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SLO County Animal Services moving away from taking in healthy stray cats

stray cats
Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels
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The SLO County Public Health Department says there is no substantial benefit in bringing healthy stray cats into shelters.

San Luis Obispo County Animal Services is moving away from taking in stray cats that seem to be healthy and surviving well outdoors.

Eric Anderson is the Animal Services Manager for San Luis Obispo County. He said the department has been bringing in stray cats to the shelter for decades.

But, Anderson said, the number of cats coming into shelters across the state has continued to increase despite efforts to spay, neuter and return cats to their original homes.

“Really once a cat comes into the shelter, it’s not going back home to its owners," Anderson said. "And the reclaim rate for cats is really low.”

Anderson said this leads to overpopulation and unnecessary euthanasia in shelters. He said, more often than not, bringing healthy, stray cats from the community into the shelter, is not in their best interest.

“There really is no place to put those cats either. When they come into the shelter, their temperament precludes them from being adopted into a home," Anderson said. "They have been living alone and wild so long that they can’t be quality pets and [there] is virtually no other option other than euthanasia.”

Anderson said there are other options for stray cats that both manage the wild population and keeps them from being unnecessarily killed in shelters.

“What we would rather see people doing with those community cats is trapping them, altering them — getting them spayed and neutered so they can’t reproduce and create population growth — but putting them right back where they came from,” Anderson said.

He said Animal Services will still take cats that are sick, injured or clearly abandoned.

He said if residents are having problems with stray cats around their home, there are a number of deterrent strategies that can be implemented to keep them away.

“They probably are coming around because there is something there that’s attracting them," Anderson said. "If you’re putting food out for them or food out for other animals, just stop and they will move on to the next spot.”

Residents can also remove comfortable outdoor bedding areas and plant more thorny bushes to keep cats away.

Anderson said there are studies that show stray cats do have impacts on bird populations. But, he said, even if shelters practice large-scale intake and euthanasia of stray cats, it doesn't substantially impact the total number of cats in the greater community.

Anderson said, so far, this new strategy is contributing to a 97 percent live outcome rate. This means 97 percent of the animals that come into the shelter go back home to their owner, get adopted to a new family or are given over to a rescue group.

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Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020 and now reports daily for KCBX News. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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