Tuesday 29 July 2008

No kill cat shelters

cat in shelter
Photo by SHamEy jo. Did he survive?

No kill cat shelters do in fact, very often, kill cats, at least, indirectly. If a cat shelter is not one of the "No kill cat shelters" it has to be a cat shelter that openly kills cats in which case it cannot be described properly as a cat shelter. In fact the description "no kill" is probably misleading and so is the description "shelter". It really is not as it seems as far as I can tell.

{note: these are my considered thoughts. I am thinking aloud really and, yes, they are provocative thoughts. They are not the views of anyone else that I know off. They are also views meant to play devils advocate, meaning to raise uncomfortable questions. I think that it is important to do this. It is not enough for a website to duplicate and regurgitate what is already on the internet. It is better to push the boundaries a bit and try and improve things if that is possible. Cat shelters generally provide a fine service and I have a lot of admiration for them but what is happening?}

The only true cat shelters are no kill cat shelters that kill no cats at all and I am not sure that they exist (wrong? please tell me in a comment - see below). Cat shelters that conduct a program of euthanasia (or just plain killing - there is a difference, read this) should be called by some other name such as "cat processing plant", "cat re-homing and re-cycling plant". I know this sounds callous and maybe odd but what happens to the bodies of 2 million plus cats that are euthanized in cat shelters throughout the USA? This is a critical but I hope fair look at no kill cat shelters.

I cannot believe that cats are cremated after being killed as body parts are a valuable commodity in the world of commerce and a cats anatomy is similar to ours. It is why they are used in animal testing and why their bodies will normally be re-cycled into something humankind can use (i.e. in a consumer product). I say that this might be one reason why the feral cat population is not being dealt with as vigorously as it should be. In other words there is a certain amount of background commercial pressure to not eliminate feral cats and abandoned cats. Lets see if we can find something on the internet on the subject of euthanized cats before I talk about no kill cat shelters.

My research tells me the following:

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on a story about a cat they called Phoenix (as he rose from the dead). He was injected with pentobarbital sodium and/or phenytoin sodium. These are standard euthanasia drugs. Euthanasia means being killed painlessly. Not all "kill shelters" use this drug. Some just kill. Anyway he was put into a dumpster with 19 other cats and when the dead cats were being transferred to a "City Disposition" truck it was found that he was breathing. He was successfully recovered and re-homed through Pets Unlimited. The point is this, City Disposition is a local government department (I presume) that reprocesses cat bodies and/or sells or gives them to companies that use the parts in products such as shampoo and soap. So, there is some proof. The journalist was interviewing a Pets Unlimited worker who gets involved with other shelters. The evidence is pretty sound, therefore.
(source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2003/08/25/urbananimal.DTL)

----In another source a truck driver's wife/partner disclosed that her husband took cats and dogs to cat food plants for rendering. (source:http://www.petcaretips.net/euthanized_pets_in_food.html). So when we feed cat food to our cats they are eating another cat on the basis of this evidence.


cat in a shelter
Photo by SHamEy jo. Did he survive?

I am not going to bother to search more because it is actually obvious that cats killed at cat shelters (other than no kill cat shelters ) are selling or giving away (I'd be surprised if they weren't sold) their dead cats. So the next question is, are the shelters funded by the sale of the dead cats and is this legal? A lot of the cats will belong to someone. Can a shelter kill and sell the cat without permission? Probably yes if a certain time has elapsed.

Turning to no kill cat shelters. They obviously do great work but how do they cope with all the cats that come their way. If cat shelters that kill cats have to kill cats, as there is not enough room to house them, how do the "no kill cat shelters" deal with the numbers? Do they refuse to shelter some cats? Or, do they select the cats that they consider adoptable and pass on the others to kill shelters? I favor the second option. If I am correct then some no kill cat shelters are not exactly what they say they are. But this still makes them better than the ones that kill more freely it seems to me. Perhaps not.

Of course a third option is that they get just the right amount if feral and abandoned cats for re-homing. In other words the input exactly matches the output. Does that seem likely to you? No obviously not.

I have decided that in no kill cat shelters the people who work there will have to put down some cats (euthanize some cats) or pass them on to a "Processing plant" for euthanasia and body part recycle. The selection will have to be made on illness, the mentality and age of the cat, I guess. Kittens come first it would seem. A cat selected for euthanasia is probably too aggressive or ill. But it seems some cats that have treatable illnesses are still killed. And who made the cat aggressive? Probably a nasty human who mistreated the cat over a period of time or it is due to illness. Cats are not inherently aggressive.

On a more optimistic note, it seems, is that the concept of "no kill" with all its flaws may have had a positive impact on the numbers of cats killed each year in "shelters". One problem is getting good and accurate reporting from the cat shelters. We don't really know how many cats are killed but a good estimate is over 2 million currently (in the USA, the biggest domestic cat market). This is a vast number. A similar number of dogs are also deliberately killed.

The truth is the supply of abandoned cats has to dry up as the no kill cat shelters simply treat the symptoms. I would have thought more resources would have been put into slowing supply. But there again maybe big business is having an indirect say in that.

Photos: Both are published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Sources other than stated in the text:
  • http://www.bestfriends.org/archives/forums/nokill.html#thirteen

No kill cat shelters to Home page


  1. I am the photographer for both the photos displayed here. I may have chosen my words in haste but YES they did survive and there is a difference between an animal shelter and a non-kill animal rescue. The cats displayed here are from an A No-Kill Non Profit Rescue, one I foster for called Animal Talk Rescue in Seattle, WA USA. These are the places that get phone calls from employees of government run "shelters' letting them know that some healthy adoptable animals are about to get euthanized and they quickly fill their cars and trucks up with empty animal carriers and rush to bring them back to the non-kill shelter, they are ALL spay/neutered, treated for any ailments (by a wonderful vet named Dr. Obegi who volunteers her services, this is what all vets should do.) microchipped, vaccinated etc. etc. and they ALL get homes. Sometimes it takes months. They either stay at the "Rescue" or stay in a foster homes. But none are killed. NONE.
    The only time any animals were killed was when the rescue was broken into. See here

  2. And it would be nice if there was a link to the original photo site so peolple can read about these cats in the true sense. I understand what you are trying to get across and I appreciate it, but let's be honest how can a site talk about non-kill shelters in a negative way while plastering pure-bred links all over the place. Where these back yard breeders have in a huge way helped to create this problem.

  3. Hi thanks for the comments it is appreciated.

    There is a place for praising and criticizing. Purebred cat breeders are generally not the problem, irresponsible cat keepers are the problem.

    I don't think that showing and describing purebred cats and criticizing aspects of some shelters are incompatible.

    I am not saying that the shelters from which the cats illustrated are not no kill. I am talking generally.

    What I am saying is, are no kill cat shelters what they say they are in every case.

  4. This is a PS

    I sometimes leave links to the Flickr website - not always. I have no obligation to leave a link. If I do it is a bonus.

    One reason is that this site is for charity and I don't want visitors leaving the site.

    Another is that very often the captions to the Flickr photographs do not provide a lot of information if anything at all.

  5. Freddie,

    If breeders stopped breeding cats we wouldn't have to euthanaze/kill millions of animals each year.

    Even then, though, there would still be homeless cats because there are more in the world than there are people who want to look after them.



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