The Boys Don’t Get Off the Hook on Spay Day

black cat on sidewalk

One of Mimi's suitors who followed her over here from her former residence.

“Boys don’t have kittens, so you don’t have to get them fixed.”

Interesting concept, and taken farther than issues with unspayed and unneutered cats, boys do have babies, they just don’t give birth to them. But that doesn’t leave them off the hook for issues of animal overpopulation, not to mention the nasty behaviors unneutered cats indulge in.

gray and white cat nursing two gray kittens outdoors

A Stray Cat with Her Kittens

Even before Mimi, the house where she lived before she came to me had many cats, few of them “fixed”. It wasn’t that the humans didn’t believe in it or were uninformed, they just never got around to it, though they kept adopting cats and keeping kittens from their litters. At least one other female cat who lived there was also producing a litter or two per year, in the neighbors’ yards no less, and several males were strutting their stuff around the neighborhood.

“But they’re mother and son—isn’t that incest?!”

I kept on their back about getting their cats fixed and helped them find homes for the kittens, usually easing them into shelters, knowing these kittens were likely destined not to be spayed or neutered wherever they ended up. Eventually, a cat or two disappeared, they found homes for several of the ones they had, and they had all but Mimi spayed or neutered. And, eventually, we know Mimi ended up over here.

tabby cat on sidewalk

Just one of the guys.

But a neighbor one street over had, I found it hard to believe, four unneutered male cats in one house. They all went outdoors, of course, and at least two of them regularly found their ways to Mimi. I can’t imagine living in a house with four unneutered male cats who had roaming privileges; I know that people who breed and show cats will have a stud or two and they are usually pretty well-behaved. The owner of these cats, however, though it was really cool that his cats were the studs of the neighborhood and beat the crap out of all the other cats and the occasional dog or raccoon. He had no intention to get them fixed because they didn’t have kittens so he didn’t have to worry about it. I pity the walls of his house.

“I just can’t bring myself to do that to another guy.”

Not to mention anything up to 18 inches off the ground anywhere in their territory, including my storm doors, eliciting responses from some of my cats and from other outdoor cats, and so the pis–ng contest went on for years.

black cat on sidewalk

He has one thing on his mind.

This black cat was one of Mimi’s suitors. I’ll agree with her that he’s a fine specimen of a cat, and I can see where her kittens inherited their size. He went looking for her and pretty quickly realized she’d moved and found her here. She was still nursing the kittens but was in heat again, spaying was risky but I was absolutely certain that the two of them would rip a hole in one of my screens to get at each other. They didn’t, though even after she was spayed he still came around, looking sullen out on the sidewalk and mooning about her over in the neighbor’s driveway where they used to meet.

Several years ago, a friend of mine adopted a male cat and decided that, since she lived way far out and there probably weren’t any cats near, she really didn’t need to get her cat neutered. I did tell her that was a mistake for various reasons, not only because her cat would wander pretty far to find what he wanted, often to his own detriment, but that she’d be in one way or another contributing to feline overpopulation, something she was actually concerned about. But she didn’t believe me.

To her surprise, she found a cat nursing a litter of kittens in her barn. So her guy didn’t have to go anywhere, but apparently had room service—an unspayed female finding him and moving in.

She spent the better part of the next two years trying to catch all the half-wild and feral kittens on her property and working with the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh to spay and neuter them all.

Neuter and spay, it’s the kindest way.

And neutering surgery is much less complicated than a spay, so it costs less, sometimes as little as $25.00! There’s very little recovery and little chance for infection or other aftereffects.

Find a low-cost clinic near you, have your cat spayed, encourage someone else to, spay and neuter a few stray or feral cats, or support a local clinic

Also look in the menu on this blog under “Assistance” for links to local shelters and spay/neuter clinics plus a searchable database to find the clinic nearest you anywhere in the United States and parts of Canada.

LOW COST SPAY/NEUTER INFORMATION FOR THE PITTSBURGH AREA AND BEYOND.

Referenced in various articles that encourage spay and neuter for pets, includes the lowest-cost spay and neuter in the city, a link to stray/feral cat clinics and searchable databases of spay/neuter clinics all over the country.

You can also do a search on “Spay Day USA” or any topic in this list and find plenty of information on the internet.

________________________

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


An Animal’s Love is the Gift

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

Christmas Eve is here! Time for the biggest gifts and the best surprises, eating and drinking merrily, countless visits to friends and family, and generally overdoing it.

This year, you’ve decided it’s time your child had a pet. Or perhaps you and your friend, spouse, partner or other family member have been discussing adopting a cat or a dog. The holiday morning seems like the most exciting time to present the new kitten, the best gift of all, a memory to last a lifetime.

But what about the kitty?

black kitten with toy

Giuseppe Meets Catnip

Considering that entire books have been written on the complexities of introducing a new kitten or cat into a household, you’d think most people would avoid, or be discouraged from, introducing a pet to the household at an overcrowded, overstressed time like a holiday. But determined gift-givers are not easily discouraged.

An animal is not a gift
An animal is not a gift. The kitten or cat or any other animal is a living being with physical and emotional needs as complex as yours. Her life does not begin when she enters your household but, like you, she is involved in her own cycle of existence, including past experiences and present needs which are as much a part of her as those stripes on her forehead that caused you to choose her over all the other cats at the shelter. The real gift is the lifetime of memories and love that grow through the years.

