Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff Tara Hellewell, executive director at Central Alberta Humane Society, visits one of the shelter’s cat rooms that have been turned into kitten rooms due to the large number of young cats in its care.

Watch: Kittens fill up cat rooms at Humane Society

More neutering and spaying needed

The importance of neutering and spaying cats just hasn’t sunk in with Central Albertans judging from the kitten overload at Central Alberta Humane Society.

“It’s a little disheartening. Just when you think you’re getting the message of spay/neuter out to the public then we start to see these large volumes of numbers coming in again,” said executive director Tara Hellewell on Wednesday.

She said the Red Deer animal shelter is caring for 65 kittens from spring litters, as well as about 65 adult cats. It’s more cats than usual now that the shelter has a contract to take in animals from the Town of Sylvan Lake.

“From the beginning of June to now we’ve taken in over 100 cats. That’s a high volume.”

Donations of wet cat food and kitten food would be greatly appreciated by the society, which has also reduced its adoption fees to $15 for cats older than six months until Aug. 31. Kitten adoption fees remain $175.

Right now there are 150 cats on the waiting list to come into the shelter. Normally the list has about 30 cats.

Hellewell said on Sunday two boxes of mom cats and kittens were left at the shelter’s door.

“They were unfortunately taped up in a box. But at least they came to us.”

So far six moms with four to seven kittens each have gone to foster homes where the kittens are weaned off their mom. But there have also been a number of sick kittens at the shelter. Kittens are very susceptible to respiratory stress.

“It’s been challenging to accommodate all of the different intakes because we have to keep them separate from one another.”

She said another issue that has helped create the kitten overpopulation is affordability of pet care for people with low income.

“People from low income backgrounds are struggling to afford vet care. They may have the opportunity to get a cat or kitten at no cost. There are lots of kittens on Kijiji. But when they get their free kitten they can’t afford to get it spayed or neutered.

“We don’t want to make income a barrier to pet ownership. Folks, families deserve to be able to enjoy the loving companionship of a pet even if they’re from a low-income background. So we need to do more to bolster programs to help support low-income families getting affordable vet care.”

She said some local veterinarians do offer low-income support programs, but more work must be done with other rescues to educate people about spaying and neutering and making affordable options available.

Hellewell said some people recognize the need to spay and neuter cats, but others still don’t and what that attitude really says is that cats are disposable and replaceable.

“It speaks to the devaluation of cats that we have as a society. We don’t have an issue with overpopulation of dogs anymore. People put more value on dogs. It’s acceptable to spend $500 to spay or neuter a dog.”

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