Back in January, Barbara Bruin, who heads the city’s Animal Welfare Department, made a prediction that came true. She’d hoped it wouldn’t: “It’s going to be a tsunami of cats” this summer.
It has been that. From the first of June to the end of July, about 1,600 cats and kittens came to the city’s two shelters, straining space and resources to the point that a veterinarian titled an email this month asking for foster families, “Crisis in our cat kennels!”
Cats come in pregnant, cats come in with their litters, cats come in when people hoard them, like the woman who had 53 of them, or the man who had 17; cats come in and in and in, city records show.
Most are in the “owner surrender” category, which last year numbered almost 10,000 cats and kittens; more than half of those were euthanized.
Bruin, a self-professed cat lover, wants euthanasia to be the very last option for overcrowded catteries, which as of Monday held 458 felines. Besides the strain of crowding on the cats and the toll on shelter resources, the incidence of quick-to-spread disease rises along with the population.
The city shelter staff, responding to crisis mode, has held special adoption events and sent frantic appeals to volunteers, asking for foster homes. And even with rock-bottom adoption fees, you can get a second kitten for free if you adopt the first.
Animal Humane New Mexico hasn’t “escaped the cat deluge” either, and this week is at 116 percent of capacity, says Peggy Weigle, executive director. It’s been offering kitten and cat sales too — and giving away cats for free — while trying to stem the tide by doing a high volume of spay and neuter surgeries.
The reason for the tsunami is that too many people, whether uninformed pet owners or troubled hoarders, don’t spay or neuter their pets. It’s the law in Albuquerque that dogs and cats older than 6 months be fixed, although cats can go into heat as early as 4 months.
In the year that ended June 30, 49 citations were written for failure to obey the spay and neuter law. The city says, however, that 1,871 citations were written for failure to have a city license, and because you have to spay or neuter the pet to get a license, those tickets are a way to get people to do so. But there’s no way to tell how many of those license tickets were written because of spay and neuter violations.
Given the numbers of cat and kitten intakes, and given the number of city animal control officers out in the field (21) among tens of thousands of pets, it’s going to take more than city ordinance to manage the tsunami.
In the long run, only spaying and neutering stops the flood of the unwanted pets to public and private shelters.
A cat can be fixed at Animal Humane for as little as $20; and free surgeries are available to low-income pet owners. The city’s website, cabq.gov, and animalhumanenm.org both provide information, and Animal Humane’s website also has a link to its program called SPAYNM, which lists clinics statewide.
How to help in the short run:
The city shelters are desperate for people to foster a cat, a mom and her kittens, or just kittens.
Typical of a report by veterinarian Nicole Vigil: a mother and five kittens “in a kennel the size of a microwave oven,” who just need five or six weeks in a home. The mother cat, Vigil says, “promises to be a quiet member of your household, she is so scared here at the shelter!”
For information, go to the city’s website, cabq.gov/pets, or call 311.
Buy one, get one free! The city’s summer kitten special runs until Aug. 31, as does Animal Humane’s. Two kittens are twice the fun; adopted together, you avoid the issues that can arise when a new cat comes into the home a veteran cat believes is its own.
Of course, grown-up cats need homes too, and because they’re older, they have a realization of their circumstances that kittens don’t. Cats can think, and be thankful.
n City shelter fees are: $40 for kittens younger than 6 months; $30 for kittens and cats 6 months to 3 years; $20 for cats over 3 years of age.
Seniors 50 and older and veterans get a $10 discount.
Shelter locations are 8920 Lomas NE, 11800 Sunset Gardens SW, and the Lucky Paws adoption center at Coronado Center (call 768-1975 or 311).
n Animal Humane’s special kitten promotion through Aug. 31 is two kittens for $40; the regular adoption fee is $75 for one.
Cats 7 months to 2 years old are $15 and cats 2 years and older are free.
Animal Humane’s main campus is at 615 Virginia SE (255-5523), with adoption centers at 9132 Montgomery NE (323-7387) and 10700 Corrales Road (890-7389).
Adoption from either the city or Animal Humane (as well as local pet rescues, such as those at right) includes shots, microchip and — of course — spaying or neutering.