Monday, June 27, 2016

I hate cat overpopulation; I don't hate cat shelters

Sweet cat in a cat shelter

Know your enemy. It's one of the keys to success when you're dealing with any kind of fight or conflict. And it's something cats know all too well. Think about it: Before kitties pounce, they plot the attack, they tread their little back feet and they judge the size of the opponent. They never strike without thinking it through first.

If only people who loved cats would do the same.

Predictably, when summer comes around and the kitten population seems to explode, someone out there writes up some kind of rant about an uncaring cat shelter.

Typically, the person doing the writing has found a litter of kittens that are sick or underfed or unweaned or all three. These are kittens that need around the clock care from a family with access to the support of a shelter. In short, these are kittens that need to be enrolled in a foster care program at a cat shelter. With that care, they can grow up into pets like Fergus here.

Fergus the rescue kitten sitting on my lap

These people find very sickly kittens and bring them to the shelter, with visions of healthy kittens like Fergus dancing in their heads. They demand: "Take this kitten now! And do everything you can to fix it! But I cannot help either financially or physically. I demand that you do the work, but I cannot help."

I get it. I really do. These are people that care about cats. And they hate the way cats are treated in our communities. They don't like to see kittens treated like trash.

But sometimes, in the depths of kitten season, rescue choices are slim.

Sometimes, there are no foster homes open.

Sometimes, there are no kennels open.

Sometimes, there's no budget to nurse very sick kittens back to health.

Sometimes, kittens are so ill that they put other resident cats at risk.

Sometimes, kittens require such intense medical care that their early lives are a misery and they face days of excruciating discomfort unless a medical team makes the terrible choice to lead them across the rainbow bridge.

And yes, sometimes people make mistakes and don't show the compassion they should.

Kitty in shelter

When any or all of these things happen, the shelter may not be able to take in the kittens. Or the kittens may be accepted into the shelter, only to end their lives in the shelter.

People get mad. They should get mad.

But not at the shelter.

Know your enemy. You're mad at cat overpopulation. You're mad that there aren't better choices for the cats in our community.

When you know your enemy, you can do so much more. You could participate in trap-neuter-release programs in your community, to reduce the kittens that come in next year. You could donate to a spay/neuter program in your community, so low-income families can provide surgeries for their beloved pets. You could become a foster parent and save kitten lives directly. You could volunteer in a cat shelter, and see why some people may be so tired and frazzled and just depressed about cats that they say things that might seem hurtful or callus or just wrong.

But there's one thing I want everyone to stop doing.

Don't bash the cat shelter.

In your fight against cat overpopulation, the cat shelter is your ally. The shelter staff can partner with you. Attack them, and you lose a vital resource. What happens to all the cats they're caring for right now? Can you take home the hundreds of cats they care for?

Of course you can't. You need the shelter. And the shelter needs you.

Know your enemy. Then fight that enemy.

Please. The cats are counting on all of us.