“I’m so sorry to do this” is how the heartbreaking note begins that was attached to an old fabric cage dumped in front of a Sydney vet. Inside was a hungry mother cat and her five kittens.
“I can’t afford to feed her anymore,” the note concludes.
After being found in Ryde on Friday, “Grey” is now in the care of the volunteer-run shelter Mini Kitty Commune. But she is just one of hundreds of cats and dogs being abandoned across the country as Australia’s rising cost of living continues to stretch household budgets.
Small shelter operators are now struggling with the influx of pets, and are desperately messaging each other to try and find homes for them. “We are capacity for cats” one shelter wrote. “We are in desperate need to free up… space” another said in an email, adding “the current demand on surrenders is becoming a major issue.”
Pet abandonment by the numbers
RSPCA NSW told Yahoo News Australia there is an "uncomfortable trend" involving increased surrenders coupled with a lower rate of adoptions. Each adult dog costs about $1000 per stay and the average number of days adult dogs are spending in care at RSPCA NSW is skyrocketing.
7.7 days in October, 2020
16.5 days in October, 2022
34.3 days in March, 2023
"The longer these animals are in our care, the more behavioural challenges they may experience, so it is imperative we exhaust our resources to get animals ready for adoption," an RSPCA spokesperson said.
Cost of living is now one of the main reasons for abandonment, so RSPCA is now providing access to affordable vet services and behavioural support to help keep pets and owners together. These are the reasons people are choosing to abandon their pets in 2022/2023:
Too many animals — 30%
Cannot afford basic care — 12%
Moving home — 8%
Cannot provide vet treatment — 5%
Owner too ill to care for pet — 4%
Grey and kittens expected to cost shelter thousands
Sadly, it’s not just their own pets that Australians can no longer afford to keep, donations to the charities that care for abandoned animals are also drying up. Mini Kitty Commune founder Derek Knox told Yahoo shelters are getting “smashed”. “We are getting red lists from all the pounds every day now as they are full, very full. Dogs are even more so than cats,” he said.
He estimates the money Mini Kitty Commune receives from the community has dropped 80 per cent on this time two years ago. When Mr Knox took Grey and her kittens into care, he was forced to take to social media to plead for donations to cover the estimated $2000 it will cost to desex, feed, shelter and vaccinate them.
"As an animal rescue organisation, we're doing everything in our power to provide Grey and her kittens with the care they need. But we can't do it alone," he wrote. Donations can be made here.
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