WELLSBORO - The cat population in the region has gotten out of control and is getting worse, according Second Chance Animal Sanctuaries' founder Sue Cook.
Unlike a dog that may cycle only once a year, cats go into heat at about six months and stay in heat until they breed.
Cook said that in the past four months, her organization has safely trapped and relocated two dozen feral cats from a location in Charleston Township where the problem had become unmanageable.
"The cats were starting to get into homes and something had to be done," she said.
The animals were all either spayed or neutered and relocated she said.
Second Chance, a non-profit organization that uses host families to house its animals, paid for all the costly procedures, Cook said.
"Our funds are all donations and it was a big chunk for us to come up with," she said.
"But they either would have starved to death or worse," she said.
Cook said her organization turns away at least a half dozen calls a week with people trying to give away litters of kittens or strays that show up at their homes.
Second Chance can be reached at 888-724-6188 and their website is www.secondchanceas.org.
Animal Care Sanctuary veterinarian Alaire Smith-Miller, DVM, emphasized the importance of spaying or neutering all pets, cats included.
"A cat can have more than one litter a year with each producing between four and eight kittens," she added.
As an example, Smith-Miller said, "In six months, if three females survive plus the mom, you could have them having around 20 kittens, and if even eight of those were female and made it, plus the three moms and grandmother... yikes...tons of cats." Doing the math of 12 cats times 20 kittens and it equals 240 cats, starting with one female cat.
"(It) makes a daunting problem," she said.
Because cats are often viewed by the public as being worth less than dogs, they get less health care, and are more apt to either be dropped off or wander off, Smith-Miller said.
"They are capable of surviving in the wild, and so, colonies form," she said.
As a no-kill shelter, Animal Care Sanctuary can only take in a certain number of cats, and must turn the remainder away.
The Wellsboro shelter can house up to 25 cats, but the larger facility in East Smithfield has "upwards of 480 cats," according to facility care handler Laura Baxter.
"We are all at max right now," she added, noting that the poor economy is often the reason people give for giving up their pets.
The cost to adopt a pet isn't cheap, either, costing about $67.50 for cats and more for dogs.
What happens to the cats that get turned away?
Baxter said the facility tries to help out the owners, encouraging them to keep the pets by providing low cost spay and neuter services and giving them supplies like food if they are in need.
Others get dropped off on some rural road or are simply killed because owners can no longer afford to feed and care for them.
Other shelters will only keep animals for a certain amount of time before they are euthanized.
Animal Care Sanctuary's other vet, Michelle Kaleta, DVM, writes a blog the organization's website, www.animalcaresanctuary.org, for more statistics regarding the cat overpopulation problem.
According to the website "No Kill Nation," our nation's shelters are killing 3.7 million dogs and cats annually.
The goal is to reduce that number to 700,000 to save all of the healthy and treatable shelter pets in the U.S.
This comes at a huge cost, with $2 billion spent each year on animal control.
2,000-3,500 dogs are born every hour
6-8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, but only 1 dog out of 10 finds a forever home.
Only 1 out of every 12 cats find a forever home
56 percent of dogs and puppies in shelters are euthanized. That's over half.
74 percent of cats and kittens in shelters are euthanized. That's over three quarters.
There are currently 70 million feral cats in the United States living in alleys, empty lots, and backyards. They harm wildlife and live short lives of 4 years, while a house cat lives on average 18 years.
Overpopulation also results in the spread of disease, especially among the uncontrolled feral cat population which spreads to un-vaccinated domestic pets.
Strays also create safety issues such as increased traffic accidents and dog attacks.
Some of the causes of overpopulation are:
Irresponsible breeding-pet owners want their pets to have babies or they allow their
pets to wander.
Ignorance-owners don't understand he importance of spaying or neutering.
Pets are purchased and not rescued-buying not only creates demand, it takes away a
home from a homeless animal. Adopting from a shelter saves two lives. One is adopted
and that leaves space for another to come up for adoption.
Statistics on cat and dog overpopulation
Female dogs have an average of 2 litters of 6-10 pups per year, so a female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in 6 years.
Female cats have an average of 3 litters of 4-6 kittens per year, resulting in 360,000 cats in 6 years.
"As a rural area, we have not had the outreach spay neuter services common in more urban areas to offer low cost spay neuter here until just recently, Smith-Miller said.
The Community Care Clinic in East Smithfield now exists to help combat this dire cat overpopulation problem, she added.
They are located at 353 Sanctuary Hill Lane, East Smithfield, just off Milan Road. Their phone number is 570-596-2270.
Sidebar to story:
What is the solution to the pet overpopulation problem? You can help
Spay or neuter your pet-there are many free or low cost programs out there.
Keep your animal secured indoors, on a leash, in your yard with a fence.
Have pets vaccinated to help stop the spread of disease
Donate time or money
Educate people around you
Opt to adopt an already spayed or neutered pet
To save the 3 million healthy and treatable shelter pets that are euthanized annually we need to:
adopt one additional adoption per group per day. There are 4,000 shelters and 8,000 non sheltered adoption organizations in the U.S.
Fourteen million people are pro-adoption in the U.S.; there are 41 million swing voters that are undecided and 17 million of those households plan to get a pet next year. All we need is 3 million to reach a "no kill nation" goal.
Educate yourself about spaying and neutering pets
If I breed my female pet, her babies will be just like her. False, your dog or cat may be a great pet, but her pups or kittens may have all her and her mates' worst characteristics. Not even professional breeders get the results they want from the
animals they breed.
The operation will cause my female pet a lot of pain. False, the pet is asleep the entire time. She won't feel anything. She may feel a little sore afterwards, but think about it, wouldn't giving birth to puppies or kittens be more painful?
If my purebred pet has babies it won't be hard to find homes for them. False, at least one out of every 4 animals in a shelter is purebred. There are just too many dogs and cats, mixed breed and purebred
If I neuter my male pet, he won't be a man anymore. False, pets don't have a concept of what it means to be a "man." Neutering will not change his basic personality and he won't suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis.
If I spay or neuter my pet, it'll become fat and lazy. False, pets become fat and lazy because they are fed too much and don't get enough exercise.
Spaying and neutering reduces risk of certain cancers. True, evidence shows that spaying your female eliminates the risk of uterine, ovarian, and breast cancer. Having a male cat neutered reduces the chance of him developing prostate cancer by 60 percent.
Having my male dog neutered will make him less likely to bite. True, un-neutered male dogs often show more behavioral and temperament problems than neutered males.