From Tori Tyree
Well, it’s officially summertime in D.C. Most people know this is true because of the higher temperatures and the long wait times for outside dining. However, the people who work in animal shelters know this is true because it’s “kitten season.”
So, I want to shift gears this week from my regular columns and talk about something that we all too often forget: As pet owners, I believe we all have a responsibility to care for all animals, not just the ones living under our roof.
I don’t think I have to educate most people about the importance of spaying and neutering your own pets. Being responsible has already become the cool thing to do these days, but what about all the feral cats living in your alley? This is why it’s now kitten season.
In a mind-boggling study on exploding cat populations, one unspayed female cat could be responsible for the creation of more than 33,000 cats within five years. In D.C. there is a group called Alley Cat Allies that helps people set up Trap-Neuter-Return programs.
Feral cats have colonies, and for the most part, these colonies stay in one area and support the same cats every year. New cats try to come in, but the colony of cats makes them leave because there isn’t enough food to support more animals. However, once one is taken out or leaves, another can come to take its place.
Here is where the spaying and neutering becomes important. If you trap, neuter, and then return a feral cat to his or her home, the cat will live out its days in the alleys — but won’t be able to make new cats. As a result, you will have a manageable population of cats that, in essence, care for themselves and aren’t causing stress to other animals in the neighborhood.
It’s important to note that feral cats are usually not able to ever live in homes or be social with people. They don’t make good housecats and that is why is best to return them to their feral ways.
More importantly, new kittens aren’t being born and your local animal shelters don’t have to deal with out-of-control numbers of kittens. In a mind-boggling study on exploding cat populations, one unspayed female cat could be responsible for the creation of more than 33,000 cats within five years. That is not a typo, I promise! Even at a 50% mortality rate, this is still an amazing amount of animals, and we can be responsible for this number. It just takes a little effort.
In D.C. there is a group called Alley Cat Allies that helps people set up Trap-Neuter-Return programs. There is information on no-cost or low-cost options for sterilization and they also have a great deal of information on providing shelter for colonies, guidelines for summer and winter care, and even determining whether a cat is feral or a stray.
Also, please consider helping out with kittens that have already been born. Become a foster parent for a few (or several) kittens so they can grow up in a safe environment and be ready for adoption. Contact the Washington Washington Humane Society Society for details about fostering!
Again, having a pet is something that brings us so much every day. Let’s not forget about all the other animals that need us as well!