Tonawanda News

April 11, 2013

KEPPELER: Don't be part of the problem

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I’m a cat person.

To be fair, there really aren’t many pets I don’t like. I can even deal with snakes, and once had every intention of adopting an iguana after I graduated from college. Ferrets are a hoot, and full of personality. (See page 1C in next Sunday’s Tonawanda News.) Dogs are great. 

But ... yeah, I’m a cat person. Maybe it’s the independence combined with the cuddliness. I don’t know. I’ve known cats from the aloof to the playful to the cozy, and I’ve liked them all. 

With my family, most of the cats have been rescues, from the long-haired tabby kitten that just showed up on my parents’ porch one morning (the likely descendant of farm cats, who grew into a beloved family pet) to my aunt’s lovely calico, born to cats abandoned next a campground in my hometown. 

They, of course, found wonderful homes. But I could never help wondering. What of the kittens who wandered into road instead of onto a cozy porch? How many of those abandoned with Patches weren’t rescued to a warm home, but lived out their lives in the wild, often sick or injured ... or constantly producing more homeless kittens?

On Tuesday, SPCA of Niagara Director Amy Lewis spoke with the North Tonawanda council about options to dealing with a growing feral cat problem in the area. As an animal lover, I read the story in our paper with great interest in the process, from collecting data on where feral cats live in the city to obtaining grant money to spay and neuter the animals.

The conversation was started, in part, by the March discovery of about 50 stray or feral cats — flea-ridden, sometimes ill or antisocial, traumatized and scared — in a Roncroff Drive home. One fact of Lewis’ comments about the situation stunned me.

Fifty cats ... and it might have all started with two.

“They were almost all orange,” she told the council. “This could have been prevented.”

Now, I know about the birds and bees. So do you, probably. It doesn’t take much math to understand how this happened. 

I’m going to say something about it. And I’m going to say it in italics, just so you know how very serious I am.

For crying out loud, people, spay or neuter your pets.

According to the ASPCA, the average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year (some sources say more); the average number of kittens is four to six per litter. Female cats can start going into heat as young as 4 months old. The math is simple.

How long did it take two cats to turn into 50? Not long at all. Imagine if it had continued.

But for some reason, that still doesn’t seem to sink in with some people.

Maybe it’s the “awwww, cute kittens!” factor. It’s not difficult to understand that one. There aren’t many critters that are cuter than a clumsy, playful kitten who hops around the house batting at paper bags and generally acting adorable. Who doesn’t want more of those, right?

But kittens grow up to be cats, and far too many people think not only that grown cats are far less cute, but that it’s completely acceptable to be irresponsible and toss them out to fend for themselves.

(Where they promptly make more kittens. Who turn into cats. Who make more ... well, you get the picture.)

And even if they find homes for them, that’s however many homes unavailable for a shelter pet in need.

Or maybe it’s the price. (Which falls under the category of “If you can’t afford to take care of your pets, maybe you shouldn’t have them,” but that’s beside the point.) 

The Niagara SPCA is still working on its mobile spay and neuter program, but there are other options. Ask your veterinarian, or ask good ol’ Dr. Google. For residents of Erie County, there’s The Maddie’s Spay/Neuter Project. Visit www.maddieseriecounty.org.

If you’re truly a responsible pet owner, there are ways.

For the record, you can contact the Niagara SPCA at 731-4368 or info@niagaraspca.org. Maybe you can help with their project. Heaven knows it’s needed.

But at the very least, don’t be part of the problem.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com.