The Forgotten Felines. Why These Cat Breeds Get Overlooked at the Shelter

Introduction

Least adopted cats refer to those cat breeds and types that have a consistently lower rate of adoption at animal shelters compared to other cats. These cats often wait much longer to find forever homes. Understanding why certain cats are adopted less frequently is important for animal welfare. Identifying barriers to adoption for these cats can help shelters, rescue organizations and advocates develop strategies to increase adoption rates. This ensures all cats, regardless of age, appearance or health, have an equal chance at finding a loving home.

Statistics on Cat Adoption

According to the ASPCA, approximately 2.1 million cats are adopted from shelters each year in the United States (ASPCA). This represents about 25% of the 8.5 million cats that enter shelters annually.

The adoption rate for cats has remained relatively steady over the past few years. In 2022, 72% of cats that entered shelters were adopted, which was a 3 percentage point increase from 2021 (Shelter Animals Count).

Overall, cat adoption rates tend to be lower than dogs. According to the Zebra, roughly 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year in total, with cats representing about 2.1 million of those adoptions (The Zebra).

Reasons for Lower Adoption Rates

There are several common reasons why some cats get adopted less frequently than others. According to Faunalytics, cats can have a harder time adjusting to the shelter environment, which can make them seem less friendly and playful to potential adopters (https://faunalytics.org/10-reasons-dogs-cats-linger-shelters/). The Wildest notes that cats with chronic health issues like mobility problems may require more time, money, and care, leading some adopters to pass them over (https://www.thewildest.com/cat-lifestyle/adopt-a-less-adoptable-cat).

Specific factors that can make cats less adoptable include:

  • Age – Older cats are often overlooked for younger kittens.
  • Appearance – Cats with scars or other unusual physical traits.
  • Health issues – Cats with chronic conditions require more care.
  • Behavior – Shy, fearful, or less playful cats can be harder to adopt.

One of the most common reasons is coat color. For example, black cats tend to be adopted much less frequently because of superstitions that they are unlucky (https://saffordvets.com/reasons-to-adopt-a-less-adoptable-pet/).

Age

Age plays a significant role in cat adoption rates. According to a 2018 study published in Animals, older cats are much less likely to be adopted than kittens and young adult cats (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5867524/). The chance of adoption decreases significantly as the age of the cat increases. Kittens under 6 months have the highest rate of adoption, followed by young adult cats 1-3 years old. Cats over the age of 10 are often the last to be adopted.

Many potential adopters prefer kittens because they are cute, playful and can be more easily trained and socialized. Older cats are often overlooked due to misconceptions about health problems and difficulty bonding with a new family. However, adult and senior cats have a lot to offer families. They tend to be calmer, litter box trained, and their personalities are already well-formed so adopters know what they are getting (https://www.seattleareafelinerescue.org/age-and-your-cat-whats-in-a-number-2/). With some patience, even older cats can adapt and thrive in a new home.

Appearance

A cat’s appearance and breed can significantly influence their chances of being adopted from a shelter. Certain breeds and coat colors tend to be less popular and wait longer for a new home.

For example, black cats are often seen as unlucky and are adopted at much lower rates than other colors. According to the ASPCA, it takes black cats nearly four times as long to be adopted as other cats. https://www.aspca.org/adopt/adopt-cat-month

Senior cats, or those over 7 years old, also tend to wait longer for adoption. Their slower pace and more mellow temperaments are less attractive to adopters looking for a playful kitten. However, senior cats make excellent companions. Adopting an older cat can be extremely rewarding. https://www.petfinder.com/cat/adoption/senior-cat-adoption/

While appearance shouldn’t be the sole factor in selecting a new feline friend, it’s understandable that adopters are drawn to certain looks and breeds. But less popular cats often make the most loving companions for the right owner. Their adoption just requires a little more patience and effort.

Health Issues

Health issues are a major factor behind lower adoption rates for certain cats. Many cats in shelters come from difficult backgrounds like hoarding situations or living on the streets, which can lead to untreated medical conditions. According to The Top 7 Health Issues that Rescue Cats Experience, common health problems for rescue cats include upper respiratory infections, dental disease, flea infestations, ear mites, intestinal parasites, diabetes, and feline immunodeficiency virus.

