If you are a regular visitor to YouTube or other social media sites, you’re struck by the notion that there apparently can never be too many videos of cats.
However, if you live in the real world of animal services, there can be too many cats, and too many cats looking for good homes.
Huntsville Animal Services begins to face a critical situation this time every year. It may be something left untaught in your ninth-grade biology class, but female cats begin to breed as days get longer. So, the winter solstice in December ultimately leads to what Animal Services staff refer to as a “kitten shower” in the spring.
Cats carry their young for two months and kittens need two months before being separated from their mothers.
“Apply some simple math and using a probability calculator of how boy and girl cats find each other, our North Alabama kitten season rolls in with thunder and lightning about mid-April,” says Karen Sheppard, Animal Services Director for the City of Huntsville.
“By June, until the end of August, we have a torrential downpour with massive ‘kitten flooding,’” Sheppard continues. Even into the fall, after days begin growing shorter in the summer, there may be fewer kittens but it doesn’t completely subside until Christmas.
Our community has so many free-roaming cats. And there are so many people who provide food and care, but they often don’t want to take the initiative on the next step to spay and neuter. We can help make that happen.”
To avoid a troublesome spike in the kitten population that can lead to the number of strays and increases the challenge for shelters, Huntsville Animal Services urges cat owners to have their pets spayed and neutered. The procedure can be performed when cats are as large as two pounds or have reached eight weeks of age and owners are encouraged to have those surgeries scheduled.
Because many cats in the city are free-ranging but have been unofficially adopted by caretakers, Huntsville Animal Services will work with those people to arrange for free or low-costs spay and neutering services. Contact Stefany at email@example.com for information.
“Our community has so many free-roaming cats. And there are so many people who provide food and care,” Sheppard says. “But they often don’t want to take the initiative on the next step to spay and neuter. We can help make that happen.”
Animal Services has established a foster program that still needs more participants who will keep pregnant cats and orphaned babies. Those who want to support the program but can’t currently take on such responsibility may assist by providing food, milk and other necessities for a foster home. For information on how to volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
During 2016, Huntsville Animal Services received a total of 1,909 kittens and cats. Some 44 percent were kittens, and Animal Services was able to save 95 percent of their lives through its foster home program and adoption.
Huntsville Animal Shelters has come as close to a “no-kill” operation as you can get, adopting each animal last year that could be saved.
That’s a drastic reversal from less than a decade ago. In 2009, the shelter received more than 3,000 felines and could save fewer than 400 from euthanasia. Though the number of cats taken in began to shrink, a majority had to be euthanized until the Community Cat Diversion program was implemented in April 2014. That year, more than 75 percent of the cats were saved.
“We have these things that we’re emphasizing – spay and neuter, fostering cats or assisting the foster program and the Community Cat Diversion program,” Sheppard says. “But we also want people to know we can help if they want to provide a good home and adopt a cat or a dog.”