They may be smaller and perhaps demand less attention, but they’re more expensive to care for.
Shelly Hand, manager of the Shuswap branch of the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says, generally, it’s more costly for the SPCA to take care of a cat than a dog.
Hand has been visiting local governments in the region such as Salmon Arm and Sicamous councils, providing an update on the SPCA.
The average cost of caring for a cat, which may vary slightly from shelter to shelter in B.C., is $784, while the cost of looking after a dog is $485.
Cats tend to stay twice as long as dogs, the main reason for the cost difference.
In the Salmon Arm shelter, Hand says there usually aren’t many dogs – on average about five.
Kitten season, which tends to start in April and can last into September as it did last year, can see as many as 60 to 100 animals in care, a number that includes foster homes in summer.
In 2013 in B.C., cats averaged a 32-day stay and kittens, 34 days, while dogs were housed for 16 days and puppies, 15.
Expenses include vaccinations, spaying or neutering, treatment for parasites, housing, feeding and more.
At the Shuswap branch shelter in Salmon Arm, the longest stay for an animal was two years while the shortest stay was one day.
In the Shuswap in 2014, the number of adult dogs taken in at the Salmon Arm shelter was 104, 68 of which were surrendered and 36 picked up as strays. For puppies, 20 were surrendered and six were strays, making a total of 26.
The number of cats taken in was 206 – 93 surrendered and 113 strays, while the number of kittens was double that. A total of 406 kittens were taken in last year, 179 of them surrendered and 227 strays.
A program that’s helping to keep animals in their homes is the Kibble Kupboard. Hand, who has been heading the Shuswap branch for nearly a year, started the program, which involves taking some of the pet food donated to the SPCA to the Second Harvest food bank in Salmon Arm on Fridays. Then, pet owners can stop in to get some. Hand said about 30 to 40 people use the service each week.
Another program the Shuswap branch’s 40 active volunteers are involved in is what’s called Humane Education.
Presentations are given to classes in School District #83 as well as at independent schools to teach responsible dog ownership, plus education on dog safety for students in grades three, four and five. The presentations include ‘Bite free,’ ‘Kindness counts’ and ‘Caring for the Animals in the Wild.’
Hand said Humane Education emphasizes compassion and empathy for all living things.
She said the SPCA is considering starting a reading program, where children can come in and read to cats. Such programs in other regions have helped socialize nervous cats to people, at the same time as helping young people with their reading skills and with compassion and social skills.
Hand said the SPCA is not funded by higher levels of government so the society must rely on donations. The City of Salmon Arm supports the Shuswap branch with $12,000 in funding annually, as well as a permissive tax exemption on its property in the industrial park.
The District of Sicamous does not currently provide the Shuswap branch with funds.
Hand said she would like to hold an open house so people can learn more about the shelter.
For more information or updates on the shelter, go to: https://www.facebook.com/bcspca.shuswap.