We’re tackling the challenges of Kitten Season right now on both coasts. Our Los Angeles team recently found another (yes, ANOTHER) family of nursing kittens on a rooftop, while our Maryland staff have worked hard to get single moms and their kittens out of area municipal shelters.
Cats can reproduce quickly and this is what leads to the shelter overcrowding, and euthanasia, that ACR works so hard to prevent. Kind and compassionate people gather up these young cat families and bring them to open-intake shelters, assuming that this is the best thing to do for them. Of course, municipal shelters always have limited space, time, and resources. Despite long hours and their best efforts, staff are frequently forced to make that most difficult of decisions, about who can be cared for and who cannot.
Cats who need more than a basic level of care and assistance are most often the unlucky ones; cats with injuries, infections and behavioral issues fit the bill, as well as kittens under eight weeks old. These are all cats who need a place and extra time and care to heal, grow, or socialize. Unfortunately, because there are so many new arrivals each day, shelters are not able to provide what these cats, who are the most in need, require.
The root of this problem is unchecked reproduction. Unsterilized, free-roaming cats produce 80% of the kittens entering shelters each year. While the vast majority of indoor-living cats are spayed or neutered, only 2% of cats who live outside are sterilized.
Sterilize Today to Avoid Euthanizing Tomorrow
The best way to tackle these problems is by spaying and neutering outdoor cats. The phrase Kitten Season always brings “kitten rescue” to mind, but the most effective process for lowering the euthanasia rate and saving more lives actually begins before kittens are even born.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) specifically targets unsterilized outdoor cats, the population with the lowest rate of spay/neuter and highest contribution to the kitten population. When these cats are sterilized, reproduction stops and they become much less likely to engage in nuisance and territorial behaviors. Spay or neuter, especially when done early in life, are also effective ways to protect cats from cancers of the reproductive organs.
After these free-roaming cats are sterilized and vaccinated, they’re returned to the outdoor homes they prefer, where a caregiver provides shelter and daily fresh water and food. Being “returned” also means they take up no additional cage space or shelter staff time, leaving those resources available for the daily arrival of other cats in need.
But, what about those month-old kittens found with mom in the backyard? The truth is, a kitten is best off with her mother until she is weaned, around eight weeks-of-age. Despite the inherent challenges of outdoor life, the nutrition and guidance that mother cats provide is almost always superior to what a human can do with foster care. When mother cats with kittens are discovered in a safe place outside and all appear healthy, the best thing to do is provide close supervision while creating a plan and preparing to have each sterilized and adopted or returned.
While we’re drawn to new kittens and doing everything we can to enable their young lives, we must never forget about the parents. If we rescue three kittens but don’t address mom (and dad), in short order there will likely be three new kittens in the same spot needing rescue once again. Free-roaming adult cats are just as deserving of quality treatment and care as kittens, and each time we act to keep them from reproducing and out of the shelter themselves, we create the opportunity to help a cat or kitten who’s already here.
We've got a new petition that we hope you'll sign to try and protect the feral cats of Australia. If you haven't seen the recent news story about the mass culling of cats going on right now, you can read it here.
When the Australian government in 2015 announced its plan to kill 2 million cats by 2020, we were appalled just like you. We crafted a petition and wrote to the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, and Ambassador to the U.S., Kim Beazley, to let them know about the humane solutions available for managing feral cats. While trap-neuter-return (TNR) by itself may not be enough to manage the outdoor cat population-especially in wild, unpopulated rural areas-that certainly doesn't mean we need to resort to the lethal methods being used in Australia today.
For example, exclusionary fencing can be used to create safe areas for both wildlife and cats; a government-supported spay/neuter program could greatly reduce the number of cats reproducing outside. We believe that when communities come together around principles like "no-kill," "adopt-don't-shop," and "compassionate conservation," they find ways to value and support each and every life, be it furry or feathered. The mass culling of animals is always a tragedy and never the answer.
