There has been a steady increase in the number of U.S. cat and dog owners in recent years, with 85 million households or 67% of American homes claiming a pet in 2020.  Except for those in their 40s, far more people have a pet in their home than have children under 18.

Surveys show that 70% of us say cats reduce our stress – which is another way to say that cats make us PURR.  If our rural community is typical for North Carolina pet owners, then over 7,000 Haywood County households own a cat.  MEOW!

Some fun findings about cat owners compared to dog owners:

  • More women and older Americans have cats as pets.
  • We enjoy reading, writing, and gardening.
  • We are half as likely to celebrate our pet’s birthday than dog owners.
  • We are 4X more likely to work in creative fields than dog owners.
  • Only 8% of us think cats improve our life through exercise, which means 92% of us have learned that no one catches a cat once the carrier is out.

Rome has over 120,000 free-roaming cats. Because of their job controlling rodents, Italy gives cats the status of “free citizens.”  This law makes government-run shelters responsible for spaying and neutering cats, which then go free to fend for themselves. It’s Italy’s local heath authority that oversees the effort.

New York City has over 500,000 free-roaming cats, but they are not “free citizens.”  Like most communities, the city’s animal welfare nonprofits and volunteers do the bulk of the work required to spay/neuter free-roaming cats.  America’s local governments have not kept pace with the funding and staffing needed to support ‘free citizenship’ or trap-neuter-return (TNR).

The excellent documentary film The Cat Rescuers follows a handful of New York City’s volunteers who make a dent in their cat population.  It shows how they became involved with trap-neuter-return (TNR) and other rescue efforts. It’s inspiring.  View it at

You’ll find Haywood County’s own cat whisperers – volunteers mostly – when you look to animal welfare nonprofits like Lend Us Your Ear (LUYE), Feline Urgent Rescue of WNC (FUR), and Sister Kitten.  The county shelter is staffed with feline specialists who assist with abandoned cats, owner surrender pets, and unwanted or found litters. Shelter cats are available from the “New Leash on Life” adoption center located at Animal Services on Jones Cove Road in Clyde.  Yet it’s still not enough.

Do you or your neighbor have a food bowl filled for nightly takers?  Join the movement and call LUYE to spay/neuter non-eartip visitors. You’ll help them become free citizens, and that makes everyone purr!