Cats with chronic health issues often require more care, medication, vet visits, and expense. As a result, adopters may be hesitant to take on these additional responsibilities. For example, cats with diabetes need insulin injections and glucose monitoring. Older cats are more prone to diseases like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and cancer which can decrease their chances of adoption. Shelters and rescues may have limited resources to provide cats with needed medical treatment before adoption. Adopters should be prepared to properly care for any known health issues when considering adopting a cat with special needs.

According to a discussion on Reddit, some adopters felt shelters did not fully disclose a cat’s health conditions which led to unexpected vet bills and care. While transparency on health risks may further lower that cat’s adoption chances, clear communication allows the adopter to make an informed decision and properly plan for the cat’s needs after adoption.

Behavior

A cat’s behavior can significantly impact their chances of being adopted from a shelter. Shy, fearful, or anxious cats are often overlooked by potential adopters who want a friendly, outgoing cat (Source). These cats may hide in the back of their kennel, hiss or swat when approached, or seem withdrawn and uninterested in human interaction. According to one source, some common behavior issues seen in rescue cats include apprehension of strangers, aggression or isolation, inappropriate elimination, and not eating (Source).

While these behaviors are understandable given the stress of a shelter environment, they can put shy cats at a disadvantage for adoption. Adopters tend to gravitate toward cats that solicit attention and seem immediately friendly. Cats that are fearful or take time to warm up to new people and environments are often overlooked. However, with patience, proper introduction techniques, and adjustment time, many of these cats become wonderful, loving companions. Shelters and rescues can help improve adoption rates for shy cats by working on socialization and using marketing techniques that highlight the cat’s personality and potential once settled into a home.

Black Cats

Black cats face particular challenges when it comes to adoption compared to cats of other colors. There are several reasons why black cats are adopted at lower rates:

Superstitions and fear – There are many superstitions surrounding black cats, such as that they are bad luck or evil. This can make some people hesitant to adopt black cats.Binx’s Home for Black Cats

Harder to photograph – Black cats often don’t photograph well due to their dark fur. This can make it more difficult for rescues to market them for adoption online.Black Cat Rescue

Less visible in shelters – In dim shelter cages, black cats visually “disappear.” People may walk right by their enclosure without noticing them.Black Cat Holistic Rescue

Perceived as less friendly – Some people perceive black cats as less friendly or approachable. However, their personality does not correlate with coat color.

Lower visibility at night – Black cats’ dark coats camouflage them at night. This increases risks of accidents for free-roaming black cats.

With dedicated efforts by rescues and public education campaigns, the stigma surrounding black cats can be overcome. But they continue to be the most challenging group of cats to get adopted.

Steps to Increase Adoption Rates for Overlooked Cats

There are several steps that shelters and rescue organizations can take to increase adoption rates for cats that tend to get overlooked, such as senior cats, disabled cats, and black cats:

Promote their unique qualities – For example, market older cats as calm and relaxed, perfect for families with young children or seniors looking for a mellow companion. Emphasize their experience and wisdom.

Partner with local businesses – Ask pet stores, vet clinics, groomers, etc. to display flyers or info cards for harder-to-adopt cats. Offer discounts to adopters.

Photograph them in appealing settings – Get professional photos taken that showcase their personality. Avoid using crates or cage settings.

Foster to adopt programs – Allow potential adopters to foster the cat first to get to know their personality in a home.

Waive or reduce fees – Offer lower adoption fees or fee-waived promotions to incentivize choosing these cats.

Educate on myths – Dispel myths about cats with disabilities or being “bad luck.” Share facts on behavior and care.

Publicize successful adoptions – Collect and share success stories of adopted “underdogs” on social media and in newsletters.

Creative naming – Give them unique names that spark interest and make them stand out.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while black cats and senior cats may face lower adoption rates, all cats deserve a loving home. With education and advocacy, potential adopters can look past appearance and age to find the perfect feline companion. By supporting local shelters and rescues in their efforts to showcase overlooked cats, each of us can play a role in finding every cat a forever home. Though some cats face longer waits, we must continue to spread the message that they all bring value as part of a family. Their unique personalities shine through when given the chance. It is up to us to give all cats an equal opportunity to find where they belong.

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