Million Cat Countdown 2016

April 1, 2016

Dear Million Cat Challengers and Supporters,

Hi and welcome to our first annual, annual update! This year Julie led the charge on data collection while I got the fun and fortunate task of writing this letter to all of you. As we’ve watched the data roll in, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to say on our behalf. Most of it involves capital letters, emojis and exclamation points.

The first thing we want to say is simply, WOW!!!

wow with unicorn
The shelters in the Million Cat Challenge cared for a stunning 778,135 cats last year. We now have 365 participating shelters in 48 states and 6 Canadian provinces. The Challenge spans 5,237 miles and six time zones from Maui Humane Society in Hawaii to Prince Edward Island Humane Society off Canada’s eastern coast.

According to The Google, it would take a fun, winding 81 hours to drive the 4,998 miles from our southernmost Challenger, Miami-Dade Animal Services, all the way up to Matanuska-Susitna Borough Animal Shelter perched at a chilly 61 degrees North in Alaska.

On the way, you would pass Challenger shelters of every size and type, urban and rural, public and private, in shabby old buildings and fancy new buildings and everything in between. You’d meet shelter staff who care for just a few dozen cats a year and those that shelter tens of thousands of cats annually. The one thing they’d all have in common would be the goal of saving a million cats, one cat at a time.

Road trip anyone?

road trip

The next thing we want to say is, WAY TO GO!!!!!!

way to go emoji with white background

Million Cat Challenge shelters have not only been thinking outside the box, you’ve busted the box wide open. The box will never be the same, and we’re all better off for it! You’ve exercised all your creativity, common sense and courage to find new ways to keep cats safely out of your shelters, provide them with great care while they’re with you, and speed them on their way out the door alive.
Luckily, y’all have ignored the advice of this undermining cat!

in box

I spent this morning calculating how all your efforts played out in the data we’ve collected so far and the results have me grinning like a fool. Imagine what this means: 112,905 fewer cats came through the doors of Million Cat Challenge shelters in 2015 compared to 2012.

That’s not just 112,905 cats who bypassed a stressful and potentially dangerous trip through the shelter. That’s a whole lot of resources that didn’t have to go towards sheltering those cats, leaving more for the animals that still needed your care. In the process, you gave your community members a chance to step up and be their best selves. Again and again, we heard how they surprised you by their willingness to be your partner in solving problems and saving lives.

Decreasing intake was only part of the picture last year. Some of you knocked it out of the park by focusing on the live release side of the equation, and many of you did both. Between all of you, 130,181 more cats were released alive last year than from the same shelters in 2012. With fewer barriers to live release, that number included rickety old cats as well as glossy young cats, feral cats and friendly cats, FIV+ cats, naughty cats, and fat, blind foster cats named Butters (well, at least one who is shacked up at my place right now).

That’s a veritable army of sterilized, vaccinated cats filling homes and communities across the country. Hopefully they will continue to use their power for good out there 😉

power for good

Intake down, live release up…what more could a Million Cat Challenger want? Capacity for Care, of course! A growing number of you found the resources and wherewithal to ensure humane care for every cat in your shelter. It seemed like every other week we heard from another shelter that took the bold leap of portalizing their cages, trusting that better housing and lower stress would allow just as many cats to be saved for over time.

Imagine our surprise and delight when we heard from some who found that things were going so well, their newly portalized super-deluxe cat suites were sitting empty because cats were flying out the door so quickly! I still cherish one such email that opened with the line, “No, this is not a cruel joke. We are looking for transfer partners who have young cats and kittens who are healthy and friendly that you would like to transport to us.” We never thought we’d see the day!

Finally, here’s the number that took my breath away just now when I made the calculation: 217,581. That’s how many fewer cats were euthanized in Million Cat Shelters last year compared to 2012. That’s 596 cats a day. Twenty-five cats per hour. That’s 217,581 fewer times animal-loving shelter staff were asked to take the life of a cat in their care, and 217,581 weights lifted from all our hearts.

And that brings me to the last thing we have to say, which is…

thank you emoji white background

We know we don’t need to thank you for finding ways to save more cats. That’s just what you do. That’s why you get up in the morning and go to work every day, same as all of us here at Million Cat Challenge HQ.

But we do want to thank you for reaffirming our faith in the profession we love. For proving that the energy and ingenuity for saving lives is right here in our midst, from one end of this continent to the other.

Thank you for sharing your hard-won insights so freely (literally!) – for taking the time to answer our many questions, allowing us to post your forms and materials, joining in the Million Cat Discussion group, creating and delivering webinars for your fellow Challengers even when that’s not something you’ve ever done before. We know that takes time and guts!

Thank you to the Challenger Supporting Organizations for your guidance and input, for helping us spread the word, for sustaining the work of so many Challengers, and for adding your names to our banner as a historically diverse group all supporting the same goal. Sometimes I go to our Supporting Org page just because it makes me so happy to see all your logos together up there.

Thank you to everyone who’s donated to the Million Cat Challenge. Whether you gave one dollar or thousands, know that just as every cat counts, every donation matters to our small program. We’ll guard it carefully and use it wisely.

Thank you to Maddie, the little dog whose legacy makes the Million Cat Challenge possible. We’re pretty sure you’ll go down in history as the first schnauzer to help save a million cats!

Finally, thank you to the Challenger shelter staff and volunteers, for being the hearts and minds, hands and laps, that deliver the care we all want for cats in our shelters and communities. We are honored and humbled to share your work with the world.

Kate, Julie and the Million Cat Challenge Team

paw prints

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