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More cats surrendered to shelters as owners feel the pinch of inflation | CBC News


Animal rescuers say more cat owners than ever are surrendering their pets because of the high cost of living. 

Many people opted to adopt a pet as a way to deal with boredom and loneliness during pandemic lockdowns. But after food and housing costs saw a steep incline due to inflation, some have had to choose between covering vet bills or paying their rent.

It’s led to record-level calls to London groups offering rehoming services for cats who say they’re caught in a holding pattern as adoption rates take a dip for the same reason. 

“This is the worst,” said Bonnie Smith, who runs Salt Rescue and has worked in the sector for 30 years. “I’ve never felt defeated, because I always think that there is a way. Now, it just seems that we are defeated because we can’t provide for all the animals that are needing help.” 

Inflation has at last shown some signs of cooling this summer. However the cost of food continues to increase at a pace of more than nine per cent, and Statistics Canada says Canada’s overall rent has increased by 5.8 per cent in the past year. 

Meanwhile veterinarians charge anywhere from $500 to $800 to neuter or spay a cat on top of the cost of vaccinations, litter, supplies and nutritious food. 

Salt Rescue currently has more than 150 cats looking for new homes. They’re getting between 70 to 100 phone calls a day from people looking to give up their cat to its fostering program. Other pet owners are calling about dogs. Volunteers are run off their feet, with some putting in 10 to 14 hour days to meet demand, Smith said. 

The problem is fuelled by people giving away kittens privately or selling them for cheap to others who eventually come to realize they can’t financially maintain the health of the animal, creating what Smith calls “a vicious cycle.” 

“Very emotionally draining” 

A large portion of calls to rescues come from people living in rural areas, where people from the city tend to dump their cat thinking it can survive in the wild solely off of instinct. 

“They’re not equipped to live outside because they’re used to being a house cat,” said Emily Birkner, fundraising and social media coordinator for Purrfect Haven Cat Rescue. 

An adorable kitten in a cone.
Lots of cats are coming to shelters needing vaccinations and fixing, rescuers say. They will likely have sustained injuries from having been dumped in the wilderness. (Submitted by Emily Birkner)

“These cats are injured by coyotes. They’re getting very sick out there. They’re starving. It’s extremely sad and it’s been a very emotionally draining time for us because we’re seeing such an uptick in these illnesses and these injuries and we can only take in so many. We have to turn people away and it’s heartbreaking.” 

Rescues like Purrfect Haven and Salt largely rely on donations and fundraising to rehabilitate cats before finding them a new home. Those sources are dwindling as people have less money to spare while paying for their own groceries, both organizations said. 

The Humane Society London and Middlesex is also at capacity, said Executive Director Steve Ryall. The organization is fundraising to add another shelter, and looks to its volunteer fosters to fill the gaps in the short term. 

“Community members are finding it difficult to keep their animals because they’re not able to afford the care they require,” he said. 

There are some alternatives to surrendering. Pet owners can contact the humane society to learn more about local pet food banks, and those looking to help can make donations to all area shelters.


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