When most of us think of summer, we think of long, warm days, swimming, biking, hanging out with our friends, and no school! One of Comet’s favorite things to do during these three months is to relax outside on our sun-drenched porch. This opportunity to ponder life and the mysteries of the universe must be very important to her, as she spends a good deal of her “waking hours” on that porch, deep in thought. But for many people involved in animal welfare, summer is anything but down-time. In fact, kitten season is one of the busiest and most overwhelming times of the year for animal shelters. But everybody loves kittens, right? Well that may be true, but sadly, many people still do not spay or neuter their cats. And because cats are most likely to breed during the spring and summer, the number of kittens born and surrendered to shelters is at its highest during the summer months. We are talking about thousands and thousands of kittens and adult cats--just at the MSPCA! And to make matters worse, the number of feral cats (ones that live in the wild) having litters throughout this time significantly increases and intensifies the problem of overpopulation in the wild; that equals more and more cats living in the wild.
The burden on animal welfare personnel is great. Kittens need lots of round-the-clock attention for many weeks until they are healthy and old enough to be put up for adoption. There aren’t enough people working at animal adoption centers to handle the great number of kittens and cats, so they rely heavily on foster families to help with this huge task. Foster families are people who are generous with their hearts and their time and are able to temporarily take in litters of kittens and cats. In addition to frequent feedings and basic care, foster families can help administer prescribed medicines kittens might need, and offer attention, socialization, and love to kittens and cats that busy shelters might not have time offer.
The numbers of kittens brought into shelters each year is overwhelming. There simply aren’t enough people looking for kittens to offer each kitten a loving home. Over 70% of the animals in shelters today are cats, making it tough to find forever homes for each one. Compounding this serious problem is the issue of adult cats. Many people who do look to adopt often want young kittens, not adult cats. This results in large numbers of adult cats at adoption centers and longer waiting times for finding their forever homes. In all parts of our country, cat overpopulation is a major concern. Thankfully, there are many people working to bring this issue under control.
There is much we do.
1. Spay or neuter your cat! These are simple procedures performed by your veterinarian so that your cat will not be able to have kittens. If you have friends and family who haven’t spayed or neutered their cats, explain why they need to do so! There are also low-cost programs available for families needing financial help to spay or neuter.
2. Adopt. Always consider adopting from an animal adoption center near you. And please consider an adult cat who is looking for a second chance at a forever home. Many adult cats are already trained with great personalities, just waiting to meet you.
3. Consider being a foster care family. Speak with your family about the time and responsibilities required for this very necessary service. It can be a lot of work, but foster care is also very rewarding. And remember, foster care is temporary until the animal is old enough or well enough to be put up for adoption. It is nice to know that you are helping an animal in need find his forever home.
4. If you see a stray, wild kitten or cat, contact your local animal adoption center. Stray cats and kittens need food and care, too. Contact your local animal adoption center or animal control officer for guidelines as to care for these animals. Ask your family or a trusted adult for help. And there are specific humane programs for trapping feral cats, but they should only be attempted by an adult. And never let your own pets come in contact with stray or feral cats, as they might be at risk for disease.
5. When you are old enough, volunteer at your local animal adoption center. Volunteers are a vital part of all animal adoption centers. Your help is needed for the care and attention of all types of animals, year-round.
6. READ, SHARE, WRITE. Read about cats and their lifecycles. Educate others by sharing what you’ve learned. Find out if there are regulations for spaying and neutering pets, including cats, in your city or town. Write to your newspaper or television station asking them to highlight the problem of cat overpopulation. Keeping the issue in the media will help to educate others.
MSPCA’s Cat Campaign
MSPCA’s Foster Care
ASPCA’s Stray Cat Care
Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society
HSUS Trap-Neuter-Return Program