• A surge in unwanted cats prompts urgent pleas to adopt and desex

    April 6, 2024


    Saturday 6 April 2024: Animal advocates are urging people to choose adoption and desexing when looking for a new pet as the recent surge in unwanted pets surrendered, significantly increasing the number of stray cats in Australia.

    Two kittens on orange blanket for Animal Friendly Life article on CANA calls for owners to desex and adopt amid crisis of stray cats in Australia


    Global research reveals staggering number of stray pets around the world: read now to see which countries have the highest number 

    Australian animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia (Australia CAN or 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,” says Trish Ennis, CEO of Australia CAN.

    “(this is) intensifying the stress they are already experiencing.

    “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.”

    Significant increase in number of cats and kittens in shelters 

    According to the data from the five members of Australian animal welfare charity CAN, year-to-date statistics in February show a 48% increase in cat and kitten surrenders. The increase is comparable to the same period last year.

    In Feb 2024 alone, 42% of cats surrenders were due to “no longer being wanted”. An overwhelming 84% of those relate to kittens.

    Other reasons for surrenders that month include financial (11.7%), owner medical (10%), renting issues (8%), and change in circumstances (6%).

    Nationwide crisis

    The recent spike in surrenders has led to many shelters and pounds overflowing.

    The Animal Welfare League Queensland is one of those currently over capacity. The shelter can now only accept cats and kittens on a case-by-case basis.

    It’s a similar situation for the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home (SDCH). The group is receiving an average of 17 kittens per week.

    “Cats are able to have around 180 kittens in their life, and can start reproducing as young as four months,” says SDCH’s Melissa Penn.

    “Cat populations get out of control very quickly.

    “Without enough homes wanting to take them, they end up in shelters – if they are lucky.”

    Sue Hedley OAM of SAFE in Western Australia says the numbers are devastating. Adding the crisis is taking a toll on veterinarians, council rangers, and those who have to euthanise friendly and healthy cats.

    “As a society, this toll is heavier now than it was when I founded SAFE 21 years ago,” she says.

    → To further help ease the population, SAFE Inc continues to help owners by desexing kittens and cats.


    Stray cat blind in one eye for Animal Friendly Life's article on Australian animal welfare charity pleas as statistics reveal high number of cats and kittens in shelters
    The high number of stray cats in Australia has led to many injuries and diseases amongst the unwanted pets (image supplied)


    The five member organisations of CAN 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).

    The sixth member group, Dogs’ Homes of Tasmania only rescues dogs.

    Desexing and adoption help save lives

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

    “Unwanted litters places 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 helps shelters by freeing up space to accommodate more animals in need.

    “Adopting is a highly ethical alternative to purchasing one from a pet store or breeder,” says Ennis.

    “It is a great way to improve the life of the pet, and owners get to experience the proven benefits of caring for an animal in need.”

    With the theme ‘Sweeter than any-bunny,’ AWLQ is making it more affordable to adopt a pet. There’s now heavily discounted prices for adult cats (and dogs) in a mission to rehome as many animals as possible.

    “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,” said Caroline Esera, AWLQ Marketing and Communications Manager.

    “We encourage people to consider adopting a sweet forever feline.

    “Because when you adopt a shelter cat, you’re actually saving two lives.

    “The pet you adopt and the next homeless animal you help make room for.”

    If you are unable to adopt a pet, consider fostering to provide temporary care for shelter cats (and dogs). Contact your nearest Australia CAN member for more information.

    Show support to your local Australian animal welfare charity

    Animal lovers can also show their support for their local Australian animal welfare charity in other ways. Volunteering, donating, or leaving a gift in their will or trust are other options to help.

    Many companies also have Workplace Giving programs. These are a great way for companies to support the animal welfare charities their employees care about.

    Ennis says supporting animal welfare organisations significantly helps desexing programs, education initiatives, and advocacy work.

    “(the support assists) reducing the suffering of animals and promoting responsible pet ownership” she says.

    “Together Australia CAN members have more than 300 years of 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.”

    Animal lovers can find out more or offer direct support to Australia CAN on their website.

    If you’re a pet owner, low cost desexing may be available through AWLQ’s National Desexing Network.


    The Petstock Foundation’s National Pet Adoption Month turns 10


    Global research reveals how many stray animals are on the streets

    NSW Government urges prospective owners to adopt a shelter pet this Christmas