Wednesday, February 24, 2010
“There is one solution [to stop the killing], and it is spay and neuter programs” announced Mayor Berry at a special Spay Day USA Press Conference yesterday. Beginning in April, Albuquerque will start issuing no-cost vouchers to qualified low-income caregivers redeemable at local veterinary clinics.
This is great news on many levels for Albuquerque, for New Mexico – indeed for the nation.
First and foremost the announcement was made by the moral compass of Albuquerque – the mayor of New Mexico’s largest city. He stood front and center and announced that the killing of homeless cats and dogs is wrong. As obvious as this is, it's rarely spoken out loud by shelter or government officials. Second, instead of blaming the lower-income families whose pets fall below the traditional spay/neuter radar as “irresponsible pet owners causing pet overpopulation”, he's extending a helping hand– by providing free spay/neuter vouchers. Third, by working through the local veterinary network already in place in Albuquerque – instead of holding special event clinics or using one central (and often inaccessible) location – he is providing them with convenient access -- which is essential to getting lower-income family pets fixed.
It’s long been known that there is no such thing as a “no kill shelter” – to be” no kill” requires a community-based effort – eventually a nationally-based effort. It’s also long been known that killing of homeless cats and dogs is unnecessary. It has a solution that’s both simple and cost effective – pro-active spay/neuter of all cats living indoors and out, friendly and feral. As helpful as private spay/neuter programs are, they can never be effective as similar work sanctioned by the community. It’s nice to see that Albuquerque has recognized this and is now taking action to stop the killing – let’s hope other communities take notice and follow their example.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
DDAF’s web site credits these events with over one-and-a-half million spay/neuters– which averages out to 107,143 cats and dogs getting fixed during this annual 24-hour event – 75 sterilizations every minute. And, it’s just another example of what we already know. Cats (and dogs) are not left intact because their guardians are irresponsible. When free or very-affordable spay/neuter service is provided at conveniently-located clinics, guardians do act responsibly and get their pets fixed. The spay/neuter barrier is not education or culture – but access and money.
Without special help, 85% of all pet cats are routinely fixed when they are first adopted. The remaining 15% -- that live in the families of the very young (college students and families with small children), the un-or-under employed (living off unemployment or from one paycheck-to-the-next) and the elderly or disabled (counting on social security to pay their living expenses) – simply don’t have the funds up front to fix their cats. Yet, fixing them is critical to their retaining their homes – otherwise their noxious spraying, fighting, yowling and kittening will eventually become intolerable for even the most committed caregivers – and the bond between them breaks – leaving the unaltered cat out on the street to fend for herself or taken to a shelter where she is as likely killed as adopted.
Even though these cats constitute only 15% of the pet cats, they cause 80% of the kittens born annually. Why? Because – when these unsterilized cats are abandoned outdoors –they form or join cat colonies – and continue reproducing. While Alley Cat Allies – and the myriad of groups using their Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) model – is highly effective at sterilizing these colonies, preventing the formation of new colonies is outside their scope. And, without halting new colony formation – by fixing the cats most at-risk of being abandoned –- TNR can never complete the task of controlling the outdoor cat population.
We thought it was only fitting to use 2010 Spay Day USA as the day to announce our new spay/neuter program – as it ties into providing year-round help for the same cats Spay Day USA addresses – pet cats in lower-income families – those who can provide routine daily love, food and water for their cats – but not the front-end money to get them fixed. By helping pet cats keep their original homes we’ll be preventing new outdoor cat colonies from forming – and thereby increasing the effectiveness of TNR work.
Our new program will be called Cat Spay of Santa Fe – and targets at-risk cats for residents of Santa Fe County. We have a lot of work yet to do to establish the program but hope to be up-and-running by late spring or early summer. Through Cat Spay of Santa Fe residents of mobile home parks and apartments – or families with annual incomes under $40,000 per year – can apply for up to 3 free spay/neuter vouchers covering the full cost to spay or neuter each cat and vaccinate once for rabies.
Over the next few months we’ll be contacting the vet clinics (shelter and private) to solicit their support. For as important as it is to make spay/neuter free, it’s equally important to make it convenient. For many caregivers the cost of gas is prohibitive and others are dependent on public transportation or friends and relatives to take them to a clinic – and they’ll hesitate to ask for help if it involves a major drive. Our Michigan spay/neuter programs enjoyed the support of over 30 veterinary clinics who regularly accepted our vouchers enabling us to schedule most surgeries locally – where the cats live. We hope the same will be true in Santa Fe County. Stay tuned for more details.
Let’s hope we can help make Spay Day USA every day in Santa Fe.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Why? Because when people find a lost cat outdoors – especially a friendly cat – they often jump to conclusions. They assume that -- since the cat doesn’t have a collar -- she doesn’t have a loving home – or was cruelly abandoned. If they’re attracted to the cat, they may rescue her by taking her home to live on a trial basis. Sometimes that works but often it creates a problem – especially if there are other pets and the guardian doesn’t know how to introduce the new cat to them Or, if the other family members don’t find the cat as attractive – the tension it creates often results in the cat being abandoned weeks or months later – or given to a rescue that may not be equipped with microchip scanners and may assume the cat was abandoned.
The statistics on recovering a lost cat are abysmal – but an in-your-face name tag is often the best way to ensure your cat comes back home. It’s hard to assume a cat was abandoned when they’re dangling their address around their neck. The microchip is important too – as a back-up -- if the collar comes off before the cat is found. There's always that possibility because a cat collar is intentionally designed to come off if the cat hooks it on something for the cat's safety.
No matter how careful you are, your indoor cat is vulnerable to getting out– it happens in a fraction of a second. If you try to catch your cat the situation often worsens, as the cat will bolt and run to get away from you. As hard as it is, it’s often better to observe them without moving quickly – so they don’t think you’re being aggressive. Unlike dogs who’ll run when they’re lost, cats simply hunker down in the closest and best hiding place they can find – often within feet of where they got out. They’ll stay hidden during daylight and come out between dusk and dawn –only to look for food or to try to find their way back home.
If you have a good general idea of where they are, your best option is to bait a live trap with the stinkiest canned cat food you can buy, and place it in the vicinity of where you lost the cat. Eventually she’ll get hungry enough to enter the trap. When she does, quickly cover it with a towel to calm her, and then bring her indoors torelease her. If you can't trap her, hopefully the ID tag will be her best ticket back. And -- even if you never lose your cat -- you can still admire how pretty she looks -- with a loving heart dangling from a color-coordinated collar.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Since losing Amber and Tasha last September, our cats have been relatively healthy – at least as healthy as a group of 13 senior-to-geriatric cats can be. Then -- around New Year’s -- that started to change. We weighed them in early January, and found a few of them had lost significant amounts of weight. And -- since cats are so good at hiding illness -- weight loss is often your first clue that something’s not right. We keep a digital baby scale on hand just for this purpose.