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Walton County Animal Control, Georgia

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The Extent of the Cat Tragedy

 

Over One-thousand dead.” If that were people, it would be a tragedy of historical proportions. But because it is “just cats”, no one takes notice.  In 2013, 1,161 cats were euthanized in the Walton County Shelter alone; a rural county of only 82,000 people. Imagine what is happening in the larger metro-Atlanta shelters!

 

The weather is warming up; the cats are beginning to breed; the citizens will begin to call and complain; and the shelter will soon be flooded with adult cats and kittens. It happens every year, and 2014 won't be any different.

 

Each year, the “cat impound spike” begins in May and tapers off in November. Our small shelter can experience 300+ cats in one month during the peak. All summer long, within an hour of opening the doors in the morning, our adoption area is full and euthanasia room is loaded with cats in traps and cages. It is hard to fully explain the non-stop cat euthanasia all summer long.

 

Even though the high intake includes feral cats, there is just no way to turn around that many cats quick enough, so many of the friendly cats are euthanized as well.  People bringing in boxes of kittens are sure that “they are just so cute they will find homes, right?” Little do they realize, they just turned in the fifth box of kittens already that day!

 

There are several factors that attribute to tragedy, including the sheer high numbers of cats that enter the shelter system. A big piece of the solution lies in low cost spay/neuter clinics and TNR programs. But the focus of this article is to increase the rescue and adoption rates for cats that do enter the system. Compared with the dogs, the rescue rate for cats is pitiful. In 2012, licensed rescue groups saved only about 200 cats from our shelter... even fewer were adopted!  Meanwhile, over 80% of the cats were euthanized.

 

In 2012, over 1500 cats were euthanized.

 

While there are almost 80 Georgia licensed rescue groups on file with our shelter, the majority of those rescues (138 cats) were rescued by one group, Pound Puppies N Kittens. PPNK started out as a dog rescue, but over the years has built a successful cat rescue program. In 2012, nearly 50% of their adoptions were cats. It can be done!

 

While we are extremely grateful for the number of dog rescues, we hope to see more rescues incorporate cats into their rescue and adoption programs. Yes, new cat rescues could be started, but existing dog rescues already have many procedures in place, websites set up, adoption centers located and events planned.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, why not begin to incorporate cats into the existing rescue program? Poll the existing fosters and see who may be able to take in a cat from time to time; look for new cat fosters for the group; add a few housing crates to the remote adoption center for a cat or two. 

 

If just 50 of the 80 Georgia licensed rescues on file with our shelter take in only 4 cats each per year (just one cat every 3 months), our cat euthanasia rate would drop from the current 83% down to 71%. That isn’t saving them all, but those 200 cats would still be alive!
 

A LETTER FROM A SUCCESFUL DOG AND CAT RESCUE GROUP

 

Dear fellow rescue group,

I am with Pound Puppies n Kittens a rescue group in Walton County Georgia.  We have been rescuing cats and dogs from local county shelters for over 15 years.  It has been both a rewarding and disheartening experience.  We have always tried to support our county shelters as much as possible.  We provide spay neuter programs, medical advise, foster homes, supplies and share in their efforts. 

When we started we were primarily a dog and puppy rescue group,  We did take a few kittens and the pretty blue eyed cats.  As we have grown over the years our cat adoptions have grown tremendously.  This year we will do about 50 % cat and kitten adoptions.  I want to encourage other rescue groups that don’t have a cat adoption program to build one. 

Why should we all be rescuing cats?  The cat plight at county animal controls is much more dire than the dogs.  There are still many highly adoptable cats and kittens being euthanized.  Most counties live release rate for cats is a dismal 5-15 %.  This means 85-95% of cats entering these shelters are dieing.  Many of these cats have been housecats and are already sterilized.  There are many more rescue groups for dogs than cats.

If you look at national statistics cats are continuing to grow as the number one family pet.  There are more pet cats then pet dogs.  There is a market for adopting these shelter cats to the public.  WE need to figure out ways to tap this market.

These are the different components we have added to build our cat program: 

 

1. Find cat people in your community and get them involved with fostering and adoptions.  Our cat people make it fun.  They are constantly doing fun things with the cats at our adoption events. They network and constantly talk cat to their friends and fellow cat lovers

 

2. Look for a place to house adoptable cats for potential adopters to meet.  Petsmart, Petco, Tractor Supply, Local feed and pet stores. 

 

3. Intake for cats coming from animal control can be foster homes or a room devoted to holding these cats.   In some ways foster cats are easier than dogs, so new fosters may want to start with a cat.  They are easier to confine and don’t require as much work and attention as a dog. 

 

I would be happy to consult and advise with any group or person that is interested in rescuing cats.  I hope I can encourage more groups to incorporate and build a cat adoption program.

 

Thanks,

Elizabeth Perry DVM

Pound Puppies n Kittens

beth@ppnk.org