|Cat motto: feed a stray, then neuter and spay
It will be interesting to see what this warm weather spell does to our kitten population this spring. Usually at this time of year, all the adult cats are going into heat and breeding season begins.
Technically that is supposed to be tied in to the shortened daylight that occurs in the winter, but I do think that temperature plays a role, too. We have been noticing a shifting over the past 20 years of what we call “kitten season.” It used to be March through the end of October. Rarely would there be a Thanksgiving kitten, and Christmas kittens were unheard of. The last five years, though, we haven’t seen kittens until late April, and we’ve had them in foster homes and available for adoption all through the holidays.
Individual years do vary; this past season we only had a handful of kittens left by Christmas. But it’s interesting to sort of chart the change year after year. This is the warmest January we’ve had in a long time (ever?) and it will definitely affect breeding cycles. Does that mean an earlier or later kitten season? Do you hear the yowling of females in heat in your neighborhood? We haven’t seen many of the females we are spaying at our clinics showing signs of being in heat yet. But that does give you more opportunity to catch and spay them before they are pregnant and have accidental litters.
We are still offering our monthly fix-it clinics to low-income residents of Rohnert Park and the City of Cotati. Cats are spayed or neutered, given vaccinations and a microchip for free. Dogs are given the same treatment for the low cost of $60 if under 80 pounds and $120 if over 80 pounds. Call 588-3531 and leave a message so our volunteer can call you back and schedule an appointment. If you have a pit bull or Chihuahua and can’t afford that price, they can be done for less – the last thing we need is more pits or chi’s being born.
In case you haven’t noticed there is a huge overpopulation problem of these two breeds. Some shelters have resorted to flying the surplus out-of-state, which is a great but temporary fix. We really need to stop the proliferation of these dogs and feral, or community (free-roaming) cats, which is where the bulk of the kittens come from.
The problems are many – one is reaching the owners of these animals because they aren’t our typical audience. If you work with low-income clients, with the Hispanic community, with seniors or with anyone that might have a pet that is unaltered, please help spread the word about our program (there are similar low-cost spay-neuter programs in all other parts of our County, you can have them call us for referrals). We have a flyer available at the shelter that you can post around your neighborhood or at work. Just stop by and pick up a few.
The other problem is when there really isn’t an owner per se. Such as with community cats, where someone (or a group of people) are feeding but no one person claims ownership. The problem there is getting someone who cares enough to take the initiative and trap the cats so they can be altered. It’s amazing how many people will feed a stray cat while watching as she goes through a heat, mating sessions, two months of pregnancy, and two plus months of nursing kittens and then call to complain that there are too many cats in the area and want us to magically make them go away. It doesn’t work that way. The saying we live by is “if you feed a stray, then neuter and spay!”
We’re doing what we can to stop the problem by offering free and low-cost spay/neuter surgeries to our community. Won’t you help by spreading the word? Together we can get the problem of too many animals under control.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.