A note from the co-founders on the Million Cat rollover

November 9, 2017

If you’re lucky, a few times in a lifetime you might get to be part of a sea change. HSUS Expo 2013 felt like one of those times. The air was electric with new ideas and possibilities for cats – from conference rooms to the exhibit hall, even in conversations while waiting in line for the restroom, we felt it everywhere we went.


There is simply no better word I can conjure as I watch our counter roll toward 1 million today.

That’s not just a million cats, but a million more cats saved than ever before. What started as a seemingly audacious goal has snowballed into a movement that has changed the face of animal sheltering forever.

When the final data is in, we will celebrate with more than 1,200 shelters that challenged themselves to go big for cats – and go big they did. Together, they will have crushed the goal to save a million more cats in five years and stormed past it in less than four.

And we know they won’t let up. This is just the beginning, and more shelters are taking the challenge every single day.

Thank you to every staffer, every volunteer, every veterinarian, and every shelter manager who not only believed it could be done, but also wouldn’t accept anything less.

– Julie Levy

That year, along with Jon Cicirelli from San Jose Animal Care services, we were invited to give the plenary session to an audience of nearly 2,000 shelter professionals. It was titled “Tipping Point 2013: Rethinking Community Cats.”

At the end of the session, we asked each member of the audience to jot down on a card an estimate of how many more cats they would save using what they’d learned at the conference that week. When the cards were collected and tallied, the total commitment astonished us: 126,126 cat lives.

The promise of that remarkable session followed us both home from Nashville. If 2,000 people could commit to saving over 100,000 more cats, what would happen if the idea spread to shelters across North America?

Soon that nagging question had grown into a proposal for the Million Cat Challenge. Maddie’s Fund stepped up to support the project, to our immense gratitude. A group of thoughtful stakeholders gathered to ply us with advice. And before we even really knew what we had gotten ourselves into, the first Challengers joined and the website was launched.

From that day on, we’ve been watching the Million Cat Counter roll forward with the Challengers’ estimates of how many more lives they would save. It gave us shivers to see the counter turn over, first by just a few dozen cats at time, then by a few hundred as more shelters joined, until finally it was rolling at a rate of greater than one thousand more lives saved each day.

You joined us in a virtual celebration as the estimate on the counter passed 250,000. When the final data was collected that year, we discovered that the Challengers had beaten even their own ambitious goals, saving well over a quarter million lives. The same thing happened as the counter rolled past half a million and then 750,000 – at year’s end, we found the reality beat the estimate every time.

Now here we are, far sooner than we ever imagined: We’ve frozen the counter at the brink of a million. That represents a combination of the first three years of reported data plus this year’s combined estimates from over 1,200 shelters.

Once this year’s data is tallied, we won’t be celebrating an estimate. We will be celebrating well over a million real cat lives saved, one by one, by all of you. And for an occasion this momentous, we decided a virtual party is not enough. We hope many of you can join us live at next year’s Expo, the conference where it all began, when we reveal the grand total. We promise one heck of a party!

Until then, however, we couldn’t resist saying these few words to mark the occasion.

This is personal to both of us: before we were veterinarians or scientists or shelter medicine specialists, we were just a couple of kids who really loved cats. Every one of those lives represented by each turn of the counter matter to both of us, as we know they do to you. Thank you, thank you from both of us.




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  1. You all set a goal and achieved it even faster than anticipated through inspiring others to help! I can’t say how amazed, excited and humbled I’ve been to watch you all get to a million lives saved! Thank you for all that you and the shelters have done! Congratulations, as well, on this amazing accomplishment.

    Comment by Jennifer Penick — November 14, 2017 @ 12:02 pm

  2. Our team at Cat Adoption Team has been honored and excited to be part of the Million Cat Challenge. Thank you for your leadership, persistence, and integrity!

    Comment by Karen Green — November 21, 2017 @ 4:32 pm

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