Puppy Dog Tales - April 2017
This and That About Cats and Kittens
Billions of songbirds and small mammals are killed each year by outdoor cats - both feral and those that are pets. Find out about local programs that are working to spay, neuter and find homes for felines in Hancock County.
- Robbie MacDougal, Shetland Sheepdog and canine journalist
One of the things on my mind is what to do about cats and kittens. It is getting to be kitten season. Actually in Mississippi we have kitten seasons in the spring, late spring and fall. That means full shelters and many feral kittens.
When it comes to cats and kittens, I am not surprised that we have so many in Hancock County. “Ten thousand years after their ancestors invaded our Fertile Crescent settlements, house cats — tailing our armies and sailing on our ships — have spread like dandelion fluff,” according to an article in the October 2016 Smithsonian Magazine (Abigail Tucker: “To Save the Woodrat, Conservationists Have to Deal With an Invasive Species First: House Cats”).
The U.S. has an estimated 80 million feral cats and another 100 million pet cats — a number that has apparently tripled in the last 40 years. Females reach maturity at 6 months. Some can breed at 4 months. The calculations show that a breeding pair of cats could produce 354,294 descendants in five years, if all survived. Gad! That is a lot of cats.
Here in Hancock County we have house cats who stay indoors all the time, cats who come and go, and feral cats. In our household all the cats are rescues. They are all spayed or neutered and never go out, so they don’t add to “cat issues.”
My neighbor has a couple of outdoor cats who are neutered and are up-to-date on their shots. The only issues they could cause are if they go after the local birds.
Did you know that house cats kill somewhere between 1.3 and 4 billion birds every year in the U.S., according to the Audubon Society? Feral cats kill another 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals. Yipes!
Some people put bells on their cats, and other have used a BirdsBeSafe collar. This is a neat idea that my neighbor told me about. Her cat collars are the breakaway kind with reflective tape.
I’m not saying that all cats would be willing to wear such a collar, but bringing the subject up does remind us all that cats do kill a lot of birds.
Then we have another category, feral cats. These are cats who are born and grow up in the wild. Some cats are abandoned and turn semi-feral. The problem is that if they are not spayed or neutered they will produce lots and lots of kittens.
One of my neighbors just picked up a trap from us to catch two male cats who have been living under their porch. The neighbor will use one of the Friends of the Animal Shelter in Hancock County free spay/neuter vouchers to make these two cat fellas unable to be dads. No more yowling, and less fighting and fewer kittens. The Trap/Neuter/Release program has helped, but more of these free roaming no-owner cats need to be fixed.
If you are a cat lover, I invite you to think about what you can do to help. All of your cats should be fixed so they cannot reproduce. We brought in one feral cat we were unable to touch for over a year. She roamed and hid in the house. Boo did well with the litter box but as she was not spayed we began to notice a kitchen curtain that was yellow on the bottom. We had to trap her to get her spayed to stop the spraying.
Outdoor cats need to be fixed as well. Friends of the Animal Shelter in Hancock County has no co-pay (that would be free) spay and neuter vouchers available for indoor, outdoor, and feral cats. Visit friendsoftheanimalshelter.org for additional information. FYI, they also have vouchers for dogs.
Another thing cat lovers can do is to make room for just one more. There are so many lovely cats who wind up in shelters and who need good homes. The Hancock County Animal Shelter Facebook page lists available cats and kittens. Like this one!
Thank you for reading my first column. I think I need a sign-off, so here goes:
Love is all there is — spread it everywhere!
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