Few can honestly say their heart strings aren't tugged after seeing commercials encouraging adoptions from animal shelters. The sight of dejected cats and dogs behind cages, possibly waiting to be put to sleep, is a powerful image. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) there are about 93.6 million pet cats in the country, and approximately 33 percent of households have at least one cat. Obviously, the playful feline is a widely beloved companion. But if you're thinking about becoming a cat owner, you may be deliberating whether to adopt one from a shelter or buy one from a breeder.
It's important to remember that 93.6 million is just the number of cats in the country that are owned and accounted for. While no one can accurately guess with any certainty how many stray cats are out there, the estimates about the number of cats euthanized in shelters each year reach the millions. In fact, only about 2 to 5 percent of cats entering shelters are later reclaimed by owners (as compared to about 30 percent of dogs who are reclaimed), according to HSUS.
That there are millions of cats euthanized each year is evidence to many that there is a feline overpopulation problem. Because of this, many cat enthusiasts and societies like to encourage prospective cat owners to consider adoption from an animal shelter in order to save a cat's life. They also point to instances of animal mistreatment in "puppy mills" or "kitten mills" -- breeding facilities that are accused of putting profit over ethics. Some say buying cats instead of adopting them merely encourages abuse and contributes to the overpopulation problem.
Despite good intentions, some remain wary of adopting a cat from a shelter. They worry that cats with mysterious backgrounds could have health or behavioral issues. In addition, many prefer pedigreed cats, which would be hard to find in a shelter.
We spoke with the Humane Society of the United States as well as the Cat Fanciers' Association for their perspectives. On the next page, we'll discuss what they said.