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The Reluctant Cat Lady

By jim Published: July 17, 2009

I am a Cat Lady. Reluctantly. I didn’t start out that way; I’ve never owned a cat or any pet as an adult until I purchased my first home. I bought a home from a 90 year old woman who was not aware two mother cats with a litter of kittens each had given birth under her house. Okay, no problem, I thought. They are adorable kittens and they will get adopted out quickly. Who can resist a fuzzy adorable kitten?

This was the beginning of my education on the huge problem of pet overpopulation in the United States. I called several shelters in my county and the neighboring county and no shelter-public or private-- would take the kittens. They were all bursting beyond capacity already. County Animal Control (the “dog catcher”) would take them, but they would be euthanized at the end of the week if no one adopted them. Could I stomach putting kittens on death row? No, I could not.

I was referred to an organization called Alley Cat Rescue. They do a program called Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) for feral cats. Cats are caught, they are neutered/spayed, given basic shots including rabies, and ear-tipped (the tip of their ear is cut off so they can be identified as an animal that has been sterilized). The cats are then released back to the location where they were caught. Many people do not agree with re-releasing the cats. Once caught, why not send them to Animal Control? Because cats are territorial and new cats that are not sterilized will take over that area and start breeding. The kitten cycle repeats. At some point it is necessary to sterilize the animals in a given location.

I had no idea of the scope or scale of the enormous problem of feral cats until I bought a house. Through the TNR program, I have caught well over 40 cats in my own backyard. Many of the cats I see in a humane trap in the morning are cats I have never seen in daylight. There is a whole nocturnal cat subculture I am not aware of, but I assure you that they are there and they are breeding. Some of the cats I have caught have been wandering pets from the neighborhood. I get them fixed, too. Is it wrong to fix a neighbors cat? Given the choice of dealing with an angry pet owner and a litter of unwanted kittens, I will take the angry pet owner. Negligent people are what cause the pet over-population problem. You cannot blame an animal for doing what comes naturally, but you can hold an owner responsible for allowing animals to breed or wander if they are not fixed.

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