Kitten season – the time of year where animal shelters and rescues are inundated with litters of felines … and it’s going on now.
What will happen to all of these little ones, and the ones that will be born later this year and the ones born to those youngsters also not spayed? Will each one find a special home? Doubtful.
More than one million dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are euthanized in animal shelters annually, according to the ASPCA. Between strays (especially stray cats and kittens) which aren’t reclaimed by owners and animals that aren’t adopted (only about half of the animals that go into shelters are adopted, the ASPCA notes), sadly many animals, especially cats and kittens, lose their lives. That would be less so if more were spayed/neutered, and therefore, not contributing to the population and to the numbers needing to be adopted.
An unspayed female cat and her offspring can contribute several thousand additional cats in a lifetime. Here are a few “cat facts” listed on Georgia’s Fayette Humane Society’s website:
Animal shelters and rescue organizations become overwhelmed with the number of kittens brought to them during “kitten season.” This makes for a very good reason to fix one’s pets/cats.
Many myths exist about spaying and neutering, and most are just that: myths. Here are some facts about pets that are fixed:
If you have concerns about the surgery and its effect on your pet (the animal does have to undergo anesthesia, discuss these with your vet. No one is more knowledgeable about surgical procedures and the pros and cons of spaying and neutering than your veterinarian.
To learn more about spaying and neutering myths and facts, visit
Lack of homes and pet overpopulation is a serious national, regional, state and community problem –so let’s fix the problem by fixing our pets – we can all help stop the “littering” problem and help our animal shelters and rescues better deal with “kitten season.”
Another way to help during kitten season? Adopt! With a few more days of June left, the month designated as Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat, you are likely to find a wonderful feline friend, whether kitten or adult cat – perhaps at for a discounted adoption fee. Visit your local animal shelter, humane society, or pet rescue organization, and add a purring, furry friend to your household!
Her golden eyes beckoned me, like a sultry look from Brigitte Bardot. I cautiously approached. She extended a slender front paw between the bars of the cage, as if to shake hands – certainly to vie for my attention. Her round face and lavish, orange and white fur gave her the appearance of royalty. “You’re a princess,” I murmured as I softly stroked her outstretched leg. I then reached between the cage slates to scratch between her ears and under her chin. The diminutive cat responded with a low purr and a subdued ‘mew.” She didn’t belong behind those bars, so I paid her bail and took her home. Her previous owners gave her the name “Ama.” No one knew what it meant or had ever heard such a moniker. A unique name for a princess-like cat. Loving and quiet, Ama settled into her new life with grace and tranquility. Her best friend became a cocker spaniel named Sam, whom I had adopted from the same shelter a year previous. They often cuddled together on the couch by the fireplace. Sam and Ama shared a composed camaraderie, rarely, if ever, spatting over space, food, or attention. If Garfield and Odie had never quarreled, Ama and Sam could have been their stand-ins.
So starts a short story I wrote a few years ago about this sleek, amber-eyed kitty I adopted in 1990; the tale is part of my book Tail Tales. I mentioned Ama in last week’s blog, and since June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, I wanted to talk more about cat adoption and other programs which help cats – and how we can get involved.
Why do cats make great companions? Here are a few reasons:
Ama and I shared life for more than 15 years; she passed in 2006 at nearly 19 years of age. Both she and our mutual dog friend Sam came from the Bozeman, Montana humane society, adoptions that strengthened my resolve to always provide a home for rescued pets.
Every year, more than three million cats enter animal shelters across America. Many are stray, and sadly, only about 5% are reunited with their owners; nearly 1 million cats that come into shelters are killed due to lack of reclaiming strays and lack of cats adopted. This month shelters and rescues around the United States promote cat adoption and reuniting with owners since June is designated as Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. In addition to the strays and the owner relinquishments, this time of year is known as “kitten season,” when pet adoption organizations become overwhelmed with mamma cats and their babies. Spaying and neutering are critical to keeping cat populations down. Additionally, the numerous community cat situations (also known as feral cats, those living in cities, suburbs, and rural areas on their own) adding to that feline overpopulation, the need for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs is rampant.
