This week AmPA!, NACA, and others released recommendations on the intake of felines during the COVID pandemic. Amongst those are the following recommendations, which we believe are in the best interest for cats:
1. As we all gear up to be short-staffed, many of us are working to reduce our on-site population. In addition to sending cats and dogs into foster homes, reducing intake to only shelter in injured or ill animals. Slowing the flow of healthy outdoor cats is essential to a reduction of intake, especially as we head into kitten season. In order to save the most lives possible, we must be proactive and humanely reduce our sheltered feline population now.
2. Healthy stray and free-roaming cats are at no risk of euthanasia in their current outdoor home, but they become at risk the second they enter our nation's animal sheltering system. Particularly prone to stress and illness, we definitively know that shelters make cats sick. Reducing the workload on dwindling shelter personnel will become essential, saving both human and medical resources for critical and emergency animals who must be taken in for shelter. In times of crisis, cats are particularly vulnerable inside our nation's animal shelters. Cats are often the first to be euthanized during space crises, disease outbreaks, and throughout history, in times of pandemics. Again, healthy free-roaming cats are at no risk of this in their current habitats--keep cats happy, healthy, and safe in their existing outdoor homes.
3. TNR, while an essential component of the lifesaving animal sheltering, is not an emergency service, and can be temporarily suspended without catastrophic effect to future intake projections. Running a high volume spay/neuter clinic, as many TNR service providers do, is likely to bring greater foot-traffic through an organization's medical clinic than is currently advised via social distancing recommendations. One client infecting a shelter's medical clinic staff could be catastrophic when the DVMs, techs, and medical personnel are quarantined and no longer able to provide critical and emergency medical care to urgent pets in need. Additionally, many areas, and even entire states, are now asking dentists and veterinarians to postpone all non-emergency surgeries in order to preserve medical supplies.
4. We encourage organizations to quickly return-to-field any cats who are currently sheltered and awaiting SNR/RTF services. If your organization has not yet implemented SNR, we encourage you to use COVID as the launching pad. Automatically intaking and sheltering healthy free-roaming cats is no longer accepted as best practice. If the COVID pandemic stems your flow of healthy cats coming in, use this time to demonstrate to your stakeholders how progressive, lifesaving communities embrace this species-appropriate, lifesaving methodology year-round.
It is important to remember that cats have been surviving and thriving in their outdoor homes, exactly as they are built today, for over 12-million years. The above recommendations call for shelter workers to embrace the unique needs of this species and accept that, right now, healthy free-roaming cats are at less risk in their existing habitat than they would be entering our shelters during the COVID crisis.
In addition to the above recommendations, we encourage you to use our AmPA! COVID-19 Animal Shelter Preparedness Guide to give Good Samaritans the tools they need to reunite lost cats with possible owners as well as find new homes for owned cats they may need to surrender.
Animal shelters should continue to accept sick and injured cats, and AmPA! has a host of protocols and recommendations to get these cats into foster homes immediately. The best place for a healthy community cat is in her existing home. The second best place is in a foster home. The worst place for her right now is inside an animal shelter.