The holidays can be dangerous

black kitten in kleenex box

Tiny Mewsette in tissue box

We get so caught up in our excitement and honest goodwill that we forget about what can go wrong. The holidays actually hold potential dangers for our animal companions (see “Pet Proofing for the Holidays” and “Holiday Pet Safety“). For instance, mistletoe and holly are both toxic to cats but we may decide to go all natural with a centerpiece that contains both items, or swag garlands of them enticingly around the windows. Even tinsel and ribbon can cause serious harm to a cat who decides to eat it, getting tangled in the twists and turns of the digestive tract and sometimes requiring emergency surgery.

If the recipient household isn’t accustomed to the presence of an animal companion, then those dangers are multiplied. You may not adequately prepare your household for a curious or frightened feline, and an accident within the house or an escape is entirely possible. Even if the household already has a feline or two, all cats are not the same and the new kitty may have habits the resident kitties have never had. The last thing you want your gift to turn into is the tragedy of an injured or lost pet.

Veterinary care at the holiday

young black kitten

Young Mr. Sunshine

Whether the household is accustomed to cats or this is the first entry, finding emergency care during the holiday season is difficult. Most shelter kittens and cats today are healthy and have received all the veterinary care they need up to the time of their adoptions; indeed, many shelters won’t even let animals go until they are spayed and neutered, have all the recommended basic care and are healthy and socialized.

But a new kitty is more likely to develop an illness under the stress of changing living accommodations. It may be due to an underlying condition not evident at the shelter or it may be acquired after joining the household. An injury may occur if the cat is frightened by the changes, or the cat may totally embrace its new accommodations and end up climbing the tree, walking across the stove, eating holiday decorations, leaving you to find an emergency clinic open on Christmas Day.

What about the recipient?

black kitten in bed

Giuseppe in bed.

As fun as surprises are, it’s the recipient who will be living with the kitty from this day forward. Even if the giver is in the same household and has furtively questioned the recipient to discover details of the recipient’s preferences, here are at least three quick reasons why the recipient should choose the kitty.

First, all cats are not the same, and forming a bond with an animal is just as complex as it is with another human. Of the billions of other humans on earth, or the hundreds we come to know in our lives, we only become real friends with a handful. What makes us think we can bond with any animal who comes along, or that a future pet owner shouldn’t have the chance to look for that little spark of love themselves?

Second, the recipient may have some preference as to where the kitty comes from. Every city and region has a list of shelters and rescue organizations which are generally bursting with cats who need good homes, and as difficult as it may be, you can narrow down the list somewhat using your own homemade criteria—the shelter that has the most cats at the moment, for instance, or one that has a clinic for which you can buy a membership for low-cost care in the future.

Fromage makes it down the steps

Fromage makes it down the steps

Third, you need to be absolutely certain the recipient really wants an animal companion. Yes, you’re sure that if you just get the cat into the house it will all work out, but it’s wrong for both the animal and the human to try to force the bond when neither of them actually wants it. Many people talk on end about adopting, play with other peoples’ animal companions and even visit or volunteer at shelters, but only they can decide when and even if they are ready for the commitment.

One other issue to consider is the impact on shelters after the holidays from impulse adoptions of pets. After the surge of summer kittens and stray animals is over, animal shelters are again besieged after the holidays with pets adopted then returned, or purchased elsewhere and surrendered because it just didn’t work out. Pets can’t be returned or discarded. You’ll find plenty on this topic on the internet—just two possibilities are a CatChannel.com feature entitled “Carefully Consider Kittens as Gifts” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, CABC, IAABC-Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and Amy Shojai CABC has an in-depth article on cats.about.com entitled “Pets as Gifts: How to Give Cats as Gifts”.

I can speak to a number of these warnings. Indeed, I received my first kitten in a box under the Christmas tree the year I was nine and I will never forget that morning, but the kitten had an illness, my parents were inexperienced, emergency care was hard to find and I lost him the day after Christmas. The experience obviously didn’t dim my love for cats, and I wrote about this and how cats became an important part of my life in “The Unintended Gift”.

So let’s go shopping—for pet stuff!

Giuseppe is patient with this.

Giuseppe is patient with this.

All is not lost!  “Most people are so busy during the holidays—parties, shopping, guests, travel—that we often recommend people think about purchasing a gift certificate from their shelter so they can bring the animal into the household at a less busy, less stressful time and allow that animal to relax into its new environment and bond with its new family,” says Gretchen Fieser, Director of PR and Business Relationships at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. You can see if your local shelter or rescue organization has a gift certificate policy where you can prepay for an adoption or alternatively, make a donation in the name of that person. If not, make up your own certificate and put the money aside. Give the certificate at the holiday.

Best wishes on your new arrival!
When the big day comes, we wish you a future full of love and good memories with your new kitty. Take your time and get to know her—you’ll be glad you did!

I’ve used photos of black kittens—the Fantastic Four as babies and my little neo-natal foster Fromage—since black cats and kittens apparently difficult to adopt, though I can’t figure out why!

________________________________

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


The Boys Don’t Get Off the Hook

black cat on sidewalk

One of Mimi's suitors who followed her over here from her former residence.

“Boys don’t have kittens, so you don’t have to get them fixed.”

