It’s easy for me to get angry about the way cats are treated. Whether people are abandoning unwanted cats on farms, refusing to adopt cats because of their special needs or the color of their fur, or encouraging people to poison ferals, there’s a lot for a cat lover like me to get hissed off about. But then something awesome happens, and I get to jump for joy and share the love with you.
Recently the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, ME, posted on its Facebook page, "Big Mews: Usually by the month of April our intake for cats and kittens is increasing. In past years, we’ve get in dozens of pregnant cats, moms with nursing kittens, and/or newborn motherless kittens. ÔÇª [this year] for the month of April, we saw a 47 percent decrease in kittens coming into the shelter and a 30 percent decrease in adult cats coming into the shelter."
Why did this happen? The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society gave people a chance to do the right thing, and people did. Last fall, GAHS offered free spay/neuter services to the cats of the Lewiston-Auburn area, where the organization is located. And guess what? It’s working!
You don’t have to work at a shelter or be an animal rescue insider to understand how important this is. If you’re even slightly conscious, you know that thousands, if not millions, of unwanted cats are dumped to fend for themselves — and a lot of that is because people don’t have access to the money or transportation needed to get their kitties fixed.
But when an organization offers spaying and neutering for free, people step up.
That tells me the community at large is aware of the need to spay or neuter their cats. They want to do it. But there are "barriers to access," which is how some folks in the nonprofit world (where I spend 40 hours or so a week) describe things like poverty, lack of transportation, or even the perception of being unwelcome to participate. When those barriers are removed, people will gladly open the door, step inside, and do what they need to do.
If you want to be part of the homeless cat solution instead of sitting back and wailing about the problem or being cruelly judgmental of the people who don’t get their cats fixed, encourage your local shelter to offer free spay/neuter services and offer to assist them to get a program started.
The "offering to assist" part is especially important. A lot of us are willing to say "somebody should" or "you should," but few people move past that to "we should" or "this is important and I want to help."
Telling people or organizations what they should do doesn’t help anyone. Taking action does.
I’ve said time and time again that when given the chance, people will do the right thing by their cats. The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society has proven it.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.
More about kitten season and spay/neuter: