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Put mildly, 2009 was a bad year for cats in Anderson County.
While overall euthanasia rates at the Anderson Humane Society were down nearly 14 percent, the number of cats euthanized jumped 24 percent from 2008, according to statistics from the organization.
“We have tried to figure out why the cat statistics were so bad last year,” said Sandy Kiser, secretary on the local Humane Society’s board of directors. “But honestly, we just haven’t been able to come up with an explanation besides the fact that the general perception is that dogs are better pets.
“Cat owners, of course, know that isn’t true.”
2009 was the first year out of the last nine where the number of cats euthanized exceeded the number of dogs put down.
“This seems to be the same pattern at shelters across the country,” Kiser said.
Of the 1,032 animals taken in at the humane society, just over half — 51 percent — were adopted. However, 38 percent were euthanized and 11 percent were returned to their owners.
While 108 dogs were returned to their owners in 2009, only seven cats were returned home.
“The majority of cats are simply strays that never had a home, or who have a home but live outside,” Kiser said. “A lot of people who adopt cats simply lose patience when they don’t use the litter box or when they scratch furniture, and it is easy to just sit them out on the porch and have them become an outside cat.”
However, outside cats frequently end up at animal shelters, she said.
“Unfortunately, when they scratch in the neighbor’s garden or leave paw prints on their vehicles, they end up at the shelter instead.”
The end result is too many cats living outside — most of which have not been fixed, which leads to even more cats, Kiser said.
“People find it easy to make an inside cat into an outside cat, but they just tend not to do this as often with dogs,” she said.
The number of cats adopted in 2009 was down nearly 10 percent from 2008, as well.
Cats seem to be less adoptable than dogs, Kiser said.
“This is typically the case at animal shelters across the United States,” she said. “Most likely because most people consider the dog to be ‘man’s best friend.’”
Kiser said dogs are more frequently adopted because families can take them places — vacation, jogging or out on the farm, for example.
Also, some dogs, like collies and cattle dogs, serve two purposes — they are pets, but are also workers on the farm, Kiser said.
Still, there is a silver lining in the 2009 statistics: Total intake for the year was down just over 8 percent.
“We hope that this is a result of our spay/neuter fund,” Kiser said. “Since 2005, the humane society has spent over $55,000 have over 1,500 animals fixed. All of this money came from fundraisers and grants.
“Every animal we have fixed means another litter of puppies or kittens that will not end up at the shelter because their owner could not find homes for them. Even if we find homes for all the animals entering the shelter, the cycle will continue as long as there are unwanted puppies and kittens being born.
“Spay and neuter is the answer to decreasing the intake and euthanasia rates.”
The humane society provides many opportunities for community members to help, Kiser said.
“Those who have time can help with adoption events and at the adoption center,” she said. “Contributions to the veterinary fund and the spay/neuter fund are always welcome. Donations of supplies are very much appreciated.”
Adoption is one obvious answer, but foster homes are also always needed, Kiser said.
If taking a pet into your home isn’t an option, sponsoring a pet could be. Citizens can donate toward a pet’s adoption fee.
“[It’s] usually around $20 or so,” Kiser said. “This lowers the adoption fee and helps the pet get adopted faster.”
Volunteers are also needed to help train pets or socialize animals at the shelter.
The first step toward adopting a pet is to visit the adoption center at 1410 Versailles Road or go to the website www.andersonky.petfinder.com.
Step two is filling out an adoption application.
All animals have to be fixed and get their vaccinations before going home with their adoptive parents, but that usually only takes a couple of days, Kiser said.
“Because there are more people having their animals fixed through our program, there are less unwanted animals being born,” Kiser said. “The more animals that are fixed, the less intake we will have, and the adoption percentage will increase.”
E-mail Shannon Brock at email@example.com.