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North Hills Monthly

Spaying/Neutering, TNR Programs Help Control Cat Overpopulation

Jun 30, 2019 10:20AM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Maisy, adoptable cat from Humane Animal Rescue

Kittens may be adorable, but they can also be a problem.

Cats can have kittens as young as five months old and have an average of three kittens per litter. Some litters may have as many as six or seven kittens. Since a cat can give birth up to three times a year, with the average three cats per litter, that means that one cat can have 12 kittens a year or more. And an unspayed cat may produce litters for 15 years. 

That is a lot of kittens, and those kittens can bring on unwanted issues, according to Dr. Ariella Samson, chief veterinary officer for Humane Animal Rescue.

“We have a massive overpopulation problem in our area, and that results in euthanasia. Having your cat spayed or neutered is invaluable in my opinion,” she said. 

And while “kitten season” is considered mid- to late May through September, cats can and do have kittens year-round. 

But there are also other reasons for spaying and neutering besides the overwhelming cat and kitten population, according to Dr. Samson.  

Unneutered cats fight more and can be extremely noisy, especially when there is a female in heat nearby. “When you hear that cat howling at night, that is usually why,” Dr. Samson said. 

She also lists health risks for unspayed cats including mammary cancer and uterine infections. 

Fortunately, Humane Animal Rescue makes spaying and neutering easy. For house pets, they will spay or neuter a kitten for only $70, which includes a rabies and distemper vaccine and micro-chipping, which helps in case the animal gets lost. Owners can drop their kittens off in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day. All animals adopted from Humane Animal Rescue are spayed or neutered prior to adoption, which also hosts various spay and neuter clinics throughout the year. 

Humane Animal Rescue also has a Trap, Neuter & Return (TNR) program to assist in controlling the feral cat population. Through TNR, Humane Animal Rescue spays or neuters feral cats for $38, administers a rabies vaccine, and ear-tips the cat to indicate that it has been fixed. Last year, they hosted a 

24-hour Spay-A-Thon in which more than 200 feral cats were fixed for free in one day, thanks to volunteer services and donations. 

“In reality, we have a feral cat population, so we need to help control it as best we can,” said Dr. Samson, adding that studies show that even when feral cat populations are removed, other feral cats move in.

Frankie’s Friends Cat Rescue also helps control the feral cat population in western Pennsylvania. “We provide low-cost veterinary care for cats with and without human families. We also provide high quality, high volume spay and neuter services,” said Operations Manager Katie Smith.

Like Dr. Samson, Smith is quick to point out the advantages to having cats spayed and neutered.

“There are not enough homes for the number of cats and kittens that already exist in the world, and sadly many are being euthanized because of the lack of space in shelters. Spaying or neutering is also better for the cat’s health,” she said. 

Frankie’s Friends Cat Rescue provides services at their clinic in New Kensington and through their mobile surgery unit that travels within a 60-mile radius of the clinic. 

Smith also echoed Dr. Samson’s thoughts on the feral cat population. Although they may be undesirable, they are a fact of life. “They are a domesticated species that has been allowed to overbreed and has become fearful of people. They still need to be treated with respect, however, because they did not ask for this life. They are outdoors and feral because of the irresponsible actions of human beings,” she said. 

Frankie’s Friends also encourages community members to assist in TNR programs.  

“When someone finds a feral cat, they should humanely trap it, have it fixed and vaccinated, then return it to the area where it came from,” said Smith. “Once the cats in the area are all fixed, their numbers will decrease with time until there are no more cats left in the colony. This is referred to as attrition.”

Frankie’s Friends sells or rents the humane traps and assists with low-cost services for feral cats. Since it is important for all cats to be spayed and neutered, they also provide families who have cats as pets with low-cost spay and neuter services, in addition to other surgical services and lower cost flea treatment, deworming, nail trimming and combo testing, according to Smith. 

Groups and rescues can also schedule a mobile clinic date through Frankie’s Friends. 

“We typically hold mobile clinics each month with groups such as Orphans of the Storm in Kittanning, Clarion Paws in Clarion, Nose 2 Tail Cat Rescue in McDonald, and Just Us for the Animals in Punxsutawney,” Smith said. 

Both Humane Animal Rescue and Frankie’s Friends encourage the public to get involved in assisting efforts to control unwanted animal populations. Assisting in TNR programs, volunteering at shelters, becoming foster parents and of course, monetary and product donations are always welcome. 

For more information on Humane Animal Rescue including their spay and neutering services, visit www.humaneanimalrescue.org. More information on Frankie’s Friends can be found at https://www.frankies-friends.org.