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May 7, 2008 > Ohlone Humane Society: Cats make kittens make cats make kittens...

Ohlone Humane Society: Cats make kittens make cats make kittens...

By Nancy Lyon

With the recent unpredictable weather, spring seemed to be on hold this year; for a while it was a cold and silent spring. At our house, our over-achieving azalea bush had decided not to bloom and the flowering bulbs that by this time are normally providing a glorious display have only now decided to take a chance, peeping out of the soil and testing the weather.

The fluctuating temperatures affected animals too. A few weeks ago, the OHS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, starting to take in orphaned and abandoned wild critters, was quieter than usual. For a while at the Tri-City Animal Shelter there was a brief and unusual lull of the onset of kitten "season."

With temperatures warming up, the cycle of life seems to have righted itself. Unfortunately, the warmer weather coincides with female cats' heat cycles and the time worn problem of too many kittens coming into a world already overcrowded with cats. Needless to say, it is not a happy time. Cats give birth, flooding animal shelters across the nation with homeless litters. Kitten "season" is really three seasons in one, starting in spring, peaking in late spring or early summer, and ending in fall.

The number of cats that can be born during this period is staggering. They add to the existing vast number of cats who will end up in animal shelters where an appalling number will die. And this is the just tip of the iceberg because the statistics do not take into account those that don't make it into shelters. Too many cats fight for survival on the streets, more often than not, dying young from injuries, disease and starvation.

"In every community in the nation, there is an over-abundance of un-sterilized cats, both owned and un-owned, and a frenzy of mating takes place each year," states the Humane Society of the United States. Tremendous as the problem of cat overpopulation is, it can eventually be solved if each of us takes just one small step, starting with not allowing our own animals to breed. Our unaltered animals that are allowed to roam free or occasionally spend unattended time outside will predictably have the opportunity to mate. Driven by their hormones, they will look for any chance to find mates, eventually resulting in hundreds and even thousands of cats with few opportunities of getting a decent home.

It's not a happy time for shelter staff either. Many shelters are faced with limited space, time and resources. When adoptions are low and rescues limit the number they can reasonably re-home, they are forced to handle the onerous task of killing animals that could become wonderful and loving family members.

During kitten season, adult shelter cats are overlooked by potential adopters. They are the first to be endangered by the influx of lively and charming youngsters. When the shelter population grows too large for the facility, the disease and stress levels rise with it. The ability of a limited staff to adequately care for the large number of animals can result in outbreaks of disease, suffering and death of otherwise adoptable animals

The best way to help reduce the number of cats - and dogs- is by taking responsibility to make sure your "pet" does not contribute to the tragedy. Become a spay/neuter advocate and educate your friends and neighbors about the terrible problem.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following solutions:

Spay or neuter your cats - Don't put this off!
Kittens as young as two months and weighing two pounds can be safely altered.

Help your local shelter
Donate supplies, money or your time. Contact your local shelter to find out what's needed most.

Care for homeless or wild cats in your area
Work with your local animal control or feral cat group to help control your neighborhood's feral and stray cat populations. Feral cat caretakers who Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) are an important part of the solution.

Become a foster parent
Contact your local shelter or rescue group to learn more about becoming a foster parent for cats or kittens in need.

Open your home to new cat or adopt a playmate for your existing cat.

There are clinics and financial assistance programs in many areas to spay/neuter companion animals and feral cats. Check with the following resources if you need help:

Ohlone Humane Society - (510) 792-4587
ForPaws S/N Clinic (510) 744-1865
City of Fremont Animal Services - (510) 790-6643, ext. 34
East Bay SPCA - (510) 639-7387
Hayward Friends of Animals Humane Society (510) 886-3357 (only Union City feral cats)
Animal Birth Control Assistance - (408) 245-4949

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