Unfortunately, the Australian plan was put into place and hundreds of thousands of cats, if not more, have already been killed. Please take a moment to lend your voice to feral cats in Australia and sign and share our petition.
Spring is in the air and the Easter season is upon us. Mother’s Day is right around the corner too. As you plan your gifting and gathering, there are a few things to know to help keep cats safe while you celebrate.
All true lilies are toxic and poisonous to cats. Ingestion of even a small amount, be it a nibble on a leaf or grooming pollen from a paw, can lead to acute kidney failure. Despite their prevalence in homes and bouquets this time of year, Easter and all other lilies should be kept away from cats. No matter how beautiful or sweet-smelling, they aren’t worth the risk to your cat’s health.
All chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. While cats aren’t typically attracted to sweets, they are curious about the shiny new things that they find, and a foil-wrapped chocolate egg hidden for a hunt may prove too tempting to resist. Never share chocolate or chocolate-flavored treats with your pets.
Watch out for this common basket-filler. If ingested, these plastic strands can lead to all types of digestive system problems, including vomiting and blockage. Take the same precautions you would for tree tinsel; keep it out of reach of cats and other pets and clean up any loose strands.
Nothing spoils a day with loved ones like an emergency trip to the veterinarian. Try these alternatives to make a safe and happy spring season for cats.
Flowers & Plants – Avoid all lilies and ask for pet-friendly bouquets when ordering for your home or as a gift. Consult our list of plants that are toxic for cats if you’re unsure. A few pots of cat grass placed around the home can be a safe distraction for cats who like to nibble. If your cat’s appetite for plant fiber is simply insatiable, consider artificial plants and flowers.
Treats – Providing a new flavor or variety of your kitty’s favorite snack is a great way to safely include him or her in spring-time festivities. You can even go the extra mile and make your own gourmet cat snacks. A new toy and extra playtime are also good ways to include cats in festivities.
Safe Spaces – The sounds of celebration can be a lot for a cat. When the home is full of new people and smells, provide a calm and quiet space away from the partying where your cat can relax or retreat to should he or she become overwhelmed. Take care with open doors too; consider confining indoor cats to a spare room if you and guests will be entering and exiting the home frequently.
As always, be prepared. Have your veterinarian’s contact information easily accessible as well as that of the nearest emergency animal hospital. The ASPCA’s 24-hour pet-poison hotline (888-426-4435) could be a resource in an emergency too.
We’re fortunate to meet so many compassionate people who love their cats deeply, but it breaks our heart to hear the stories some tell about how proper veterinary care isn’t accessible to them and their feline companions. They often live in underserved communities where there are no vet clinics or animal hospitals, and other times the standard cost of vet care is simply too high.
One way we reach out to these kind people and their cats is by finding ways to offer low-cost or free services. Last week we sponsored three free spay/neuter and rabies vaccination clinics in partnership with Angels of Assisi, the Roanoke Valley SPCA and Cats Unlimited in Roanoke, VA. Our goal was to spay or neuter and vaccinate as many cats as possible and when the community heard about the event, they signed up and filled every appointment. The demand for these services is so great in the area that Angels of Assisi filled 100 appointments in a single day from one social media post!
From young to old and feral to friendly, each cat who arrived at the clinics received a health exam, was spayed or neutered, and then also vaccinated for rabies. For some cats, this was the first vet care they’d ever received. Many of them have at least part-time access to the outdoors so staff applied a lot of flea and tick preventative. While the cats were sedated, they got a complimentary nail trim too.
In particular, it was an exciting day at the Roanoke Valley SPCA, as this was their first ever event held specifically for feral cats. There are unique aspects to working with feral cats that clinics and staff must consider and plan for and we’re so excited that they’ve stepped forward to be a resource for feral cats in their community.
Our work and partnerships with clinics in Roanoke has now resulted in 998 cats being spayed or neutered and vaccinated at no cost to cat caretakers. Thank you so much to the staff at Angels of Assisi, the Roanoke Valley SPCA and Cats Unlimited for their dedication to cats and their help making these events so successful. We can’t wait to visit again!
