CANA calls for desexing, adoption and support amid surge in surrender of unwanted cats

National animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia (CANA) is advocating for desexing, adoption and support amid a surge in surrenders of kitten and cats that are ‘no longer wanted’.

“We are seeing a large spike in cats and kittens being relinquished to our member shelters around the country, intensifying the stress they are already experiencing,” Trish Ennis, CEO of Australia CAN said.

“The increase in the numbers of unwanted kittens is a result of cats breeding all year round due to warmer weather. We are urging people to desex their pets, consider adoption and support animal welfare charities so they can continue to help save lives.”

CANA members that rescue cats and companion animals are Sydney Dogs and Cats Home (NSW), Animal Welfare League Queensland (AWLQ), Animal Welfare League South Australia (AWL SA), Saving Animals From Euthanasia (SAFE) Inc (WA) and Lort Smith Animal Hospital (Vic). (Member Dogs’ Homes of Tasmania only rescues dogs.)

According to data consolidated from the five members of Australia CAN for YTD February 2024, there’s already a 48 per cent increase in cat and kitten surrenders nationally compared to the same period last year. 

In Feb 2024 alone, 42 per cent of cats surrendered to the five members were due to “no longer being wanted” – with 84 per cent relating to kittens. Other reasons for surrender that month include financial (11.7 per cent), owner medical (10 per cent), renting issues (eight per cent) and change in circumstances (six per cent). 

AWLQ is currently over capacity with cat surrenders and only accepting cats and kittens on a case-by-case basis.

In NSW, Sydney Dogs and Cats Home (SDCH) received 220 kittens between December 2023 and February 2024 – averaging 17 kittens per week, Melissa Penn, Managing Director of SDCH said.

“Female cats are able to have around 180 kittens in their life, and they can start reproducing from as young as four months old. Cat populations get out of control very quickly, and without enough homes wanting to take them, they end up in shelters – if they are lucky!” she said.

In WA, SAFE Inc Founder Sue Hedley OAM said it’s devastating for veterinarians, council rangers, SAFE and other animal rescue services to have to euthanise friendly cats.

“As a society, this toll is heavier now than it was when I founded SAFE 21 years ago,” she said. “If we all take proactive measures, like being vigilant with homeless cats and kittens ensuring they reach rescue services for desexing and rehoming, it is bound to yield a positive impact. SAFE Inc is committed to assisting in the desexing of owned female cats as part of our collective effort to tackle the issue of overpopulation.”

The number of cats and kittens ending up in shelters sends a strong message about the importance of desexing, Ennis said.  

“Unwanted litters place significant strain on rescue organisations and shelters, many of which are already operating at full capacity and unable to accommodate all animals in need,” she said. “The most effective method to curb the overpopulation of stray cats (and dogs) is through desexing.”

Pet adoption also directly helps animal welfare charities by freeing up space to accommodate more animals in need. 

“Our priority is to find loving homes for all our current adult cats (and dogs) in order to continue our promise to take on other animals requiring our help,” Caroline Esera, AWLQ Marketing and Communications Manager, said. “We encourage people to consider adopting a sweet forever feline. Because when you adopt a shelter cat, you’re saving two lives: the pet you adopt and the next homeless animal you help make room for.”

Animal lovers can also support animal welfare organisations by volunteering, donating or leaving a gift in their will or trust. Workplace Giving is also a great way for companies to support the animal welfare charities their employees care about.

“Together Australia CAN members have more than 300 years of combined experience in caring for animals in need! Our members provide rescue, shelter, rehoming, foster care, health and enrichment to more than 50,000 animals every year!” Ennis said. “Supporting animal welfare organisations aid in the implementation of spay and neuter programs, education initiatives and advocacy efforts at reducing the suffering of animals and promoting responsible pet ownership.”

Support the direct care of CANA member agencies at

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