Interesting concept, and taken farther than issues with unspayed and unneutered cats, boys do have babies, they just don’t give birth to them. But that doesn’t leave them off the hook for issues of animal overpopulation, not to mention the nasty behaviors unneutered cats indulge in.

gray and white cat nursing two gray kittens outdoors

A Stray Cat with Her Kittens

Even before Mimi, the house where she lived before she came to me had many cats, few of them “fixed”. It wasn’t that the humans didn’t believe in it or were uninformed, they just never got around to it, though they kept adopting cats and keeping kittens from their litters. At least one other female cat who lived there was also producing a litter or two per year, in the neighbors’ yards no less, and several males were strutting their stuff around the neighborhood.

“But they’re mother and son—isn’t that incest?!”

I kept on their back about getting their cats fixed and helped them find homes for the kittens, usually easing them into shelters, knowing these kittens were likely destined not to be spayed or neutered wherever they ended up. Eventually, a cat or two disappeared, they found homes for several of the ones they had, and they had all but Mimi spayed or neutered. And, eventually, we know Mimi ended up over here.

tabby cat on sidewalk

Just one of the guys.

But a neighbor one street over had, I found it hard to believe, four unneutered male cats in one house. They all went outdoors, of course, and at least two of them regularly found their ways to Mimi. I can’t imagine living in a house with four unneutered male cats who had roaming privileges; I know that people who breed and show cats will have a stud or two and they are usually pretty well-behaved. The owner of these cats, however, though it was really cool that his cats were the studs of the neighborhood and beat the crap out of all the other cats and the occasional dog or raccoon. He had no intention to get them fixed because they didn’t have kittens so he didn’t have to worry about it. I pity the walls of his house.

“I just can’t bring myself to do that to another guy.”

Not to mention anything up to 18 inches off the ground anywhere in their territory, including my storm doors, eliciting responses from some of my cats and from other outdoor cats, and so the pis–ng contest went on for years.

black cat on sidewalk

He has one thing on his mind.

This black cat was one of Mimi’s suitors. I’ll agree with her that he’s a fine specimen of a cat, and I can see where her kittens inherited their size. He went looking for her and pretty quickly realized she’d moved and found her here. She was still nursing the kittens but was in heat again, spaying was risky but I was absolutely certain that the two of them would rip a hole in one of my screens to get at each other. They didn’t, though even after she was spayed he still came around, looking sullen out on the sidewalk and mooning about her over in the neighbor’s driveway where they used to meet.

Several years ago, a friend of mine adopted a male cat and decided that, since she lived way far out and there probably weren’t any cats near, she really didn’t need to get her cat neutered. I did tell her that was a mistake for various reasons, not only because her cat would wander pretty far to find what he wanted, often to his own detriment, but that she’d be in one way or another contributing to feline overpopulation, something she was actually concerned about.

Before she could act, to her surprise, she found a cat nursing a litter of kittens in her barn. So her guy didn’t have to go anywhere, but apparently had room service—an unspayed female finding him and moving in.

She spent the better part of the next two years trying to catch all the half-wild and feral kittens on her property and working with the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh to spay and neuter them all.

Neuter and spay, it’s the kindest way.

And neutering surgery is much less complicated than a spay, so it costs less, sometimes as little as $25.00! There’s very little recovery and little chance for infection or other aftereffects.

Visit Shelters, Assistance, Spay/Neuter for information on low-cost spay and neuter in Pittsburgh and around the country and assistance with managing feral colonies.


“Spay Day USA”, Mimi’s Favorite Holiday

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story

“She’s such a good mother.”

“Some cats were meant to have kittens.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever get her spayed, she just loves to have babies.”

When I was raising my babies, I was an excellent momcat and plenty of people would look in the box and see my perfect kittens and hear us all purring and think it was the most natural thing in the world.

Well, of course I was a good mom—under even the worst circumstances, animal moms will always do their best.

photo of garden with black cat

Garden With Maia

I used to love my assignations in the neighbor’s driveway; I was careful to signal the two black toms from the next street over, and they were only too willing to show up on command. What a joy to feel my kittens grow, then giving birth and nurturing them, it was all so easy. I produced six litters of four kittens each in two years, nearly all of them perfect black kittens.

But when I realized I wasn’t the only one giving birth to a dozen kittens each year, and what happened to many of these other kittens and their mothers…I’m embarrassed at my behavior and sad for cats who lost their lives because of me.

You have to understand, it was all I knew, and I was totally powerless against my hormones. I needed a human to get me spayed or I’d still be out there producing kittens.

photo of black cat by door

Little Mimi in the Sun

Now my life is completely different, so much more full and interesting, I can sleep all day, I can play with toys, no kittens to tend to, and safer too, with no hormone surges making you want to run outside in all kinds of weather. You ladies think hot flashes are bad? You should try being in heat for an entire summer, even while nursing kittens! And those boys could be a little rough now and then, if you know what I mean.

If you won’t listen to a human about spaying your cat, listen to a cat who’s been there. Give your cat a gift for Spay Day USA—get her spayed! If she’s already spayed, help another kitty to a new life.

Mimi’s 30 Reasons to Spay Your Cat

1. Eventually, she will outsmart you and get out the door.

2. Your kittens are no cuter than any other kittens in the world.

3. About 3,000 kittens are born every hour in the United States.

4. If you want your kids to see the miracle of life, have your own baby.

5. It’s not good for a cat to have a litter before she’s spayed, in fact, it’s bad.

[You may already know these things.]