A bill to increase penalties on animal abusers in Virginia has passed out of committee and could be headed for state house and senate floor votes soon. The bill, SB 1604, would make “cruelly and unnecessarily beating, maiming, mutilating, or killing a dog or cat,” a Class 6 felony. The bill was introduced by Virginia State Sen. Bill R. DeSteph, Jr. (R) of Virginia Beach.
The penalty for such actions now is only a misdemeanor and as written, current regulations require that an animal die from the abuse or torture in order for the offender to be charged with a felony. The animal must also be a companion cat or dog, leaving other animals, like community cats, unprotected.
We’re excited to see this change proposed and support passage of the law. Abuse or torture of animals is an extremely serious offence, and it shouldn’t take an animal victim paying the ultimate price in order for human abusers to be held sufficiently accountable.
Take for example Hardy, the cat we helped recover from terrible abuse in early 2018. He’d had his ears, tail, and all four paws mutilated. He was in dire condition when he was found outside and required immediate and costly veterinary intervention to be saved. Under the current regulation, our successful efforts to save Hardy could actually lessen the abuser’s offence in the eyes of the law.
Striking animals, tethering them outside in poor weather, neglecting their care, or dumping them when they’re no longer wanted are all forms of animal abuse. Unfortunately, the laws in our country are somewhat of a patchwork and can vary greatly from state-to-state and between jurisdictions. To see the animal cruelty laws on the books in your state, check out the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s database. There you’ll find a summary and specifics of your state’s laws and how it ranks in comparison to others. To learn more about animal cruelty, its forms, and why it happens, visit our site here.
No matter the season, summer, spring, winter, fall or kitten, we’re out making an impact for cats and working to grow the trap-neuter-return (TNR) community. This past weekend we presented our workshop, Caring for Community Cats, to a wonderful group of folks who were looking for ways to help free-roaming cats.
We began by explaining who free-roaming cats are, where they are, and why they live outside. We covered local regulations too, and then went through the step-by-step of TNR, from assessing the situation at the start of a project, to returning cats and ongoing colony management. Our trained staff also demonstrated how to set up and set humane traps and shared practical tips from our own experience.
These workshops also serve as a way for community members to connect with our programs and with each other. We’re always uplifted by the positivity that arises when caretakers and advocates for cats get together. More cats benefit when we all come together to work cooperatively; when welfare organizations like ACR provide knowledge and resources, when individuals do their part, and when local governments lend support, the greatest impact can be made.
Thank you to the Mount Rainier Police Department for hosting and providing the event space, and thank you to all who joined us to learn about TNR and caring for community cats. Don't forget to follow our Facebook page to stay up to date on our current work and to find out about upcoming workshops.
Are you a community group looking to get involved with TNR or a shelter looking to learn more and start a program? Please get in touch! Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-277-5595. We'd love to hear from you and find out how we can work together for cats.
Earlier today President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act into law. Better known as the Farm Bill, the law contains crucial new protections for animals.
The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act contained within the bill bans the slaughter, trade and import/export of cats and dogs for human consumption. While consuming dogs and cats is rare in the U.S., this provision is important because only six states have laws prohibiting it. Just as critical is the trade aspect. News reports from Egypt recently suggested that the government was allowing the shipment of unowned cats and dogs abroad for consumption, to places like South Korea where the infamous annual dog meat festival takes place, as a way to reduce the population of stray animals in the country. This practice is now prohibited in the U.S. thanks to the bill.
The bill also contained a measure to help animals affected by domestic violence. The Protecting Animals with Shelter (PAWS) Act provides new domestic violence protections for animals while allocating grant funds for shelters to add, improve and otherwise help find accommodations for pets in these situations. This is so important because one reason victims sometimes give for remaining in a dangerous situation is the question of what would happen to their beloved pet. Currently only 3% of shelters serving victims of domestic violence accept pets as well.
