Becoming More Informed: A Proposal
Kitten season is upon us at last. Kitten season is the time between early spring and early summer in which cats give birth to a litter and shelters are flooded with the little guys. Kitten season is a terrible time in the shelter because death rates rise to make room for other kittens and we get to see how terrible the overpopulation really is. This time of year should be used as a reminder that neutering and adoption are the best way to save the lives of cats.
I have been a cat lover since I was young and have had many cats throughout the years, so this issue is extremely close to my heart. I have adopted cats through shelters, breeders, and even the occasional person who forgot to spay their cat. Currently, I have two cats- Donut and Caboose- who I got from a lady who did not take very good care of them. She was a drug addict and her property was covered in cats. From where I stood with the kittens I counted twenty just running around the yard- none were well taken care of. When I got Donut and Caboose they were 12 weeks old but the size of a kitten at 6 weeks. They were covered in fleas and had severe worms. During the first couple of weeks I wasn’t sure whether they would make it. They pulled through, though, and now are a little over a year old and fat lazy kitties. The lady who owned them before me though is an excellent example of what is wrong. None of her cats were neutered or spayed and there were more cats than she could handle.
To really break down the problem for you I took a look at the ASPCA website and found, “The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year; the average number of kittens is four to six per litter.” This may not seem like a lot of kittens on first glance, but let’s break this statistic down a little further. It’s safe to assume that the average feral cat will live to be about six. So for roughly four years they will be fertile. If they have two litters of five kittens a year that means that over the course of just one cat’s life they will have given birth to twenty kittens. And that is just one cat. There are millions of cats out there that haven’t been spayed or neutered that just keep having litters!
So now that we have taken a look at how many kittens the average cat has we can look at how many cats there are that have been spayed in comparison to those that have not. According to The Humane Society of The United States, “Overpopulation is a serious concern. In the United States, approximately 2 percent of the 30 to 40 million community (feral and stray) cats have been spayed or neutered. These cats produce around 80 percent of the kittens born in the U.S. each year. Although 85 percent of the estimated 75 to 80 million pet cats in the U.S. are already spayed or neutered, many have kittens before they are spayed or neutered. Those kittens, especially if they are allowed outdoors, add to the number of outdoor cats and the problems associated with them.” let’s take a deeper look at these numbers, 2 percent of 35 million is 34 million and some change, that number is the number of cats that have not been spayed or neutered and are stray- meaning that the average cat from this pool will have 20 kittens in the course of its life. If we assume that roughly half of these cats are male we can divide 34 million by two, leaving us with 17 million female cats capable of having kittens. Thats a lot of kittens!
The big issue with cat overpopulation isn’t that there are cats everywhere and that they are killing off too many mice- the problem is that many cats are killed in shelters to make space for the inflow of animals. “It is estimated that approximately 3.7 million animals were euthanized in the nation’s shelters in 2008.” (Humane America) While this statistic does include other types of animals brought into shelters like dogs it is still a hard number to look at and a large portion of this number includes cats. While there are no sound statistics closer to home on how many animals in the city of Portland are euthanized, it is safe to assume that a good portion of the 3000-4000 cats that come into Multnomah County Animal Services every year don’t find a forever home. Especially when we know that many animals that get adopted get sent back to the shelter for various reasons.
So how do we protect cats and save their lives from such gruesome fates? The answer is a bit simpler than one might think- neuter and spay all of your cats as soon as they reach the age for it. Don’t wait until they have already had a litter to get them fixed. The other thing you can do to help dwindle these numbers is to adopt cats from shelters instead of breeders. Breeders only add to the problem. Many neighborhoods have a few “community cats,” if your neighborhood is one of them make sure that the cat is neutered or spayed else you may wind up with a community litter or two.
What can you do if a cat has already had kittens? To find this answer let’s look at the two main causes for overpopulation, “Pet “overpopulation” encompasses two primary factors: (1) allowing cats and dogs to reproduce with little chance to find homes for the offspring and (2) pets being relinquished by owners who can no longer keep their animals, or who no longer want them.” (American Humane) I have witnessed this behavior first hand, a owner does not get their cat spayed, the cat has kittens, and because unlike dogs cats can survive in the wild much easier, they let the little ones fend for themselves because they couldn’t find homes for the little guys. Well, the biggie here is to find homes for them. Even if it involves giving them to a shelter to find a home. Do not just let them out in the wild, this is where they continue to have babies. Then of course make sure that as soon as they turn of age they get fixed. There are programs out there that can help you afford this if you can’t afford it. Plus every animal that gets sent to the shelter gets neutered.
It is easy to see how some people choose to ignore the problem these little fur balls face because it “doesn’t affect them” or they are “just cats” but at the end of the day, even cats deserve to not be euthanized because of our over breeding of them. Every cat deserves a little bowl of food, a scratching post, and a warm lap to snuggle up on. Not a deadly injection to make space for other cats.
“Animal Population Control.” American Humane. American Humane, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.
“Animal Shelter Euthanasia.” American Humane. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
“Outdoor Cats: Frequently Asked Questions.” The Humane Society of the United States.
N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.
“Pet Statistics.” ASPCA. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.
“MultCoPets.org.” Stray Cat Information | MultCoPets.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.