A warm spring led to a boom in Toronto's cat population and now more of them than usual are roaming the streets, pushing the city's animal shelters over capacity.
As many as 300,000 cats are on Toronto's streets, said Barbara Steinhoff with the Toronto Humane Society. In a given year there are between 100,000 and 300,000 cats without homes and this year it's at the extreme high end of that range, she said.
"Through the spring and summer, with the warm weather, the cats had one more birthing period than we would normally see," she said.
"So we saw a huge influx of kittens coming into the shelter over the summer period."
The city's shelters are full — but still accepting dozens more cats each day — and so are foster homes.
Two Toronto shelters are slashing adoption fees to try to encourage more people to give a cat a home.
The Humane Society is cutting its price, which ranges from $60 to $120, in half during November and Toronto Animal Services is dropping its fee from $75 to $25 for the first four days of the month.
The latter promotion, which also ran for three days in October, has helped create room for more cats in the city's four shelters, said Mary Lou Leiher of Toronto Animal Services.
Awareness, and not necessarily more shelters, will help decrease the number of homeless cats in Toronto, said Leiher.
"Building more shelters is almost like a Band-Aid," Leiher said. "We really need to focus on our education programs so that people are spaying and neutering their cat and keeping them supervised."
Other programs saw $5 discounts for the adoption of black or orange cats in anticipation of Halloween, while June was adopt-a-shelter-cat month for Animal Services, which typically offers four cat adoption initiatives a year.
And in May 2010, both Animal Services and the Humane Society helped form a 10-organization partnership called the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition.
The volunteer-run coalition practices a trap-neuter-return approach, which humanely captures, neuters and immunizes feral and homeless cats before returning them to their colonies.
The method is used worldwide, and an Italian study of the approach from 2006 discovered it decreased feral colony sizes by up to 32 per cent after six years of trap-neuter-return implementation.
The study, however, echoed Leiher's call for education, pointing out that the number of abandoned, unneutered domestic cats often offset any reductions in colony size.
"This suggests," the study reads, "that all these efforts without an effective education of people to control the reproduction of house cats (as a prevention for abandonment) are a waste of money, time and energy."