6. Having your cat spayed after she is one year or after having kittens puts her at highest risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

7. Having a cat spayed before her first heat reduces her chances of developing breast cancer later in life to almost nothing.

8. Nearly every city has a low-cost spay/neuter clinic or program that works on a sliding fee scale.

9. An unspayed female cat is more likely to do two of the things humans don’t like cats to do—scratch furniture and spray.

10. A spayed female outlives an unspayed female for an average of two years without the health problems associated with reproductive cancers.

[Apparently, many people do not.]

11. An unspayed cat can have an average of three litters per year.

12. Cats have litters of four to six kittens.

13. Kittens can go into their first heat as young as 4 months.

14. No, it’s not incest when brother and sister cats or mother and son cats have sex.

15. One unspayed female and her progeny can produce between 98 and 5,000 cats in seven years.

[Find some of these people and give them this list.]

16. About 75% of all cats entering shelters in the United States are euthanized because there are no homes for them.

17. It costs U.S. taxpayers about $2 billion a year to round up, house, euthanize and dispose of homeless animals.

18. Every shelter in the United States is overrun with kittens every summer necessitating the euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats—and dogs—to care for and place the kittens.

19. At least six million animals are killed in shelters every year because there are no homes for them and no space in shelters.

20. Someone has to decide who dies, and someone has to kill them, letting your cat have a litter of kittens forces a person to make this decision.

[All of this information is available from your local shelter and on the internet.]

21. A cat is “polyestrous” and can go into heat—and conceive—the day after giving birth to a litter of kittens.

22. All kittens are cute, and the world already has enough of them.

23. Cats respond hormonally to day length and can go into heat as early as Valentine’s Day.

24. Cats can’t get along on their own outside, so don’t put mom and the kittens outside instead of taking them to a shelter.

25. Spaying your cat will not make her fat. Feeding her too much will make her fat.

[Let’s make 2010 the year we eliminate “kitten season”.]

26. Cats don’t have heat “cycles”, so once they go into heat, unless they find a male and mate, they can be in heat constantly, forever.

27. Spayed cats have absolutely no chance of developing uterine or ovarian cancer because those parts are removed.

28. Spayed cats can’t develop pyometra, a critical and common uterine infection, because they have no uterus.

29. You can safely spay a cat who is already pregnant up to a certain point rather than contribute to overpopulation.

30. The male cats coming to court your unspayed female will seriously mess up your storm door, and probably each other fighting for dominance.

black cat in sun

Mimi in Speckles

[I only stopped at 30 because…*yawn*…I need to take a nap.]

Also read “Help to Avoid Feline Breast Cancer by Spaying Early“, inspired by and featuring Mimi for more information on feline breast cancer and other reproductive illnesses plus links to spay/neuter clinics in Pittsburgh and around the country. Also look in the right-hand column on this blog under “Animal Assistance and Information” for links to local shelters and spay/neuter clinics plus a searchable database to find the clinic nearest you anywhere in the United States and parts of Canada. You can also do a search on “Spay Day USA” or any topic in this list and find plenty of information on the internet.


An Animal’s Love is the Gift

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

The holiday season is here! Time for the biggest gifts and the best surprises, eating and drinking merrily, countless visits to friends and family, and generally overdoing it.

This year, you’ve decided it’s time your child had a pet. Or perhaps you and your friend, spouse, partner or other family member have been discussing adopting a cat or a dog. The holiday morning seems like the most exciting time to present the new kitten, the best gift of all, a memory to last a lifetime.

But what about the kitty?

black kitten with toy

Giuseppe Meets Catnip

Considering that entire books have been written on the complexities of introducing a new kitten or cat into a household, you’d think most people would avoid, or be discouraged from, introducing a pet to the household at an overcrowded, overstressed time like a holiday. But determined gift-givers are not easily discouraged.

An animal is not a gift
An animal is not a gift. The kitten or cat or any other animal is a living being with physical and emotional needs as complex as yours. Her life does not begin when she enters your household but, like you, she is involved in her own cycle of existence, including past experiences and present needs which are as much a part of her as those stripes on her forehead that caused you to choose her over all the other cats at the shelter. The real gift is the lifetime of memories and love that grow through the years.

The holidays can be dangerous

black kitten in kleenex box

Tiny Mewsette in tissue box

We get so caught up in our excitement and honest goodwill that we forget about what can go wrong. The holidays actually hold potential dangers for our animal companions (see “Pet Proofing for the Holidays”). For instance, mistletoe and holly are both somewhat toxic to cats but we may decide to go all natural with a centerpiece that contains both items, or swag garlands of them enticingly around the windows. Even tinsel and ribbon can cause serious harm to a cat who decides to eat it, getting tangled in the twists and turns of the digestive tract and sometimes requiring emergency surgery.

If the recipient household isn’t accustomed to the presence of an animal companion, then those dangers are multiplied. You may not adequately prepare your household for a curious or frightened feline, and an accident within the house or an escape is entirely possible. Even if the household already has a feline or two, all cats are not the same and the new kitty may have habits the resident kitties have never had. The last thing you want your gift to turn into is the tragedy of an injured or lost pet.

Veterinary care at the holiday

young black kitten

Young Sunshine

Whether the household is accustomed to cats or this is the first entry, finding emergency care during the holiday season is difficult. Most shelter kittens and cats today are healthy and have received all the veterinary care they need up to the time of their adoptions; indeed, many shelters won’t even let animals go until they are spayed and neutered, have all the recommended basic care and are healthy and socialized.

