Once again it is kitten season in Shelby County and all over the United States. Each year between March and June, hundreds of thousands of unwanted kittens are born across the country. Many do not live to see a year and the lucky ones end up in a shelter. Shelters, including ours here in Shelby County, do their best but there just isn’t enough room to house all the pregnant mommas or orphaned newborns that surface in this spring deluge. Volunteers who will foster are in short supply and those with the knowledge of how to bottle feed and care for this fragile population are even more rare. And, of course, cat owners who fail to spay or neuter their pets add to this problem. There are simply not enough homes for the numbers of kittens who are born each year. Big city or small, rural or urban — all areas across the country struggle with this sad situation annually.
While Shelby County uses the TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) method to try to control the stray cat population, it is most effective if there is an individual who is willing to manage/feed the colony until it stabilizes and all the fixed males and females eventually die off. Obviously that could take years!
How can you be part of the solution rather than the problem?
a) If you own a cat, be sure it is spayed or neutered. The shelter offers a low cost program several times a year. While most cats are good moms, many are not. Most young females can get pregnant more than once a year. Letting your child witness the miracle of birth only makes the spay operation more risky for the female cats. A neutered cat will live longer and remain healthier than one who hasn’t had the surgery. The world does not need more kittens; there are too many already.
b) Encourage everyone you know who has a cat to get it fixed. While senior citizens benefit from a companion animal, many do not have the financial resources to care for litter after litter. Take them a bag of kitten food, help them make a spay/neuter appointment for their cat, offer to drive them to the vet if there are transportation issues.
c) If your child is an animal lover, try volunteering with them at your local shelter or rescue group. Learn how to bottle feed. Take in a pregnant stray. Network on social media. Volunteer to learn the TNR process.
d) Be willing to take a risk. Many people hesitate to get involved because they fear they will be “stuck” with an animal that they are willing to help but do not want to keep permanently. It is a valid concern and something that those in the animal community are aware of. We can learn from each other and the most successful groups are the ones with a strong volunteer program. Sometimes offering financial assistance should an animal become ill or having a place to return the kittens once they are weaned goes a long way to encouraging fostering. Hopefully when our beautiful new shelter is built, a community-based collaborative volunteer effort can be looked at as a possibility.
In the meantime, realize that these kittens didn’t ask to be born. They didn’t arrive on the planet to be a neighborhood nuisance, tear up your flower beds or hang out under your bird feeders. They are just trying to survive the sometimes cruel hand they have been dealt. As Aesop once said, “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”
Joann Wilson Reed is a Sidney resident who is the founding member, past president and humane educator of the original Shelby County Humane Society from 1975-1995. She was a middle school special education for 34 years for Sidney City Schools, has been a vegetarian for 32 years, and is dedicated to helping any animal in need.