People are not the only ones becoming homeless.
Pet cats are also feeling the brunt of the housing crunch, according to the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association.
Maria Soroski co-founded VOKRA in 2000 with Karen Duncan, and she is a personal witness to how this situation has been unfolding.
Soroski related that in the last three years, she and her organization have seen more cats that are being abandoned by their owners.
“They come to people’s houses scratching on their door, looking for food,” Soroski told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
In many of these cases, people call VOKRA, and volunteers come to rescue the cats.
The cats are either spayed or neutered, and new homes are found for them.
“A lot of the neighbours will say to me that people moved out, they left their furniture in the yard and they left the cat,” Soroski said.
Soroski said that much of this situation is on account of the state of housing.
“It’s very hard to find housing in Vancouver that allows pets,” she said.
It’s either that or people move elsewhere because housing in Vancouver is too expensive.
“Some peope have no choice, but to just leave them behind,” Soroski said.
According to Pets OK B.C., 75 percent to 97 percent of rentals in the province have no-pet policies.
In 2018, the organization and other related groups proposed to a provincial Rental Housing Task Force a change in tenancy legislation.
Under the law, a landlord can prohibit pets. Or, demand a pet damage deposit not greater to half of the monthly rent.
However, the rental task force did not include amending the tenancy law in its recommendations when it submitted its report to the provincial government in 2018.
According to a City of Vancouver annual report on its housing strategy, rental vacancy rates in purpose-built rental housing “remain extremely low”.
The vacancy rate was 0.8 percent in 2018 city-wide, which was slightly lower than the 0.9 percent rate in 2017, the report noted.
“There is evidence that the existing rental apartment stock may not meet the needs of all Vancouver households, including families – in 2016 there were over 29,000 renter families with children in the city, but only around 18,500 2- or 3-bedroom purpose-built rental units (market and non-market) in 2018,” the report stated.
Housing costs also continue to rise across various housing types.
Average private market rents increased by 6.4 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the city report.
Meanwhile, the same report stated, benchmark prices for condominiums in East Vancouver increased by 5.7 percent in the same period, and had risen by 19.5 percent between 2016 and 2017.
Moreover, the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless residents increased from 2,138 in 2017 to 2,181 in 2018, according to the report.
Getting a firm grip on the number of homeless cats is not easy.
In 2012, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies released a report about cat overpopulation.
The CFHS resarch found that there were an estimated 10.2 million owned cats in Canada at the time.
According to the group, “owned cat population is growing at a rate faster than the number of households across the country”.
Shelters are at or near capacity, and this is “exacerbated by the fact that twice as many cats as dogs are being brought in for care”.
“Extrapolating the data provided, it is projected that more than 600,000 homeless cats in Canadian shelters did not find new homes in 2011,” the CFHS report stated.
“Unfortunately, more than 1/3 of the cats surrendered to shelters were surrendered due to issues of housing including rental agreements, landlord conflicts and moving, followed by the animal taking up too much time or responsibility,” the report continued.
Cats are more popular than dogs as companion animals in Canada, according to the organization, which is now known as Humane Canada.
VOKRA’s Soroski recalledthat when she and Duncan started with their organization in 2000, most of the calls they get were about feral cats.
Feral cats are cats born outside people’s homes. They grow up without human ownership.
According to Soroski, calls about tame cats that have been either lost or abandoned have increased over the years.
“So I get a call from somebody, and there’s a tame mommy and her kittens in their yard, I go get them,” Soroski said. “Or if it’s a tame, adult cat by itself, I go get them. And we take them, and spay and neuter them, and find them homes.”