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A new study on cat overpopulation in Canada says more of the pets are being sterilized to reduce unwanted litters, but there are still more cats than people willing to give them homes.

Canadian Federation of Humane Societies/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A new study on cat overpopulation in Canada says more of the pets are being sterilized to reduce unwanted litters, but there are still more cats than people willing to give them homes.

The report by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies recommends more should be done to encourage spaying and neutering, even for kittens as young as six weeks old.

"Cat overpopulation continues to challenge communities across Canada," the report released on Thursday says.

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"There are still twice as many cats being admitted to shelters as dogs and the fraction of those cats who are juveniles is also twice as high as for dogs, pointing to the continuing problem of unwanted litters."

The report is an update to a similar study done five years ago. It includes the results of an Ipsos survey conducted last May.

The new findings indicate more cats are being adopted. Fewer cats are being put down and more lost cats are being reunited with their owners.

Fewer Canadians are letting their cats roam outside unsupervised where they are at risk of being hit by vehicles or getting into fights with other cats and animals.

The number of cats that arrive at shelters already spayed or neutered is up and more are being sterilized by animal-care organizations.

But the report says there are still too many cats and that won't change unless spay and neuter rates improve.

"The good news is we've taken some giant leaps forward in cat welfare since 2012," said Barbara Cartwright, chief executive of the federation. "The bad news is it is not happening quickly enough to overcome Canada's cat overpopulation crisis."

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The report notes there are an estimated 9.3 million cats in Canada. But for some reason, cats don't receive the same care and consideration as their canine counterparts.

Toolika Rastogi, the federation's policy and research manager, said cats are seen by some people as being more disposable, perhaps because they were obtained free from a relative or neighbour.

They are also more fertile than dogs and can become pregnant at a younger age. "We have got cats being the most popular animals in the homes of Canadians, being followed very closely by dogs, and yet they are facing far more difficulty," she said.

Overpopulation creates other problems.

Cats can languish in shelters too long waiting for adoption, making them more prone to stress-related illnesses.

Ms. Rastogi said the improvement in cat sterilization rates is a direct result of animal organizations making spay and neutering a priority. More work is being done, including creating mobile units to deal with animals in remote locations.

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The study notes that only about 19 per cent of municipalities that responded to the survey have spay or neuter policies.

The report recommends communities should promote the sterilization of cats and offer incentives for the procedure to be done at no or low-cost.

Ms. Rastogi said if more municipalities emulate what animal organizations are doing, spay-neuter rates are bound to improve.

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