But a new kitty is more likely to develop an illness under the stress of changing living accommodations. It may be due to an underlying condition not evident at the shelter or it may be acquired after joining the household. An injury may occur if the cat is frightened by the changes, or the cat may totally embrace its new accommodations and end up climbing the tree, walking across the stove, eating holiday decorations, leaving you to find an emergency clinic open on Christmas Day.

What about the recipient?

black kitten in bed

Giuseppe in bed.

As fun as surprises are, it’s the recipient who will be living with the kitty from this day forward. Even if the giver is in the same household and has furtively questioned the recipient to discover details of the recipient’s preferences, here are at least three quick reasons why the recipient should choose the kitty.

First, all cats are not the same, and forming a bond with an animal is just as complex as it is with another human. Of the billions of other humans on earth, or the hundreds we come to know in our lives, we only become real friends with a handful. What makes us think we can bond with any animal who comes along, or that a future pet owner shouldn’t have the chance to look for that little spark of love themselves?

Second, the recipient may have some preference as to where the kitty comes from. Every city and region has a list of shelters and rescue organizations which are generally bursting with cats who need good homes, and as difficult as it may be, you can narrow down the list somewhat using your own homemade criteria—the shelter that has the most cats at the moment, for instance, or one that has a clinic for which you can buy a membership for low-cost care in the future.

Fromage makes it down the steps

Fromage makes it down the steps

Third, you need to be absolutely certain the recipient really wants an animal companion. Yes, you’re sure that if you just get the cat into the house it will all work out, but it’s wrong for both the animal and the human to try to force the bond when neither of them actually wants it. Many people talk on end about adopting, play with other peoples’ animal companions and even visit or volunteer at shelters, but only they can decide when and even if they are ready for the commitment.

One other issue to consider is the impact on shelters after the holidays from impulse adoptions of pets. After the surge of summer kittens and stray animals is over, animal shelters are again besieged after the holidays with pets adopted then returned, or purchased elsewhere and surrendered because it just didn’t work out. Pets can’t be returned or discarded. You’ll find plenty on this topic on the internet—just two possibilities are a CatChannel.com feature entitled “Carefully Consider Kittens as Gifts” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, CABC, IAABC-Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and Amy Shojai CABC has an in-depth article on cats.about.com entitled “Pets as Gifts: How to Give Cats as Gifts”.

I can speak to a number of these warnings. Indeed, I received my first kitten in a box under the Christmas tree the year I was nine and I will never forget that morning, but the kitten had an illness, my parents were inexperienced, emergency care was hard to find and I lost him the day after Christmas. The experience obviously didn’t dim my love for cats, and I wrote about this and how cats became an important part of my life in “The Unintended Gift”.

So let’s go shopping—for pet stuff!

Giuseppe is patient with this.

Giuseppe is patient with this.

All is not lost!  “Most people are so busy during the holidays—parties, shopping, guests, travel—that we often recommend people think about purchasing a gift certificate from their shelter so they can bring the animal into the household at a less busy, less stressful time and allow that animal to relax into its new environment and bond with its new family,” says Gretchen Fieser, Director of PR and Business Relationships at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. You can see if your local shelter or rescue organization has a gift certificate policy where you can prepay for an adoption or alternatively, make a donation in the name of that person. If not, make up your own certificate and put the money aside. Give the certificate at the holiday.

Best wishes on your new arrival!
When the big day comes, we wish you a future full of love and good memories with your new kitty. Take your time and get to know her—you’ll be glad you did!

READ MORE:

Carefully Consider Kittens as Gifts

http://www.catchannel.com/experts/pam_johnson_bennet/article00004.aspx

Pets as Gifts: How to Give Cats as Gifts

http://cats.about.com/od/amyshojai/a/How-to-Give-Cats-as-Gifts.htm

I’ve used photos of black kittens—the Fantastic Four as babies and my little neo-natal foster Fromage—since black cats and kittens apparently difficult to adopt, though I can’t figure out why!


Homeless Cat Management Team Clinic Dates 2010

I first published this post in January, then republished with new dates in July, but the information on the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh, spay/neuter and TNR opportunities in Pittsburgh and throughout the country are timeless. PLUS—HCMT still has several clinic dates for 2010 including a special on black cats on October 31! Read below…

bedraggled long-haired orange cat outdoors

Neighborhood Stray

If you are near Pittsburgh and manage a colony of stray and feral cats, you need to know about the Homeless Cat Management Team and how they can help you care for your colony, especially with their spay and neuter clinics.

The first date is July 10, so get started today!

If you’re not near Pittsburgh, read on and see if there may be an organization that can help you do the same for strays and ferals near you. I’ve also included links to information about caring for strays and ferals in winter and how you can help stray and feral cats in general.

This is especially important now, in mid-summer, because spring kittens will begin going into their first heat as their mothers also go into heat to produce another litter of kittens. Cats can go into heat as young as four months.

Register as a colony caretaker, then register for the clinic

First, you need to register as a colony caretaker in order to be able to have cats spayed and neutered by HCMT. Call 412-321-4060 and leave a message; someone will return your call and complete your registration as a caretaker.

Second, you need to pre-register for the clinic you want to attend, and you will receive a confirming phone call to be included in the clinic. Cats MUST arrive in a standard humane box trap.

