Interlude: The Kitten Shortage of Iceland

Rósalind, the unofficial mascot of the University of Iceland, Reykjavík [Photo by Marc Lanteigne]

by Mingming Shi

Where would the world be without cats? This year, under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Icelanders are actually suffering from a cat shortage, in particular of young kittens [in Icelandic]. Cats are a common sight in Iceland, especially in the capital, Reykjavík, and some of them have attained celebrity status in the city and beyond. So talk of a lack of felines is an unusual event to say the least, one that made the headlines this week at RÚV, the country’s National Broadcasting Service.  

What happened? In Iceland, there is generally a higher number of cats waiting to be adopted than potential people who are looking for a new feline pet. However, this year, things have been turned upside down. According to Kattholt, the Icelandic Cat Protection Society, which provides services including a cat shelter and hotel, summer is usually the season when ‘kitten booms’ take place, and so the organisation is usually busy with matching their cats with new families. Three years ago, there was even a popular online feline reality show, ‘Keeping Up With the Kattarshians’, which featured Kattholt cats and captured international attention. Nevertheless, this year, there are fewer animals waiting for adoption, and there are no kittens on the organisation’s waiting list during the time of writing.

Móri, the never-to-be a great grandfather+, used to be a free-roaming cat. [Photo by Mingming Shi]

Jóhanna Ása Evensen, the operational manager at Kaltholt, believes that the regulation on cat keeping issued by Reykjavíkurborg [in Icelandic], the City Council of Reykjavík, is partially responsible for this turn of events, given that in addition to micro-chipping cats, owners are also obliged to have their free-roaming male outdoor cats neutered. She argues that the influence of the policy created both benefits and disadvantages, since on one hand, the rules have eased the problem of feline overpopulation, but some families may have to wait a bit longer to be joined by a cat.