Adoptions are up, euthanasia is down and the number of homeless pets in Canada's animal shelters is lower, according to a report by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.
Overall, there were more than 82,000 cats and 35,000 dogs taken into Canadian shelters in 2015, according to a report released by the organization last week.
Barbara Cartwright, the CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, said the country's shelter system has taken a more proactive approach to reducing numbers of homeless cats and dogs.
"In the past it was reactive, taking the animals in as fast as you can and turn them out as fast as you can," Cartwright said.
The charity collected 2015 data by sending out surveys to 170 humane societies and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelters across the country and 89 of those responded.
Cartwright said this is a typical response rate. Usually 85 to 100 shelters report back each year.
"We are comfortable with year-over-year comparisons because it's around the same number of respondents every year," Cartwright said, adding they can correct for it by comparing rates.
But, the report said, the data represents "only a fraction of homeless companion animals in Canada."
It doesn't capture private shelters, rescue and foster groups and municipal animal shelters.
Still, it's the only comprehensive study of the country's animal shelter system, Cartwright said.
Things are slowly improving for the nation's homeless cats, according to the report.
"While the proportion of stray dogs remained the same, the proportion of cats taken in as stray has been declining in recent years," the report said.
The report cites "intake management" as one of the reasons for fewer cats in shelters.
"Rather than accepting any surrendered cat at any time, appointments are scheduled to take in surrendered cats when the shelter's capacity permits in," the report reads.
"It is now understood to be a better practice to allow healthy, unowned outdoor cats to remain in their home location where they are thriving."
And, the report said, more than 90 per cent of shelters say they don't allow an animal to leave its care without being spayed our neutered — more than 58,000 cats and dogs in 2015 — to help control the pet population.
Adoption rates are up with 48 per cent of dogs and 57 per cent of cats adopted in 2015 — the highest level observed for cats in the two decades the charity has been collecting data.
Shelters are transferring pets to other shelters and rescue organizations as a way to increase adoption.
And "there is an increasing trend in the proportion of stray cats who are reclaimed," the report said. "These observations inspire a sense of optimism that the message to provide identification for cats is reaching more of the public."
There are fewer animals being killed at shelters.
Euthanasia rates for cats were down: 21 per cent of cats taken in were destroyed in 2015, down from 27 per cent the year before and 54 per cent in 2008.
Cartwright said there appears to be a correlation to limiting the number of cats taken in with euthanasia rates.
"We see high euthanasia rates when a whole bunch of cats get together in a shelter, they get stressed and get diseases and they end up being euthanized," she said.
Euthanasia rates for dogs increased slightly in 2015 from the year before to more than 10 per cent of dogs taken in.
Overall, 15,341 cats and 2,820 dogs were euthanized last year.
While the news is good, Cartwright said, much more needs to be done.
But cats can look to dogs for success.
"We definitely treat cats differently than dogs," Cartwright said. "They tend to go to the vet less, they are very rarely microchipped, collared or identified in some way so they can get back home — they roam at large and it takes a while for owners, in general, to look for cats, compared to dogs."
"We have a much looser ethic with cats and that needs to shift."
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press