There is nothing cuter than a bundle of kittens. Is this what compels people to fall down on the job when it comes to spaying cats, contributing to a huge cat overpopulation problem?
Because people seem perfectly capable of feeding stray cats when they come by - in fact, they believe they are doing a good thing. And when the cat then turns up pregnant, people are perfectly capable of caring for kittens and finding homes for them. But for some reason, even where spaying is completely free, people fail to do right by the pets they care for or the strays they feed. I can think of no rational explanation for this, so it must be that the cuteness of kittens causes a total lapse of reason.
And this is why I now have 6 cats in my house. I started with one, not being a crazy cat lady, but now have a stray mama cat and 4 really cute kittens on my upstairs enclosed porch... until the mama cat is spayed, and until the kittens are old enough to find families that can give them their forever homes.
Finding good homes for these kittens is a priority, and proving harder than I thought. Sure, people are interested, but I need to know they will get these offspring neutered or spayed. Maybe I watched too much Bob Barker as a kid, but I really thought this was a no-brainer, until I started talking with some people about this.
I heard a vet try to persuade a dog owner to neuter her bulldog, but she said she couldn't "take away his manhood". I lightly tried to point out that dogs aren't men, and well... anyway. I don't think she got her dog neutered. Even some people I know well and know to be very responsible in other aspects of life don't seem to understand why this is so important. They make excuses like, well, if it's an indoor only cat... etc.
So, here are some compelling tidbits I discovered, for anyone out there having this conversation (and I think more people need to get proactive about having it with friends who have pets):
1) In the US there are 45 kittens born for every human birth. There is no way that all of these cats can possibly find good homes. Every kitten born is a stress on this system, whether it is feral, stray, or purebred, whether it is born homeless or into a good home.
2) Millions of animals are killed in shelters in the US every year because of this overpopulation problem. For every kitten that finds a home, there are kittens crowding shelters that could have taken its place.
3) Cats are extremely prolific, and female cats bear a heavy physical burden with rapid cycles of fertility, pregnancy, nursing (sometimes while already pregnant with the next litter) and so on. With 4-6 kittens per litter and multiple litters per year, it's easy to see how numbers can get out of hand.
4) The stress of heat cycles on unspayed cats causes them to be physically uncomfortable and often frustrated, leading to behavioral problems as they seek to mate.
5) Unspayed cats face many avoidable health risks, including increased risk for contracting FIV in fights, dramatically increased risk of ovarian and uterine cancers, bacterial infections of the uterus, complications related to pregnancy, mammary gland tumors, etc.