Kitten season is well underway, and while that might seem like a time filled with adorable palm-sized kittens, there are a lot of troubles that come with it.
Those troubles exist because there is a lack of spaying and neutering of cats, especially in stray and feral cats. The season usually starts around February and lasts up until June, sometimes even until late fall. It’s during the season that many cats will go into heat, become pregnant and give birth to a litter of kittens, according to Jennifer Ross, a veterinarian technician at Spay N Save.
Just like many advocacy groups, animal clinics and pet rescue groups, Spay N Save strives to help provide affordable spaying and neutering services to cats and dogs alike. Those at Spay N Save see such services as essential. Not allowing a cat to be taken care of only contributes to the overall problem. Located in Longwood, Spay N Save aims to reduce the number of homeless pets, said Kendall Massimo, a receptionist at the clinic.
“The most frustrating part is when a healthy animal has to be put down simply because there is not enough room in shelters and clinics,” Ross said.
She also added that if cats are left without being spayed or neutered, then this would allow them to mate. All cats, pets included, will find a way to mate when they are in heat; there’s no controlling it. After each pregnancy, litter numbers grow. At as young as four months old, a kitten can begin reproducing and can do so up to three, sometimes four times in a year.
The growth of litters and amount of reproduction in a year adds to the number of unwanted pets in a household. Additionally, there can be serious health problems for cats, said Yesined Ajete, a veterinarian technician at the Lake Nona Animal Clinic.
For both cats and dogs, an unspayed female can be at higher risk for mammary cancer and pyometra, a uterine infection that can cause a female to pass within just 24 to 48 hours. As for an unneutered male, they are at risk for prostate or testicular cancers. Dogs and cats age faster in respect to human years. That aging only speeds up the impact a health problem could have within those animals, Ajete said.
“Not only does it stop the overpopulation of animals on the street who end up starving or dying from disease, but it also helps save their lives,” Ajete said while advocating spaying and neutering.
While the issue happens with dogs as well, it is more prominent among cats, especially with being put down, according to Ross. There are more groups to help dogs, and shelters are often filled with more cats than dogs, she mentioned.
Along with household cats, feral, or community, cats need our support, too. There are some with ringworm or mange that causes many to avoid taking care of them. However, with education on TNR (trap-neuter-return) and working with groups such as Orange County Animal Services, many of these cats can be taken care of, Heidi Bedell mentioned. Bedell, a member of the Lake Nona community and local realtor, has been actively involved in the rescue effort for over a year and helped more than 24 cats.
Many see these cats as a nuisance rather than a life. On the other hand, another reason for inaction is because of assumptions. One main assumption has been that the county services would put down the cats once trapped, Mary de Guzman said. Also a member of the Lake Nona community, de Guzman realized the extent of the issue when she began adopting from her local shelters.
Bedell and de Guzman clarified that with the TNR process, many cats would be returned back to their community or colony. With the issue being present in communities all around, they want to help others understand the extent of the problem but how easy it is to fix and help the cats.
“When you open your eyes and listen and look for it, then you realize, ‘Wow!’ this is a problem,” Bedell said.
Considering that not everyone may be able to afford to take care of a cat or dog or feel comfortable doing so, there are plenty of other ways to help, Bedell mentioned. The first would be to ensure that your own pet is taken care of. If you want to breed, then do so, but take full responsibility from start to finish and consider what the responsibility will require of your own time.
Another way to help is to either call for help or trap the cat yourself to service it, according to Bedell. There are low-cost programs that can help with the service, including for your own cat, for about $35, depending on the gender. In addition to being spayed or neutered, animals are also given other basic medical support such as rabies vaccinations. One of her primary clinics she goes to is Spay N Save. She also said that if you can’t help directly with a cat, then donating your time or money to shelters is a helpful way to give support.
Fostering a cat, or even a dog, is a great way to help, de Guzman said. One cautionary piece of advice she shared, however, is to ensure that you have enough time for the animal, especially when they’re younger. And if you’re looking to adopt, then there are shelters that can help people do so at fair prices.
De Guzman also added that just spaying and neutering both cats and dogs alone is one of the primary or most proactive ways to reduce the ongoing problems of overcrowded shelters, homelessness, and unnecessary euthanization.
Ross of Spay N Save mentioned, if a cat is in your neighborhood and you’re taking the time to feed it, then it’s also part of your responsibility to look after the well-being of that cat. However, if you’re unsure whether a cat has been spayed or neutered, then noting a tipped ear on a cat is a way to help identify this.
The help is out there. By taking a few minutes to get educated on the issue, speaking with your HOA or even with your county and district commissioners to help with funding, you can support the cause. If members of the community don’t take action, then we’re never going to get on top of the problem, Ross mentioned.
“Rescue groups are more than happy to give out information on low-cost spay, neuter and vaccines. There are resources out there, people just have to look for them,” de Guzman said.