the cats picked up there are so tame that they’re unquestionably house cats. Rundquist, whose pet hospital serves as North Mankato’s impound facility, agreed that few of the impounded cats are wild.

It’s the same story in Mankato, said Julia McCandless, the city’s animal control officer. At least 87 percent of the cats left at the impound are tame enough to go to the Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society shelter, where they’re made available for adoption.

Of the 13 percent that are euthanized, some are wild cats, but many are pets that were too sick to be adoptable, McCandless said.

A substantial number of the cats have clear physical evidence that they were somebody’s pet.

“We have plenty of animals who come down here that are spayed or neutered, declawed,” McCandless said.

So if people care enough about their animals to cover the cost of those modifications, why don’t they care enough to stop by the impound to see if a missing cat is there?

“I do wonder that myself sometimes,” McCandless said.

Dog catcher, not cat nabber

Maybe it’s that cat people just aren’t programmed to think of a city employee grabbing their cat and putting it in a cage. From the first cartoons they watch, people hear about the “dog catcher” — the municipal worker who picks up strays and puts them in the “dog pound.”

Addie Elliott of Mankato loves cats and owns one, along with a pair of dogs. But when her cat slipped away one night, it never occurred to her to check the pound.

“I really don’t understand why I wouldn’t go to the city and say ‘Do you have my cat?’” said Elliott, whose pet came back the next day. “When my dog ran away, I called the pound.”

One thing is certain — it’s not that she cares less for the cat. Elliott, after all, is someone who volunteered at the animal shelter once, was there when a woman called saying she’d found a litter of newborn cats in her garden, agreed to temporarily adopt all 11 — plus a preemie kitten at the shelter — and raised them to an age where the shelter could handle them.

 “They were delightful,” Elliott said. “... I cried and I cried when I took them back.”

She knows many people who are similarly committed to their cats, equally passionate as dog owners.

There’s just something mysterious about cat owners’ attitudes about felines that precludes thoughts of them being at the pound.

“It is a thing where the dots just don’t connect,” Elliott said.

Cat people might be leaping to conclusions, Rundquist said. Those assumptions — that curiosity killed their cat, that it tangled with a wild animal, that an older cat intentionally sought some quiet place to die, that it was struck by a car — all have some basis in fact.

“Cats are more inquisitive than dogs are, so they will get themselves in trouble,” he said.

Felines are often allowed by their owners to roam free, which makes it more likely they’ll get in a tussle with another animal or get smacked crossing a road. Sick animals often hunker down in some quiet place — not because they’re planning to die but because their survival instinct causes them to look for a safe spot to recuperate, Rundquist said.

All that might cause cat owners to assume some fateful and fatal outcome has befallen their feline — not something as mundane as being impounded.

Not that smart

Cat people also might be overestimating the intelligence of cats, thinking their pet is too clever to ever get lost, too crafty to get nabbed by an impound officer, Elliott said.

“Look at Garfield and the other comic illustrations of cats,” she said. “The dog is the stupid one. The cat is the smart one, street savvy.”

Or cat people might presume their beloved pet simply found a better gig, that the notoriously independent animals are two-timing them. There’s justification for that assumption, too, Rundquist said.

“As long as there’s food available, they’ll switch ownership or allegiance a lot easier (than dogs),” he said. “So that may be part of it.”

But if people are assuming those sorts of fates, they’re wrong more than 250 times every year in Mankato-North Mankato. Mittens isn’t dead; she’s vainly waiting at the pound for an owner who never comes.

For Mankato cats, it can be a long wait because they end up at the BENCHS shelter, which doesn’t euthanize healthy adoptable pets.

For North Mankato cats, there are no guarantees beyond the first seven days of their captivity. Rundquist said many of the tame, healthy cats are kept much longer than the required minimum. Some of the most adoptable cats are passed on to animal shelters.

The rest are dead cats walking.

There will be fewer on death row if people keep their cats confined, officials said. And there won’t be as many put down if more pet owners just make the effort to inquire when their feline goes missing.

“Check to see if it’s been impounded,” Rundquist implored. “Many of these are cats that are lovable.”

[SOURCE: Mankato Free Press. Photo by Pat Christman]

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