Other good news for animals comes in the form of clarity around dog fighting and cockfighting, which were previously banned in all U.S. states and are now prohibited in all U.S. territories (Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands) as well. Also good is something NOT in the bill. The Protect Interstate Commerce Act was thankfully rejected and removed. It would have usurped individual state and local laws passed to protect animals, such as humane farming practices and the banning of puppy mills, and made it harder for advocates and local communities to pass laws on behalf of animals.
While the Farm Bill contains some great successes for animals, there is still work to be done. The KITTEN Act, which would bar the USDA from using kittens in painful experiments, has bipartisan support in the House and a version was just introduced in the Senate. You can learn more about the decades of experiments that brought about the KITTEN Act and show your support for it by signing our petition to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Declawing is a cruel and inhumane procedure that is harmful to cats, and thankfully its use has now been barred in yet another jurisdiction. This week the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Veterinarians in Canada passed a resolution barring its members from performing the procedure beginning in January 2019.
The declaw procedure involves more than just removing a cat’s nail. In fact, the whole last bone of the toe is removed, altering the way the cat’s foot strikes the ground and changing their gait, which can lead to pain in the feet and back. Declawing can also cause nerve pain and behavioral issues. For example, when a newly declawed cat experiences pain when pawing litter in their box, they can come to associate the litter box with pain in general and cease using it properly.
Around the world, declawing is banned or restricted in at least 22 countries, including much of Europe, the U.K., and Australia. Newfoundland and Labrador will be the fourth province in Canada with regulations against declawing, joining Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island. In the U.S. a number of cities in California have enacted declawing bans and were joined by Denver, CO in November of 2017.
There are many ways to deter and redirect inappropriate scratching, but remember, scratching is a natural way for cats to leave their scent, stretch muscles, and release energy. Visit our Cats & Claws page for more on the declaw procedure and tips for how to encourage appropriate scratching.
Have you worked through scratching issues with your cat? Share your story and tips in the comments!
The annual Clear the Shelters event is this Saturday and for those who’ve decided to adopt, congratulations! In order to make the adoption experience as rewarding and stress-free as possible, we put together some tips on how to prepare for welcoming your new family member into the home, and how to go about making your decision at the shelter this weekend.
Check out the graphic below and click here for a printable version. Print and use it as a shopping list for the pet supply store and bring it to the shelter as a reference for when you’re choosing your new companion. If you’re adding to your fur family, check out our information here on introducing and integrating new cats into the home.
by Anjali Ravi, Communications Intern
This summer, bobcat fever is taking a toll on domestic cats in Northwest Arkansas. Though once thought to be carried only by the American dog tick, this blood parasite can also spread through the lone star tick, which is common to the area. Dr. Jack Herring, owner of Wedington Animal Hospital, told station KNWA that bobcat fever is becoming more prevalent and that on some days, there have been four or five cats hospitalized at once for it.
The death rate for bobcat fever is unfortunately very high. It infects the blood cells of the cat. Even in the event that your cat recovers from bobcat fever, he’ll still be a carrier of it, which can lead to even more complications and threaten other domestic cats in the neighborhood.
Cats who live outside city boundaries, in rural environments where ticks are more prevalent, are at a higher risk of getting bobcat fever. Despite this, city kitties are not completely protected from the disease. If your cat has contracted bobcat fever, it can be anywhere from 5 to 20 days before symptoms appear. Initial signs may include lethargy, decreased appetite, and high body temperature. As the disease progresses, your cat may experience breathing problems, dehydration, jaundice, and a noticeable drop in body temperature.
Because no vaccine is currently available, keeping your cat safe from tick bites is of the utmost importance. While the lone star tick is mainly found in eastern Kansas and the Southeastern states, bobcat fever isn’t the only tick-borne disease that can affect your cat. Rabbit fever (tularemia), Feline Infectious Anemia, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme disease all affect domestic cats and have the potential to be fatal. Though uncommon in cats, Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world. Its dominant symptoms in cats are lack of appetite, lethargy, and lameness due to an inflammation of the joints.
Here are some tips to keep your cat safe from tick-borne diseases:
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.