Most of us are familiar with the Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
It’s interesting that this prayer is often – though inaccurately – attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. In our world of serving homeless animals, accepting the things we cannot change often feels like it takes more courage than changing the things we can. It can certainly be more painful.
But if we are to succeed, we cannot afford to pour our precious resources into attempting to control situations that simply can’t be controlled, or trying to fix problems that can’t be fixed with the tools we currently have at hand.
For better or worse, one of the many things beyond our control is whether people get cats. There are already many cats available at minimal or no cost, with no long trip to the shelter, no wait in line, no interrogation (however well intended) and no paperwork required. Craigslist, friends and family, and people on the sidewalk with boxes of unplanned kittens all offer an abundance of free cats for those looking to add a feline family member. Even those who aren’t planning to adopt a cat may have a cat adopt them simply by appearing at the door where the unsuspecting person lives, works, or plays.
A 2012 national survey by the American Pet Products Association showed that 32 percent of cats were acquired from acquaintances and 35 percent were found as strays, whereas only 26 percent came from shelters.
People in low-income and under-served communities are even less likely to look to shelters as a source of pets. In a Pets For Life survey of under-served communities, only 3 percent of 25,413 pets were acquired from shelters. Most cats came from acquaintances (38 percent) or were found as free-roaming strays (29 percent). To look at it another way, the shelter’s competition for placing its cats is the abundance of cats that are easily obtained without cost or effort at a moment’s notice.