It’s kit­ten sea­son. Here’s how to help

The Arizona Republic - - Valley&State - Lau­ren Cas­tle

It’s kit­ten sea­son.

That means we’ll see a grow­ing num­ber of kit­tens dur­ing the warmer months, par­tic­u­larly among the fer­al­cat pop­u­la­tion.

Kit­ten sea­son is known for start­ing in the spring and end­ing in the fall. Ac­cord­ing to the Wildlife So­ci­ety, cats can re­pro­duce mul­ti­ple times a year be­gin­ning when they are 6 months old.

There are three types of cats: in­door, free-rang­ing and feral, ac­cord­ing to The Wildlife So­ci­ety, which works on con­ser­va­tion is­sues.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion says feral cats are not so­cial­ized to hu­mans and live com­pletely out­doors. In­door cats can be­come feral if re­leased.

The Ari­zona Fish and Game Depart­ment told The Ari­zona Repub­lic, feral cats are not tracked in the state be­cause they are not wild an­i­mals. But the West­ern Gover­nors’ As­so­ci­a­tion named feral cats as one of the top 50 in­va­sive species in the West.

Many mam­mals and rep­tiles, and at least 33 bird species are ex­tinct be­cause of cats, ac­cord­ing to The Wildlife So­ci­ety.

Feral cats also pose harm to hu­mans by trans­fer­ring dis­eases like ra­bies and salmonel­losis, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The An­i­mal De­fense League of Ari­zona has part­nered with cities across Mari­copa County to cre­ate trap-neuter-re­turn pro­grams.

The pro­grams, which started in the early 1990s, trap out­door cats to spay or neuter them and re­turns them to their orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion.

A small part of the cat’s ear is snipped to in­di­cate it has been spayed or neutered.

ADLA Pres­i­dent Stephanie Ni­chol­sYoung said sup­port is grow­ing for the process.

“I think there is a lot more com­mu­nity ac­cep­tance,” Ni­chols-Young said.

Home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tions and other com­mu­nity groups of­ten of­fer to as­sist, she said.

A per­son can con­tact the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site or hot­line for help if feral cats live in their neigh­bor­hood. ADLA es­ti­mates 300 con­tacts are made each week.

An­i­mal De­fense League As­so­ci­a­tion hot­line: 602-265-7729, out­door­cats@ad­laz.org

Res­i­dents can re­ceive ser­vices with a $25 do­na­tion. The ADLA has a fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance pro­gram to help those who can­not af­ford to make a do­na­tion.

Tempe’s agree­ment with the An­i­mal De­fense League of Ari­zona cre­ated a Tempe-spe­cific do­na­tion fund for trap, neuter and re­turn pro­grams.

In Tempe, 223 cats were TNR’d, with one re­turned to owner be­cause it was mi­crochipped.

ADLA be­lieves the pro­gram can end the breed­ing cy­cle of feral cats and help con­trol the pop­u­la­tion.

“It’s ab­so­lutely the most ef­fec­tive way of re­duc­ing the cat pop­u­la­tion on the street,” Ni­chols-Young said.

The ADLA be­lieves the pro­grams can help stop be­hav­iors as­so­ci­ated with an­i­mals that are not spayed or neutered, such as fight­ing and spray­ing.

“It is a hu­mane so­lu­tion to the prob­lem,” Ni­chols-Young said.

The Wildlife So­ci­ety, how­ever, be­lieves trap-neuter-re­turn type pro­grams are not ef­fec­tive be­cause they do not help pre­vent cats from harm­ing na­tive wildlife and peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The An­i­mal De­fense League of Ari­zona sug­gests res­i­dents to leave kit­tens alone if found. The mother can be the best chance of sur­vival for the an­i­mals and may be away hunt­ing.

If the mother does not come back af­ter eight hours,the kit­tens will need as­sis­tance, the group says.

But an­i­mal shel­ters see a rise in kit­ten pop­u­la­tion dur­ing the sea­son, which can put a strain on re­sources.

The ADLA sug­gests that peo­ple care for the kit­tens un­til they are 8 weeks old be­fore search­ing for per­ma­nent homes for the an­i­mals.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fers kits, free vac­ci­na­tions and spay/neuter surgery for kit­tens.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion en­cour­ages pet own­ers to mi­crochip their cats and visit Face­book pages and other on­line re­sources if their cat is miss­ing.

When cap­tur­ing cats, the ADLA checks the an­i­mals for a mi­crochip. With the help of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, mul­ti­ple cats and own­ers have re­united.

There have been mul­ti­ple cases where mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion have re­turned a lost pet to its owner. Some­times, the last time those own­ers saw their cats was more than a year ago.

“That is a re­ally re­ward­ing part of what we do,” Ni­chols-Young said.

THE REPUB­LIC FILE

This feral cat watched from a tree last year as vol­un­teers trapped other cats in Glen­dale.

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