About the Million Cat Challenge

Communities and shelters alike have long been developing and seeking solutions to the euthanasia of healthy and treatable cats in animal shelters. Today, we know that "a cat revolution" is at hand, and that euthanasia of cats who aren't hopelessly suffering can be replaced with programs that are dramatically more humane and effective. Shelters are hungry for this change.

The Million Cat Challenge was conceived as a shelter-based campaign to save the lives of one million cats in North America over the course of five years, a goal its 1,075 participating shelters met in less than four years, prompting a second phase of the project: #allthecats.

#allthecats means the right outcome for every cat who comes to a shelter, and the right care for every cat every day in the shelter. For a great many cats, that means we'll help them to stay safe in the community rather than ever having to come in to a shelter at all. It also means lost cats go back to their families, cats who have lost their homes are placed in new ones, and cats who are thriving in the community are spayed or neutered and returned there if possible, or placed in a working home if not. And it means that for cats whose suffering can’t be remedied any other way, euthanasia will be available with the most kindness and comfort that can possibly be provided. 

How will we accomplish this goal?

The core strategy of the Million Cat Challenge is centered on five key initiatives that offer every shelter, in every community, practical choices to reduce euthanasia and increase live outcomes for shelter cats.

alternatives to intake

Alternatives to intake:

Provide positive alternatives to keep cats in the home or community when admission to a shelter is not the best choice.
managed admission

Managed Admission:

Schedule intake of cats to match the shelter’s ability to assure humane care and safe movement through the shelter system to an appropriate outcome for every cat.
capacity for care

Capacity for care:

Match the number of cats cared for at any one time with the capacity required to support the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare for all cats in the shelter.
removing barriers to adoption

Removing barriers to adoption:

Expand the pool of adopters by removing barriers to adoption such as cost, process, or location.
return to field

Return to field:

Sterilize, vaccinate, and return healthy un-owned shelter cats to the location of origin as an alternative to euthanasia.

These initiatives originated from the creativity, determination, and courage of many shelters and individuals, and the participating shelters served as a source of inspiration, mentoring, and leadership. Taking the approaches that have proven most effective in real-world shelter experiences, we’ll refine and share methods to serve the needs of every cat, from underage kittens to healthy friendly adults, feral cats, and those with medical and behavioral challenges.         

The Challenge is open to any shelter using any of the five initiatives to save even one more life or improve quality of care for one more cat. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions: Shelters are welcome whether they’re using all five of the initiatives or just one. Read more about the Five Key Initiatives here, and find strategies for implementation on our Resources page.

There is no minimum for participation – even one additional life saved or death averted is an accomplishment to be celebrated as part of the Challenge. Read more about the data tracking component of the Challenge here.

Together, we’ll create a map that leads us to #allthecats in North America. Because that’s really where we want to be.