All clinics are held at the Animal Rescue League of Western PA, 6620 Hamilton Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.

As part of the clinic feral cats will receive:

  • spay/neuter
  • rabies vaccination
  • penicillin shot
  • analgesic
  • treatment for fleas, ticks and ear mites
  • mandatory ear-tipping

About the clinics

Homeless Cat offers both no-charge and Fast Track clinics where feral cats receive all the above care and a mandatory ear-tipping, the universally-recognized sign of a cat who has been “trapped-neutered-released”. The no-charge clinic is just that—neuter, vaccinations and care at no charge for feral cats. They advise that the no-charge clinics fill up quickly, so they also offer the Fast Track clinic which offers the same service for $45, but as you can see below, they have specials.

Clinic Dates

  • July 18 (Fast Track): special, buy one cat spay/neuter, get one free!
  • August 8 (No Charge)
  • August 29 (Fast Track)
  • September 19 (Fast Track)
  • October 10 (No Charge)
  • October 31 (Fast Track): special, black cats are FREE!
  • November 21 (Fast Track)
  • December 12 (No Charge)
gray and white cat nursing two gray kittens outdoors

A Stray Cat with Her Kittens

Cats left in colonies will produce as many kittens as their bodies will allow if left unaltered, leading to disease and suffering and way too many kittens who then go on to produce more kittens.

A cat can have up to five litters in a year, bearing 6 or more kittens per litter over the course of as many as ten years, which adds up to about 300 kittens from one female cat in the course of her lifetime. Being more conservative, say she only has three litters of four kittens per year, that’s still a dozen new kittens, and even with an average 50% survival rate, that’s 60 kittens born over five years. Now add in all the kittens that those surviving kittens produce in addition to their mother, and it’s just out of control.

Ever-expanding colonies are also often the targets of abuse and “extermination”. Shelters are already full of cats who need homes, so rescue is unlikely.

The Homeless Cat Management Team offers a “Trap-Neuter-Release”, or TNR, service for feral cats. A TNR program literally helps people who have “trapped” feral cats with a free or low-cost “neuter”, necessary vaccinations and veterinary care, after which the cat is “released”.

This process has become an internationally-recognized method of helping to solve these problems by stopping the cycle of kittens and overpopulation. They just can’t produce any more kittens—and they don’t engage in the most annoying feline behaviors, such as spraying, calling for mates, caterwauling and fighting, noisy and odorous activities that often turn people against cats and colonies of strays and ferals.

tabby cat living at abandoned house

Tabby Cat Living at Abandoned House

This service is not available for household pets or even cats simply kept outdoors. This is intended to reduce stray and feral populations in colonies, so before registering for the clinic you must first register as a colony caretaker. For more details on the process of registering yourself as a colony caretaker and registering for a clinic, please visit the Homeless Cat Management Team’s website at www.homelesscat.org. You can also find other clinic dates and information on how you can help feral cats in many other ways.

If you’re not near Pittsburgh and you’d like to find out if there is a TNR organization near you, visit the Feral Cat Organizations listing on the Humane Society of the United States’ website. You can also find information on the Alley Cat Allies’ website under Make Connections. You can find yet more resources on the ASPCA website under TNR and Colony Management.

You don’t need to manage a colony top help feral cats. You can donate to, assist or even start a local TNR program in your area. The HSUS’s article What You Can Do to Help Feral Cats covers finding local organizations, listing options and how to pursue helping or starting a local organization, and they also have a Program Fund that you can donate to in order to assist them in helping local organizations form and operate.

Alley Cat Allies is all about assisting colony managers, and you can also donate to this organization in order to help the larger effort of local organizations.

And Alley Cat Allies has what I think is the most comprehensive information on just what feral cats are and how to care for them, including several articles on winter care, outdoor shelters, feeding and providing water in winter and avoiding hazards from chemicals like road salt and anti-freeze.

In addition to the articles, they also have a Video Library that demonstrates how to trap ferlas, how to care for them, the clinic procedures and even how to speak to the public about feral cats.

You’ll also find information on other topics, such as feeding strays and ferals, letting your cat mix with strays and ferals and legislation around the country and in Canada regarding their treatment.

It’s difficult for we who love cats not to think of each of them as potential companions for us, but true feral cats are not pet cats. They are a few generations removed from human contact and they’ve adapted to life without the assistance of humans. The TNR program stops the cycle of reproduction and provides them with vaccinations and care that help to protect the larger society of all cats, but the intent is not to provide them with ongoing veterinary care as we do our indoor cats.

That’s not to say that feral cats can’t come in. I’ve seen some feral cats who’ve been brought in to shelters for various reasons, usually because a colony was threatened by abuse or extermination, and I even rescued a single cat from a feral colony years ago, my little Moses who was near death from starvation, literally laying down and not moving she was so far gone. She was young and learned to live in the house, and she and I enjoyed nineteen years of a close and loving relationship, but I could never pick her up, she was terrified of other people, but she was timid and never acted out.

A friend adopted a rescued feral from a shelter where she volunteered, and MacKenzie mingles with the other cats but has her rules, especially the one about not being put in a carrier or she’ll offer to slice open your hand, and other clever cat tricks.

3,000 kittens are born every hour in the United States, many of these to stray and feral cats and the cycle continues. Find out how you can help stop the cycle.


