February is Spay/Neuter Awareness month. No doubt your kitties at home are already spayed or neutered, but what about the cats you see outside sometimes or the ones you feed at your workplace? Many kind-hearted folks feed community cats and free-roaming cats, but taking the time to humanely trap a kitty to sterilize him or her can make a real impact on feline overpopulation.
Did you know that upwards of 70% of cats who end up in shelters do not make it out alive? They may be perfectly socialized but get startled and bite a staff person and then they are labeled aggressive. They may get depressed, stop eating and shut down or develop a chronic stress condition to the point that they are euthanized because they are "sick." They may sit in the shelter for months, until the shelter gets too full (kitten season for instance) and then their time is up. Many underage neonate kittens are killed in shelters that do not have volunteers trained and willing to bottle feed. Some shelters in parts of the country don't even foster programs. Of course feral cats often don't even stay the length of a stray hold because they are a "danger to the staff", unless they have an ear tip and a microchip and a colony caretaker come in to claim them.
Obviously keeping cats out of shelters is the best solution. This means that any community cats or barn cats must remain where they live but that the colony doesn't grow. Even if you live in a city or town with a great, no-kill shelter it doesn't cut you slack to let your cat breed. The shelters doing such a good job with adoption and fostering often take in animals from shelters in areas where animal overpopulation is still a huge concern. So if you take a liter of kittens to your local shelter which is no-kill, that prevents the facility from taking a cat or litter of kittens off the "red" list from Eastern Washington, California, or another area that is drowning in cats and dogs. Most of these shelters are trying to implement life-saving programs but the day-today reality is that they have very limited resources and so many animals coming in. No one goes to work and feels happy about killing beautiful cats and dogs. We need to help these people help more animals, and transport programs are a great first step.
If you purchase a cat or dog from a breeder, the result is that in essence a cat or dog at a shelter dies. "What harm can buying one cute, little Labrador puppy or a precious Maine Coon kitten cause?", you might be thinking. It's a free country and you can spend your money on whatever you like, right? If we think of the greater good and look at the big picture, we realize that every choice we make has a ripple effect. If we all thought our individual actions didn't matter, none of us would bother to vote, or donate money to our favorite charity, or give a homeless person a meal. We all strive to make a difference in the world, whether it's creating art or music, raising thoughtful children, or volunteering at a non-profit charity. It should therefor resonate that the decision to adopt a homeless animal and not financially reward a person breeding their animals, whether accidentally or because they "love the breed" is clear and simple. So speak up and advocate for the animals who really can't stop reproducing without our help. Offer to do some of the work or cover the cost - whatever the person's excuse is doesn't matter, just help. Let feral cats live on your property, feed them and provide shelter, but borrow a trap and visit a free or low cost clinic and stop the cycle first and foremost.