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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Million Cat Challenge reaches halfway milestone earlier than predicted

BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE
BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE

The five-year challenge was launched by researchers at UC Davis and University of Florida

On April 11, Million Cat Challenge, a campaign to save one million cats in a period of five years, reached its halfway point by saving the lives of over 500,000 shelter cats across the nation.

Founded in 2014 by researchers at UC Davis and University of Florida, the Million Cat Challenge teamed up with shelters from across the U.S. The halfway celebration in April indicated that the mission was ahead of schedule, with only two years passing since the initiative was launched.

Kate Hurley of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program and Julie Levy of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida joined efforts to launch the program in response to the hundreds of thousands of feline lives taken by euthanasia as well as the emotional and economic toll this takes on the shelters. The project aims to save the cats by reducing the use of euthanasia and increasing the chance for adoption.

“Historically, cats had been euthanized at a much higher rate than dogs, but we saw there were a few outlier shelters that were really succeeding for cats,” Levy said. “When we saw what they were doing and we saw how much other shelters wanted to do better for cats, it seemed like the right time to put those great ideas together with the shelters that wanted change.”

Hurley and Levy work with animal shelters across America to help them implement the campaign’s five key initiatives: alternatives to intake, managed admission, capacity for care, removing barriers to adoption and return to field. These initiatives target barriers, such as cost, adoption location and shelter resources, that often limit the live releases of shelter cats.

“We’ve learned to design better facilities, optimize operations and market adoptable pets and services more creatively,” Hurley said in a press release. “Most importantly, we’ve found new ways to engage the community as our partner in life saving.”

The Million Cat Challenge is sponsored by Maddie’s Fund, a foundation that awards grants for increased community lifesaving, shelter medicine education and pet adoptions across the U.S.

“The lifesaving work of the Million Cat Challenge and the mind-shift they are creating is extraordinary,” said Amy Zeifang, Maddie’s Fund board chair. “Through the efforts of their participants, more than 500,000 lives have been saved so far, with the goal of one million — or more — clearly in sight.”

On April 11, the project’s Facebook page celebrated the Million Cat Counter reaching 500,000 with a video of a cat and confetti to thank the participants of the challenge.

“We’ve reached a tipping point; nobody wants to turn back now,” Hurley said in a press release. “Shelters now have strategies that are more humane, are more effective and better serve cats and communities. These strategies really work, and on April 11, we’ll have 500,000 witnesses to prove it.”

Written by: Lindsay Floyd – campus@theaggie.org

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