The lack of pet-friendly rental housing is having an impact on cat rescue organizations in Chilliwack.
Local rescues are “drowning in cats” that have been surrendered by their owners, said Christy Moschopedis of FCM Community Cat Trappers. People are dropping them off at shelters or abandoning them.
Although Moschopedis’ organization does not have a shelter for cats – FCM focuses on TNRs (trap, neuter/spay, release) of feral cats – she works closely with local rescues to rehome friendly feral cats and kittens.
“Chilliwack rescues have seen a significant uptick in owner surrenders. Cats left on doorsteps of shelters. Dumped cats. Cats left behind,” she said.
Nearly 80 per cent of the cats in care at four cat rescues in Chilliwack are owner surrenders: ABC Cat Rescue (97 per cent), Chilliwack Animal Safe Haven (63 per cent), Chilliwack Community Animal Projects (100 per cent) and Forever Homes Cat Rescue (58 per cent).
Rescues want to help, but cat owners need to respect the organizations and the staff and volunteers who run them, Moschopedis said.
“Don’t contact rescues once you’re already moved out or you have to be out in hours. This is unfair to rescues. Lack of planning on an owner’s part should not constitute an emergency on rescuers’ part.”
Chloé MacBeth, branch manager with the Chilliwack SPCA, echoed Moschopedis’ message and added there are other reasons cats are being abandoned.
“It’s not just pet-friendly housing that’s the challenge, though that certainly is the most cited reason for surrender,” MacBeth said.
Those who impulsively bought pets during the pandemic are facing the realities of finding housing, dealing with behavioural issues and the expense of pet ownership.
There’s also the veterinary shortage issue which slows a cat’s movement through rescues.
When COVID restrictions came into effect, there was a marked increase in pet adoptions and purchases. This fuelled irresponsible breeding such as backyard breeding, and pet mills. Unscrupulous pet import ‘rescues’ (flippers) rushed to make money and meet the demand, MacBeth said.
“We are currently seeing the heartbreaking fallout of these unethical practices,” she said.
The SPCA and the rescues have waitlists for pet owners surrendering their animals since vulnerable pets – like cruelty investigation cases, street cats and animals that need urgent care – take priority. Roughly 90 percent of the animals on the SPCA waitlist are one to two years old.
Moschopedis said pet owners need to give rescues a lot of lead time before surrendering their animals.
“If you know that you’re going to need to move in the next month, call immediately to be put on a waitlist,” she said. “If you don’t end up needing your spot on that waitlist, great! They can move on to the next animal on that list.”
Moschopedis listed other things pet owners should do:
• Attempt to rehome yourself. Do not offer your animals “free to a good home.” Ask for a rehome fee. Find an adoption application online and ask people to fill it out. Be choosy about where your pet will go.
• See if you have a family member who might be able to take your animals. Offer to continue to support them financially if you’re able.
• Vet your animals. Have them to the vet for a check up. Make sure they are up to date medically. Provide the rescue with your animal’s vet records.
• Update your pet’s permanent ID (tattoo and/or microchip) once they’ve been rehomed. We often get animals whose ID is registered to a previous owner.
• Don’t contact rescues once you’re already moved out or you have to be out in hours. This is unfair to rescues. Lack of planning on an owner’s part should not constitute an emergency on rescuers’ part.
MacBeth listed the current top six reasons why owners are surrendering their pets: they already have too many animals, housing related, unwanted litter, life change (hospitalization), no time, and can’t afford veterinary care.
“We have had animals abandoned at our gates which is super frustrating since it forces our already-stretched resources beyond our capacity,” MacBeth said. “This is an industry that already faces tremendous challenges of burnout and compassion fatigue. Managed intakes allow us to provide higher levels of care, to both animals and our team.”