As a child, I loved a book called “Millions of Cats” by Wanda Gag. Written in 1928, it was a book about a little old lady and a little old man who wanted a pet and ended up with too many cats. Hundreds, thousands and millions of cats! When I grew up and started working in animal welfare, I realized their situation was one in which many people find themselves in modern times. One cat shows up, then another and another. People feed them, and they reproduce. Maybe not to the same extent as the couple in the book, but over time, there are too many cats.
May signals the beginning of kitten season for animal shelters across the country. Cats reproduce in the warm months, and animal shelters see cats and kittens coming through their doors in large numbers. In 2013, the Kokomo Humane Society received 2,103 cats and kittens. That’s 59 percent of our total animal intake for the year. That’s a lot of cats, more than we can re-home. And this is a problem not just in Kokomo; almost every shelter in the country has similar feline intake.
What can we do about the overabundance of cats in our community? The very first thing cat owners can do is take responsibility for their own cats. Cats can be spayed or neutered as young as eight weeks of age and weighing as little as two pounds. Early spay-neuter is an effective way to prevent unwanted animals and to keep pets healthier. With the variety of spaying and neutering options in our community, there’s no excuse for leaving cats unaltered. Surgical sterilization helps prevent certain cancers. Neutering keeps male cats from spraying, and most importantly, surgical altering keeps cats from producing kittens that may not find homes.
Whether you know it or not, the strays that show up at the door and you feed are also considered your cats. According to both local ordinances (city of Kokomo and Howard County), an animal is considered “harbored” if someone is feeding or allowing the animal to stay on their property for three days. Feeding strays seems like the compassionate and kind thing to do, but unless you are making sure the cats you are harboring are altered and vaccinated, you are only contributing to the problem.