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Understanding the Root Causes of Stray Pets: A Complex Challenge

| November 17, 2023
Identifying Why Pets Become Stray Animals is the First Step to Finding a Resolution

In cities around the world, a heartfelt issue touches us all – the plight of stray pets. Right here in our own backyard, our community is faced with the same challenge. Reports from Animal Welfare Organizations across the city have reported a growing number of stray pets seeking help, comfort, and the chance to find their forever homes.

The plight of these animals evokes empathy and concern, but delving into the reasons behind their predicament reveals a complex web of interconnected factors. From societal shifts to individual circumstances, there are many factors that contribute to the rise of stray pets in our neighbourhoods, but here are two of the most prevalent factors that pet parents face in our community.

Economic Challenges

The primary cause of stray pets can often be traced back to economic challenges, changes in lifestyle, or a shift in priorities. Financial constraints might force some guardians to relinquish their pets due to the costs associated with care, including food, veterinary expenses, and shelter. In some cases, life changes such as relocations, family dynamics, or health issues can lead to pet abandonment when pet parents struggle to accommodate their pets’ needs.

Lack of Access to Veterinary Care

Preventative measures like vaccinations and spay and neuter surgeries are not readily available or affordable for many pet parents in Toronto. Not spaying or neutering pets can lead to unplanned litters, and not vaccinating pets can lead to pets getting extremely sick. Overwhelmed by these challenges, pet parents may resort to abandoning their pets, hoping they’ll find the necessary assistance elsewhere.

Toronto Humane Society recognizes and understands that the cause behind stray pets is not a simple explanation, and we’re determined to develop a long-term effective solution to help support pets and pet parents through our Public Services. In the meantime, here’s what you should do if you find a stray pet in your neighbourhood.

1. Identify Any Tags or Collars

If you find a lost dog or cat wearing a City of Toronto tag, contact 311 to connect the pet with their guardian. If you find a lost cat without any identification tags, click here to see an infographic to help determine whether the cat is a community cat and should stay where they are.

2. Try to Find Their Guardian

Many communities have dedicated websites or social media groups where people can post information about lost and found pets. There are also webpages, such as PetFBI, that can be an invaluable tool in reuniting with missing pets with their families. Traditional methods of posting flyers around your neighborhood can also be highly effective in reaching people who may not be active online.

3. Leave Them Where They Are 

If the animal has a collar it is probably an owned indoor/outdoor cat. Leave them where they are. Call the number on the tag if you are concerned that the pet may be lost. If you find out that the animal has been abandoned, please bring them to your nearest municipal animal shelter.

4. Pursue TNR for the Community Cat

If the pet is a cat without a collar, and does not enjoy petting or seem friendly, this cat is healthy and successful where they are now and is unlikely to have good welfare in a typical home. Contact your local municipal animal control to pursue TNR and help for continuing to provide care as a community cat caretaker.

By fostering education, cultivating understanding, and embracing empathy, we possess the power to effectively manage and reduce our stray pet population, ultimately offering these animals the opportunity to find their new home.

This article was originally published in the Fall Edition of Toronto Humane Society’s quarterly magazine, Animal Talk. You can read the full magazine for free via issuu. Our city is in crisis and it needs your help. Click here to learn how you can keep families whole during uncertain times.