Old is Awesome!

guest post by Alexa J. Howald, FosterCat, Inc.

photo of two cats in silhouette

Old friends enjoy the sun.

Oriental cultures are well known for their reverence for the elderly in their societies, but not so in the youth-oriented culture of the USA.  Here, the elderly are viewed largely as superfluous at best, and useless or burdensome at worst.

This attitude toward older people naturally spills over into people’s views about companion animals, to the extent that it is often difficult to find homes for cats that are only two or three years old, let alone the truly “senior”  kitties.

Especially during this time of year, “kitten mania” abounds and younger and older adult cats sit unnoticed in their cages, many facing euthanasia, even as their offspring fly out of shelter doors.  People who are absolutely determined that they have to adopt a kitten seem not to consider that within 12 months that adorable kitten will become a cat and remain a cat for the rest of its life!

Hardly anyone will try to deny that kittens are cute and fun to be around.  But are they the best choice as a family pet in every situation?  I don’t think so and here are some of the reasons why anyone planning to adopt a feline companion ought to consider an adult or senior cat:

  • When you adopt an adult cat, what you see is what you get.  The cat’s personality has been formed and will essentially remain the same throughout its life.  You will be able to select a cat whose personality fits your life style (Eveready Bunny or couch potato, or somewhere in between; lap cat or independent sort; comfortable in a high noise level/high activity environment, comfortable with children, other animals, etc.)
  • Kittens are fun, but they tend to have very high energy levels and often love to climb and jump. If you are fussy about kitty climbing your sheers or leaping onto your dining room table or kitchen counters, and you won’t be around enough to train the kitten not to engage in these behaviors, you should consider adopting an adult cat that doesn’t have a history of these habits.

  • The average lifespan of an indoor-only cat is 15 years, and many kitties with healthy diets and good veterinary care can live healthy, happy lives into their late teens and early twenties.  So when you adopt a three to six year old cat, or even a 10 or 12 year old, you will likely enjoy the pleasure of its company for quite some time.   And many cats continue to enjoy periods of active play well into their middle years, so those who want a friskier feline can easily find an older cat who fits the bill.
  • I will no doubt be accused by some of being blunt, but if you are elderly, it just plain doesn’t make sense for you to adopt a kitten.  In the first place, kittens, who love to dart about people’s legs and feet, or sprint ahead of them as they start down the stairs, can pose a real danger to folks who are already at risk of serious injury from a fall.   In the second place, a kitten will likely outlive you and what will become of your beloved companion when you  pass on or are no longer able to care for it?   Don’t count on friends or family members taking him in, unless you know for certain that they are able and willing to do so.   Based on  our experience, most surviving relatives are looking for a way to dump kitty before their deceased parent or aunt is cold in the grave.
  • Cats are amazingly adaptable and resilient creatures.  Don’t assume that your existing cat will only accept a kitten sharing its domain.  Given time and patience, nearly any cat will adapt to a new environment, or a new addition to its existing environment.  In many cases, the personalities of the individual animals, more than their ages or genders, will determine the length of the adjustment period.

Felines of all ages make wonderful companions for people of all age groups and can and do bring much laughter, joy, love (and yes, sometimes frustration) to millions of families in our nation and around the world – and there are many more who need safe loving homes. If your kids are pestering you for a pet, or if you would like to have someone waiting to welcome you at the end of your day, please consider adopting a kitty.  And when you do, don’t forget to spend some time getting to know the more mature felines at your local adoption agency.  Chances are, one of them is waiting for someone just like you.

Alexa J. Howald

Founder and Vice President

FosterCat, Inc.

FosterCat, Inc. is the recipient of the final auction bid on “Peaches and Peonies“. I’ve long known Alexa to be a fan of older cats, and FosterCat does so much to help rescue, foster and adopt older cats, which is why I chose them as the recipient of the donation. Visit FosterCat’s website and read about the work they do and don’t forget to browse their adoptable cats! You might see your new love there. I will also mention that I designed FosterCat’s website and all photos but the home page header photo are from my archives.


Help Cats Who Live on the Streets

Orange Stray Cat on Porch

Neighborhood Stray

Pittsburgh’s Homeless Cat Management Team is hosting a Volunteer and Caretaker meeting on Sunday, December 13, 2009 at Atria’s Restaurant near PNC Park. For more information, visit HCMT’s website at www.homelesscat.org.

This is the group that holds no-cost or low-cost spay and neuter events for stray and feral cats only, and helps people who are caring for colonies of stray and feral cats.

You may have heard about feral cat colonies, or groups of stray cats inhabiting abandoned buildings or the garage in your back yard, and you may have heard people say they are just a “nuisance” and should be “exterminated”.

Not so–they are peoples’ cast-offs who usually end up on the street through no fault of their own. Cats don’t choose to be strays, but end up out there after being abandoned by owners who no longer want them, very often females with kittens left to fend for themselves or cats left behind when owners moved on. These are considered strays, while feral cats are those born outside of human contact, often to mother cats who have also had no human contact so they are more like wild animals than the loving and playful cats we know. Often cats allowed to roam outdoors will join the colony, too.

Unlike the popular myth that cats can survive on their own and are exclusively solitary hunters, cats will instead seek safe shelter and a ready food source as well as the company of other cats for safety and survival. Therefore, a garage in an alley with a dumpster nearby becomes a place for the group to collect, and a stray/feral colony is formed. Likewise, in isolated or wooded areas where people tend to “dump” unwanted cats and kittens, they will gravitate to the nearest house or facility if food is readily available. In both cases, urban and rural, unaltered cats will reproduce and the colony will grow.

