Are we overcoming the cat overpopulation crisis?

In 2012, Humane Canada published a ground-breaking report about the crisis faced by Canadians and our most popular companion animal: cats. The report, Cats in Canada: A Comprehensive Report on the Cat Overpopulation Crisis, raised national awareness about one of the most pressing animal welfare issues in Canada.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of animals enter our shelters and, by far, the majority of these are cats. Some are pets surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them. Others are found roaming as strays or abandoned by irresponsible guardians. Cats are less likely to be reunited with their owners than dogs and, once in shelter care, it typically takes longer to adopt out cats than it does dogs. Some are never adopted. Cats in shelters may be euthanized when they become ill – a development that can be hastened by stress. Many shelters struggle each year with the unending stream of new feline arrivals.

The first report of its kind, Cats in Canada investigated this overwhelming situation of cat overpopulation and presented data regarding the extent of homelessness, overburdened animal shelters and euthanasia. It provided the first Canadian estimates on the scale of the issue, based on 478 responses from veterinarians, municipal shelters, humane societies and SPCAs, rescue organizations, trap-neuter-return groups, spay/neuter groups and other organizations that help house or care for stray, abandoned and feral cats in Canada.

The report looked at the extent of Canada’s cat overpopulation problem and identified potential solutions. It also addressed the important contribution that veterinarians make to address the issue. Both animal welfare organizations and veterinarians widely agree that a key solution to this overpopulation crisis is accessible spay/neuter surgery (i.e.:  available to as many pet guardians as possible). Accessible services remove barriers to spay/neuter surgery, like the cost of the procedure and geography.

As a result of the study, stakeholders across Canada launched a number of initiatives to reduce and address cat overpopulation. These initiatives included hosting community discussions about local and regional cat overpopulation, celebrating the human-cat bond while raising public awareness about cat welfare, advocating for accessible spay/neuter services and advancing knowledge about best practices to improve outcomes for shelter cats.

Five years later, we want to track the effectiveness of what’s been done so far to tackle the overpopulation crisis. Which is where you come in. Humane Canada is currently conducting a follow-up study to measure where we are with cat overpopulation in Canada after five years of dedicated work on the issue. Recent statistics suggest the number of homeless cats in Canada is decreasing, but we need this five-year follow-up data to reach a more conclusive answer.

If you are a veterinarian or work with a municipal shelter, humane society or SPCA, rescue, trap-neuter-return or spay/neuter group – or any other organization that helps to house or care for stray, abandoned and feral cats in Canada – we need your data!

Please take the time to complete our national survey, which is open until July 31. Your input is critical to the success of this study! Click here to take part:

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact me at or (613) 224-8072 ext. 21.

Humane Canada gratefully acknowledges the financial support of The Summerlee Foundation, BC SPCA, Edmonton Humane Society, Toronto Humane Society and Winnipeg Humane Society in helping to fund our Cats in Canada research.