rescue. reunite. rehome. rethink.
  • Share to Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • Print

The Ins and Outs of Cat Ownership

Local government and animal agencies in St. Louis unite to encourage residents to keep cats indoors

Local government and animal agencies in St. Louis unite to encourage residents to keep cats indoors

In St. Louis, the reasons behind the new Cats Alive! program were small, furry, and difficult to ignore. “Any observer driving through various areas of the city of St. Louis, including affluent areas, could see cats outside—from thin cats in alleys to plump cats wandering across front lawns,” says Cecily Westermann, one of the campaign’s founders.

The seeds of Cats Alive! were sown in April 2002 when Westermann discussed the problem with local officials: Leslie Compton-Pruett and Rich Stevson from the city’s department of health; Rosemary Ficken, supervisor of the city’s Animal Regulation Center; and Liz Rudder, president of Operation SPOT (Stop Pet Overpopulation Today).

In St. Louis, the odds are stacked against reunions between wandering felines and their owners. During the first five months of 2003, animal control received 874 cats, 280 of which were surrendered by their owners. Of the strays, just 11 cats were later reunited with their owners. Almost 570 of the cats were adopted through the agency or through rescue groups, and 234 were euthanized.

In view of statistics like these, and news articles that told of cruelty to free-roaming cats, the people behind Cats Alive! resolved to educate cat owners by presenting concrete reasons why cats should be kept inside. “We felt that some owners cared about their cats in other respects—after all, owners pay for the city licenses as required by law,” Westermann says. “We were aware that the problem might not have been caused solely by ‘irresponsible pet owners.’ ”

Thanks to the Cats Alive! program, this flyer is being distributed across St. Louis to educate residents about the dangers facing outdoor cats.
The straightforward tone of the campaign was vital, Westermann says. “We did not want to lecture or antagonize—just concisely present the facts. We wanted a short, easy-to-read handout that could be distributed by veterinarians, animal control and welfare groups, and social service agencies; posted on websites of animal and social services organizations; and even incorporated in newsletters.”

The team wrote and printed small handouts to distribute across the city. The eye-catching flyers highlight major reasons for keeping cats inside—including the many dangers facing cats who roam and the approximate ten-year gap in lifespan for indoor and outdoor cats. The handout provides contact information for the St. Louis Animal Regulation Center and Operation SPOT; it also encourages a visit to the online headquarters of The HSUS’s Safe Cats campaign,

But the very first reason on the flyer reads, “It’s the LAW!” Because a St. Louis city ordinance requires citizens to keep their cats on their own property, the campaign has built-in support.

The small flyer is being distributed to many locations and groups, including veterinarians’ offices, social service agencies, animal organizations and animal control agencies, and local political and citizens’ groups. Newspaper articles have also mentioned the handouts. A “supplementary information” sheet printed by Cats Alive! discusses the issue in more detail.

In their ongoing goal to educate cat owners about the dangers of roaming cats, Cats Alive! coordinators have hopes of one day expanding beyond St. Louis. Westermann emphasizes that communities that lack laws like St. Louis’s can start a campaign like this and still find success. “The focus of the Cats Alive! campaign is on the safety of the individual cat,” she says.

To find out more about Cats Alive! contact Cecily Westermann at Visit The HSUS’s to order Safe Cats campaign public service announcements, brochures, and other materials.


Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software