ARTS Senior Animal Rescue 'drowning in cats' forced to shut doors to felines

An animal rescue program that finds homes for older cats and dogs in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer says it has been flooded with so many felines that it's been forced to close its doors to them.

Group deluged by 'staggering' number of owners wanting to drop off cats in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer

Nemo is just one of more than a dozen senior cats available for adoption at ARTS. (ARTS)

An animal rescue program that finds homes for older cats and dogs in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer says it has been flooded with so many felines that it's been forced to close its doors to them.

ARTS Senior Animal Rescue's foster-to-adoption program focuses primarily on rescuing senior dogs (eight years old and up) and cats (10 years old and up).

Jani Painter, co-ordinator of the program operated by ARTS (Animal Rescue Transfer Society), says applications to surrender cats to their organization are "staggering," while adoptions remain infrequent. 

"We're finding ourselves drowning in cats much like every other rescue here in Alberta right now," she said.

"We have people waiting well over a year and a half to get in to our rescue with their cats for owner surrenders, and it's just getting to be so overwhelming that we've had to put it on pause."

Painter says the primary reason given by owners surrendering their cats is litter box issues. 

"Honestly, at a lot of the times you see a cat going in to the vet at the beginning of their life for their spay or neuter and their shots, and then a lot of times they're not doing that again in their life," she said. 

"And then they hit seniors [age] and all of a sudden they're peeing outside of their litter box, and more often than not it's a medical issue, and people aren't always willing to deal with that."

When this happens, Painter says, it breaks her heart. 

"It's the whole 'not my problem' mentality that some people have with their animals," she said. "So disappointing sometimes."

It'll be awhile before the rescue is able to begin accepting cats again, according to Painter. 

"It's hard to put a number on how many it would take to reopen our doors, but if we could get everybody that's waiting right now adopted, that would be amazing," she said. "We have one cat that's been waiting a year and a half for a home."

Tips for cats that stop using the litter box

For anyone whose cat is starting to urinate outside of their litter boxes, the agency has a few tips.

The best thing to do is go see your vet

"This is your cat's way of saying 'something is wrong,' ARTS said in a post online. 

If there is no medical issue, here are some of the products ARTS uses to help with this issue:

  • Cat Attract Litter.
  • Cat Attract Litter additive.
  • Feliway diffuser.
  • Feliway spray.
  • Calming collars.

"These products in combination with your vet or a behaviourist can more often than not solve the problem," Painter said.

Sally Johnston, team lead for admissions and fostering at the Calgary Humane Society, says for them, senior cats aren't as much of an issue. They do see higher intakes in the summer of both puppies and kittens. 

"But certainly we won't stop taking them in," she said. 

Johnston says they also often hear from people or families surrendering pets because of house soiling issues.

She echoes the advice from ARTS on that. 

"Take them to a vet," she said. "It could be medical."


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