Kitten Season

Just what is "kitten season?" Most people know that spring and summer time are marked by rebirth and renewal, when animals of all kinds bring forth their young. It's probably safe to say that most people also are unaware of how enormous the problem of overpopulation has become.

Every year, many thousands of kittens are born that will never have homes, will never have enough food, will never have a future, and will either die of starvation, predation, cruelty or accidents, or will end up in shelters - where most will be euthanized.

It's a cycle of misery and death - one that never was designed by Nature to happen that way. The huge explosion in the populations of stray animals is largely due to humans. As more and more people choose cats as pets, more are born as a result of not spaying and neutering them.

As many also are allowed to roam or are abandoned, the populations on the street increase exponentially also. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the biggest reason for the kitten explosion is the uncontrolled reproduction of owned and un-owned cats.

The most significant thing anyone can do to curb this problem is to get all cats altered, starting with one's own pets, and to manage the stray and feral populations by altering them, too. Many communities are having great success with Trap-Neuter-Release programs, where strays are trapped, given veterinary care, such as altering, vaccinating and treating wounds, then are released back to their old locations.

Other communities attempt to control the problem by Trap & Kill. As I have said for years, if killing them worked, why hasn't it worked yet?

There is something known as the "vacuum effect." Perhaps it is the best explanation. Until someone finds a better one, I will continue to explain how it is believed to work.

When resident cats are removed from their territories, new cats move in. That's it. That's the vacuum effect. The new cats then set about creating a whole new population.

The reason TNR (trap-neuter-release) works is because the resident cats are not removed. They simply are slipped away for a day or two, fixed, then returned, where they can continue to guard their turf, but no longer will contribute new life to the group.

It's not hard to show cat lovers the logic of this solution, but even so, there are many who are unable to afford veterinary services. This is why there are some organizations dedicated to assisting those in need with funding. Call Spay Day USA for more information, for example.

On the other hand, there also are many who do not believe in spaying and neutering - especially neutering. Some people believe it's not fair to male cats to stop them from the "fun" of tomcatting around the neighborhood. Some men even brag about their own cats fathering new kittens all over town, as if this proves their own virility. It's a demented and cruel view, in which millions of cats suffer terribly. Maybe some people should just stick with the toy stuffed cats.

The answer, however, is actually quite simple. Unfortunately, there is great difficulty in implementing this simple solution. Convincing people, especially local officials, to address this problem is extremely difficult. Some have no interest, some are not willing to spend the necessary funds, and some feel that trap-and-kill will eventually do the job.

We can only continue to try to educate and show by example that there are ways to help.

What you can do:

  • Get your own cat(s) fixed.
  • Help a less fortunate friend or neighbor get one of their pets altered.
  • Contact your local animal control or rescue groups and ask if you can help them with anything, even if it's only a donation.
  • Adopt or foster a cat from the local pound or shelter if you have room.
  • If you are allergic to cats or have other reasons you can't have one, you can help your local groups with fundraising, grant-writing or local events.
  • Talk to your friends and family about the overpopulation issues. Education is a good first step to solving any problem.

    Copyright 2012 - Dr. RJ Peters 
    The Problem Cat