Things are about to get very complicated.
While most of the world relishes the signs of spring that are all around us, the warm air and sprouting plants remind those of us involved in animal sheltering and rescue that babies are on the way. While I adore seeing baby goslings and bunnies making their way into the world just as much as you, the thought of kittens brings heartache and trepidation. We know 100s of kittens are coming, but there is a big difference between 200 and 800.
That difference is why we have learned to not embrace, but accept, the spaying of pregnant cats. The term spay/abort brings up a lot of strong feelings for most people. Some folks will spay any animal regardless of how far along or what type of animal they are. Some won’t consider it in any circumstance. Most seem to fall somewhere in the middle, generally being comfortable or uncomfortable but making exceptions depending on the specificities of each situation.
Tito was born to a feral mom who was brought into the shelter. She gave birth in a cage and was extremely stressed through the entire process. Because she’s feral, she has to remain confined to a cage until her kittens are weaned. She takes no comfort from a loving foster mom and never being able to have space away from her kittens will wear on her.
If she had been spayed, she would have been spared all this stress and would be outside enjoying the spring weather, having the time of her life, while not adding to the massive kitten overpopulation problem.
If she had been spayed, Tito would have been spared a slow death, even though we did everything we could to make him comfortable. His foster mom would have been spared the trauma of him dying in her hands.
My argument for spaying is that in order to make every living life matter, we need to do everything we can to control the population. If we allowed all the pregnant cats we TNVR to give birth, there is no way that the shelter, the TNVR program, or the community would be able to keep up while saving lives.
The cats that we TNVR are not shelter cats, if we chose not to spay pregnant females, we would have two choices.
The female can be left outside to give birth, leaving the survival of the kittens up to fate. If the kittens survive, they can start reproducing at a few months old, continuing the cycle. However, survival is not guaranteed. They will be at risk from exposure, predators and disease. And that’s assuming that the mom is able to successfully nurse the kittens and doesn’t abandon them.
Alternatively, some of our caregivers have suggested that they will care for the kittens and raise them so they can be placed. While this may be the “feel good” solution, it’s also not productive. The caregiver must be prepared to confine the mother for weeks, which is extremely stressful and increases the chance that she will not be able to properly care for her kittens.
At the shelter, we have seen stressed out mothers kill their kittens, it’s one of the most horrible things we experience. If the mother neglects the kittens, the caregiver should be prepared to bottle feed around the clock, every two to three hours. The caregiver should also be prepared to pay for vet visits for vaccines and if they kittens need medication. And if they truly care about the welfare of cats, they should also ensure that each kitten is sterilized before they are placed in a home. Anything else is irresponsible, as it would cause suffering for the kittens and contribute to the overpopulation problem.
In reality, that’s basically impossible.
Ideally, there would be a home for every kitten.
In reality, there simply is not.
So until reality catches up with the ideal, we must continue to work hard and make decisions to reduce the population. In the end, the more cats we fix, pregnant or not, the more lives we save.
Shelter needs: Cat and kitten dry food (no dyes please), canned pate cat/kitten food, catnip, Temptations cat treats, paper towels, copy paper, folders, “white-out”, post-it notes and pens.
To submit an adoption form for one of the Pets of the Week or another animal at the shelter, visit https://southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org