There are several ways we can help:
By helping organizations and programs that help cats, you are helping kitties in need – and making special friends in the process.
Living in the 21st century has many perks, from technological gadgets to how, as a society, we view animals. According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of people living in the United States own a pet, with the majority (60.2 million) having dogs and 47.1 million having cats. The organization estimates that nearly $70 billion was spent on pets by pet owners in 2017, up from 66.75 billion in 2016. Americans certainly seem to love their pets!
Still, improvements are greatly needed, especially in the areas of animal adoption and pet ownership responsibility.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), nearly 6.5 million animals enter shelters and rescues every year; they are comprised of owner surrenders, strays, and animals rescued from hoarding, dog fighting, and puppy/kitty mill operations. Only about half are adopted. More than 700,000 strays are reunited with their owners; sadly, less than five percent of the cats that come in as strays are reclaimed, and many of the animals brought in are not spayed or neutered.
Pet ownership responsibility includes caring for one’s animal, providing food, water, shelter, and medical treatment. In addition to vaccinations and teeth cleaning, medical care should include spaying and neutering. Such procedures curb the number of litters born, and therefore, helps cut down on the number of animals needing homes, either through the owner giving/selling the youngsters or taking them to rescues and shelters. Cats and dogs can breed two to three times a year, having an average of six babies per litter. Multiple that out over the course of five to seven years, and you have thousands more animals per unsprayed female. For every kitten or puppy sold or given away by owners, that’s one less adopted and therefore, one more possibly euthanized.
Until there are less strays, less owner relinquishment, more adoptions, and more spaying and neutering, no more animal hoarding or puppy/kitten mills, there will be the need for animal shelters and rescues.
We all can do our part to positively impact responsibility and rescue. Here are some suggestions:
Although America has come a long way since the 1970s when 12 to 20 million pets were killed in animal shelters across the country, there a great need still exists for pet ownership responsibility and, therefore, for animal rescues and shelters. Let’s all do something to help continue the downward trend of euthanasia rates and increase pet ownership responsibility. Maybe one we will realize the #NoKill dream many animal welfare organizations envision – that no healthy, adoptable animal is euthanized – but it takes responsible pet owners to get there.
February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and the last day of the month is considered World Spay Day. Every year millions of dogs and cats, puppies, and kittens go into animal shelters, and sadly, a lot of them die in those shelters. If more companion animals were spayed or neutered, the number of litters of puppies and kittens would decrease, and therefore, so, too, would the numbers of animals killed in shelters each year.
That is one reason to spay and neuter pets. There are several others.
Although a spay surgery can be expensive, especially for a large or extra-large female dog, there are opportunities to find low-cost spay-neuter clinics. The ASPCA provides a database of such low-cost clinics. Visit their webpage at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/low-cost-spayneuter-programs to find a clinic/program near you. The Humane Society of the United States can also assist you finding low-cost programs and clinics; visit that group’s website to learn more: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/tips/afford_spay_neuter.html?credit=web_id88387650.
If you live in Wyoming, as I do, you can visit the SpayWyoming page, a state-wide program of the Dog and Cat Shelter in Sheridan, Wyoming and an affiliate of SpayUSA. You might also visit the Care Credit website, a health-care credit card covering dental, chiropractic, veterinary, and other medical fields; the company often gives patients (or in this case the “pet parents” of patients) six to 12 months to pay off the account before charging interest (it’s a program my husband and I use for our veterinary bills).
The outlay for a spay or neuter might be spendy at first, especially if your area doesn’t have a low-cost spay/neuter program. However, the benefits of the surgery are many, including a healthier pet and not dealing with behavioral issues. But, a strong reason to spay and neuter is saving lives, not having to wonder how to find homes for litters of puppies and kittens and facing the reality that, if taken to an animal shelter, those animals may not get new homes, but instead, may die.
Please do your part as a responsible pet parent: spay/neuter your companion animal!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.