The Animal Shelter of Sullivan County runs a community cat program. For those who are curious, this sees interested individuals trapping unowned cats, bringing them in to be either spayed or neutered, and then releasing them back into their habitats. The Animal Shelter of Sullivan County is putting enormous effort into this, so much so that it is altering about 200 cats on a weekly basis. Something that is necessary because kitten season is coming up. Perhaps unsurprisingly, kitten season is the period when there are a lot of kittens being born. This happens in the warm months, so there is a fair amount of variation in the exact timing from place to place. However, kitten season tends to start up in April and continue until October in the United States. In any case, kitten season might sound cute. Unfortunately, it is a disaster for animal shelters as well as other animal welfare organizations because they get inundated by sick, starving kittens. Something that results in a lot of euthanizations because they just don’t have enough resources to give all of them an acceptable level of care.
Why Is This Such a Huge Problem?
The cause of the problem of cat overpopulation isn’t mysterious. In short, a female cat can start breeding at the age of 5 months. After which, she can have several litters of kittens in a single year, which works out to about 12 to 18 kittens over that period of time. Habitats have limited resources, which in turn, mean limited capacities. Thanks to this, it doesn’t take long before the number of cats in a habitat exceeds the number of cats that can be supported by that same habitat. From one perspective, this is a self-solving problem. However, from another perspective, this is absolutely horrific because this means that a single animal shelter can expect to see hundreds of hundreds or even thousands of thousands of sick, starving kittens. Most of whom it cannot care for on a permanent basis. Suffice to say that is a lot of misery concentrated into not a lot of space.
Some people might wonder if there are other solutions to this problem. There are. However, every single one of these solutions has its own issues. For example, it would be nice if more people adopted more of these cats. Unfortunately, these cats are not well-suited for that particular role. They aren’t wild cats, but they aren’t exactly pet cats either, meaning that it is hard for them to interact with humans. Some of them can overcome this issue, but even so, no more than a small number of these can overcome this issue to the extent needed to become a pet cat. Similarly, there are programs out there that seek to turn these cats into working cats rather than pet cats. This is easier because working cats need hunting skill as well as a fair amount of independence, but there are still two limitations in this regard. One, working cats still need to be capable of interacting with humans, not least because of the continuing need to provide them with medical care. Two, the modern world just doesn’t need working cats as much as its pre-modern counterpart did, meaning that there is a limited number of such opportunities.
Due to this, while programs that seek to turn these cats into working cats help, they are limited to being a supplement rather than the main solution. As for the idea of just not euthanizing excess animals, that isn’t possible. Animal welfare organizations care about animal welfare, which is why they believe in providing animals with at least a minimal level of food, medical care, and other necessities rather than operate as animal hoarders writ large. Since they do not have unlimited resources, they cannot care for an unlimited number of animals. Theoretically, animal welfare organizations could return their charges to their habitats, but without some kind of solution, that means perpetuating the conditions that necessitated their intervention in the first place. There are animal shelters with no-kill policies out there, but even they cannot evade this issue, as shown by their careful screening of the animals that they actually take in to make sure that these animals can be adopted out.
Ultimately, spaying and neutering is the best solution to this problem. First, it doesn’t actually have a very negative effect on the cats that have been spayed and neutered. As a result, it is much better than a lot of the more drastic solutions that are sometimes brought to bear against cat overpopulation. Second, it reduces the number of kittens that are born into already strained habitats, thus reducing the suffering that comes from an excessive number of animals competing for insufficient resources. Something that directly translates into sick, starving kittens, most of whom will never make it past a few short months. Third, the fewer the number of kittens that are born, the fewer the number of kittens that will be brought to animal welfare organizations. In turn, this means that their limited resources are spread between a smaller number of animals, thus enabling them to seek the best possible outcome for each of them rather than be forced to scramble for whatever they can manage while they are under serious strain.
It is worth mentioning that spaying and neutering seem to be achieving the desired goal. Animal welfare organizations used to euthanize a much larger number of animals in the not so distant past than in the present. This is the product of a wide range of animal welfare organizations working towards the same end as well as upgrading their capabilities to work towards the same end. For proof, look no further than the Animal Shelter of Sullivan County seeking in-house capabilities in this regard, which promises to help them do their job even better. Having said that, animal welfare organizations have also been doing their best to educate the public about the problem as well as the solution to the problem, thus enabling them to gain more ground than otherwise possible.