If no one steps up to take care of them they usually become the targets of abuse or anger, and without vaccinations they also harbor and spread feline diseases that would otherwise be kept under control.

For years, countless individuals have taken bags of cat food to cat colonies in parks and isolated areas as well as the alleys and abandoned buildings of cities. Often, this person will find themselves feeding a small group which continues to grow through the addition of kittens born to colony members and individual cats who are dumped where people see cats gathering, and before long the generous person is overwhelmed with the number of hungry mouths to feed and the sight of injuries and illness.

HCMT assists these people in providing spay/neuter and low-cost medical care for stray and feral cats, as well as people who care for individual stray cats.

Cats don’t belong in colonies living at such risk. Even if you can’t manage a colony or donate time to their effort, at least let HCMT know you thank them for the work they do, and consider making a donation to help offset the costs of surgery, vaccinations and treatment.


Why is June Adopt-a-Cat Month?

Cats don't belong in a cage.

Cats don't belong in a cage.

June is “Adopt-a-Cat month”. Not that people likely to adopt need a reason or a season, but because, in June, shelters are overrun with kittens from unspayed female cats, and often the mother cats themselves. It is at this time that “no-kill shelters” have to close their doors and turn cats away, and when, horribly, “open-door shelters” have to start reducing their population of cats to make room for the new arrivals.

It’s easy to point the finger at the shelter and say they shouldn’t do that, but that’s not where the fault lies and everyone knows it. The shelters have a limit by law and they can’t exceed that, plus staff are already overextended. People bring in new animals and some of the ones who’ve been around the longest have to move aside. I’ll stop dancing around it—some cats will be euthanized to make room for the new arrivals. Cats lose their lives because too many others aren’t responsible enough and decide to toss the burden onto the shelter.

The shelter needs to serve all the animals that come through its door, and must make a decision to put its limited efforts into cats that are most adoptable, usually the younger, healthier, cuter kittens. You can visit the website of any shelter to see the figures and find out how they decide which cats will go. Usually, they are older, they may have chr0nic health problems or chronic attitude problems or both, something that keeps them from going to a forever home with a loving family. Before you condemn the shelter for making that decision, imagine the people at the shelter who have to actually carry out the task. No one works at a shelter just because it’s a job. Most people work there because they love animals. And they are the ones who have to choose the cats and euthanize them.

Imagine if that was you. I had to stop volunteering years ago because I cried every time I showed up. I foster at home, where I’m not overwhelmed by the scope of it.

There is no reason for an unspayed cat unless she is a show cat, and these are few and far between. Responsible breeders take names of interested persons, and each kitten has a home before it’s born.

How can you help to stop this? Just spay every female cat you can. None of this “kids need to witness the miracle of birth” or “it’s good for a cat to have one litter” or “I just can’t catch her in between” or “she likes to have kittens”. The deaths of 2,000 cats in the Pittsburgh area every year directly related to overpopulated shelters makes any of those excuses a very poor choice.

And, in fact, recent studies show it’s very bad for a cat to have a litter, or even reach her first heat because of the risk of breast cancer. In a study done in Philadelphia, 91% of the cats who developed breast cancer had been spayed after age 1, 80% after age 6 months, 2% prior to their first heat.

Spaying is not cheap, but specialty clinics and programs are available in every major city. Around the Pittsburgh area, you can get a cat spayed for under $50. A visit to the website of any shelter will give you a list of low cost spay and neuter programs in your area, one that is up to date for hours and rates. It may not be convenient, but you only have to do it once. And you don’t have to take the risk of waiting until the cat is six months old as we used to, when some cats have already gone into heat once or even twice, possibly even conceived if they’ve been around an unneutered male.

Shelters around Pittsburgh never have puppies because local laws have required people to keep their dogs contained. We can do that for cats, too. Let’s help those who choose to work in shelters spend their time taking care of animals and helping them be adopted, not choosing which ones live and die.


Oh, Please–Cats DO NOT Steal a Baby’s Breath Away!

The Cat Writer’s list has been tracking a syndicated article by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton entitled
Keep cats away for baby’s safety where he’s not only reiterating the scare tactic of inaccurate information about the risk of toxoplasmosis, he’s retelling the myth of cats stealing a baby’s breath as if it hasn’t been disproved by professionals. Next he’ll be telling us they are scions of the devil who will possess your baby and take it away to Satan. I wouldn’t mind some old crackpot mouthing off, but this doctor is not only respected for his opinions, he’s published by the New York Times Syndicate so this article has been republished all over the country, here is one from Palm Beach: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/search/content/charmpost/epaper/2009/01/12/a3d_brazelton_0112.html

Lisa Radosta DVM, Diplomate ACVB, a veterinarian with Florida Veterinary Behavior Service wrote a clear and appropriate reply to the doctor’s article: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/accent/content/accent/epaper/2009/01/26/012609_radosta_col_web.html

As this veterinarian states in her opening, enough cats are unnecessarily euthanized every day and this sort of misinformation can be devastating if even just a few hundred people read it and take it seriously. Take the time to respond to it either in this newspaper or anywhere else you may find the article, letting people know that cats have no interest in killing babies, and especially passing on the excellent information provided by Dr. Radosta.