"Shelter building has proved futile,
because enough shelter space can never be built
to contain every cat without a home,
so long as cats breed freely."
Merritt Clifton, Animal People
Visualize a running faucet. No one wants the water to spill, so someone fills a bucket. But the water keeps running, so we fill another bucket and this continues for a hundred years with no end in sight. Worse, when we fill up all the buckets — which is often — we discard the old water because we need the buckets to catch new water from the ever-running faucet. We're so busy filling buckets that no one realizes the faucet can be turned off. Then the water would stop flowing and no more buckets would be needed to hold the displaced water — and no more water would be discarded for not having enough buckets.
Sadly, this is our cat sheltering scenario. We keep taking homeless cats — ferals, strays, displaced pets, newborn kittens — to our shelters and rescues — and when there is no more space, which is often — we "discard" the excess. And this is despite our spending nationally over 2 billion dollars a year to shelter homeless pets. The problem is clear and the solution is known — but so long as we have intact cats reproducing, this vicious cycle will continue.
Alternatively, we could direct our resources at turning off the faucet — pro-active sterilization of all cats, feral and companion. The large flood of kittens would stop and we would have only cats we can care for — so we would have no more need to shelter!
Yes, there will always be homeless cats, but with lowered numbers, they can live in foster homes until they are re-adopted. With web sites and adoption events they can get maximum visibility to hasten their permanent placement. And, with universal use of ID microchips, even lost cats can be returned to their homes without being sheltered — animal control officers could use scanners to quickly identify the home address.
All we need to accomplish this is to step out of the box we've been clinging to for a century. Stop dreaming of bigger and better shelters and concentrate on halting the uncontrolled reproduction of cats. Our TLC/for The Love of Cats programs are dedicated to this goal. Won't you join us in this now-achievable mission?
We conduct two spay/neuter programs for the cats of greater Washtenaw County:
Feral Colony Assistance Program. This program provides free spay/neuter and vaccination assistance to managed outdoor cats with a daily caregiver providing food, water and dry shelter and property owner permission to live out their lives on the land. There are no income tests and the services are provided through a voucher program at local veterinary clinics. In addition to sterilizing and vaccinating the cats for rabies and distemper, they are treated for visible parasites and, while they are under anesthesia, the veterinarian clips the tip off the left ear — marking them as unowned outdoor cats that are sterilized.
Snip-N-Chip Pet Cat Assistance Program. This program is open to families with gross annual incomes under $40,000 — if they have a lifetime commitment to their pets. We pay the entire spay/neuter cost through a voucher program at local veterinary clinics. If the cats are not already vaccinated for rabies and distemper, for a $10 co-pay each, they can get them vaccinated at time of surgery. And, for a $5 co-pay they can be ID microchipped to optimize their safe return if they are ever lost.
To apply for assistance, call us at 734.663.8000. Visit our web site for complete program information.
Trap, Neuter, and ...Retire? The success of Trap, Neuter & Return (TNR) is evident in the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society's original Newburyport MA managed feral cat colonies — where the median age of their first sterilized feral cats is 14 years old. This success has led to a new situation: colonies of mostly geriatric cats who've never known the inside of a human home. This past December, volunteers retired the five remaining cats from one of their boatyard colonies because of city plans to develop the land they lived on. Today these five former boatyard cats are comfortably retired in permanent indoor homes. As anyone lucky enough to share a bond with a feral cat knows however, the true measure of success is no more homeless cats. Responsible guardianship that includes spaying and neutering, with a deep bond between all guardians and their companion animals, can end the cycle of homelessness.
Excerpted from "Trap, Neuter, And ...Retire", by Kathy Downey, Cat Currents, The Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, Spring, 2005.