About the Million Cat Challenge

Each year, millions of cats lose their lives in animal shelters. An enormous amount is invested in the capture, holding, and euthanasia of these animals, and the emotional toll exacted by their death is incalculable. Communities and shelters alike are reaching for solutions.

Finally, the opportunity for a “cat revolution” is at hand. We now know that euthanasia of healthy cats in shelters can be replaced with programs that are dramatically more humane and effective for cats and communities alike. Shelters are hungry for this change.

The Million Cat Challenge is a shelter-based campaign to save the lives of 1 million cats in North America over the course of five years. The core strategy of the campaign is centered around 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.

Just as there is no one-size-fits-all solution for animal homelessness, there is no need to embrace all five initiatives to participate. 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. Read more about the Five Key Initiatives here, and find strategies for implementation on our Resources page.

Baseline numerical data of intake, euthanasia and live outcome for 2012 and the year prior to enrollment are recorded at registration and updated annually, along with each shelter's goals for the coming year. All individual shelter data is confidential. The “Million” of the Million Cat Challenge will be based on aggregate numerical reduction in euthanasia and increase in lives saved by the participating shelters.

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.

The initiatives of this campaign originated from the creativity, determination and courage of many shelters and individuals. The participating shelters themselves serve as a source of inspiration, mentoring and leadership on a local and regional level.

We are also proud to acknowledge the support of national and regional animal welfare, protection, and animal control organizations who have contributed to the development and dissemination of the Million Cat Challenge and the five key initiatives that it encompasses.