In Perspective: From Cameron Moore, the Program Manager for Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida

“Many community members are under the belief that any outdoor cat they see is lost and in need of rescue, when in fact they may be absolutely fine. These are people’s owned pets that are allowed outside or they are community cats who often have several caretakers. For many years, animal welfare professionals have trained the public that if you see it outside, rush it to the shelter and now we know this isn’t actually the answer. It is going to take time to retrain the public.

When we bring cats into the shelter we are stressing them out, exposing them to infectious disease, sometimes making them sick, and for the ones who get adopted or transferred to rescue, we are taking them away from a family who already cared for them. Additionally, by placing them in a house, we are taking up a resource that could be used by a cat who truly needed an indoor home (i.e., one whose owner died, one who was abandoned in a home or at a vet clinic, those from a hoarding case, etc).

Ironically when we adopt out a cat who was basically taken from its outdoor home and was doing fine, it may very well be going into a new home where the new guardian is likely to let the cat outside and the cycle continues given that about half of American cat guardians let their cats outside.

Just because cats are outside does not mean they need to be rescued. Yes, shelters should be available for sick and injured animals. We also believe that kittens should be on a path to adoption – but even that doesn’t necessarily mean taking them into the shelter. A kitten diversion program where we support the finder with medical care and an adoption outlet is a much healthier and better route for the kittens.

15 years ago, I totally thought that the shelter was the answer and that every animal I came across needed to be saved. Over the years, though, I’ve learned that we should do things differently that actually helps people and pets in a better way. It’s not about turning them away or ignoring them, it’s about providing the actual help they need and solving the problem outside of the shelter.”