I have volunteered at our local animal for more than a decade. The relationship began when I was contacted by the shelter's coordinator seeking information on the best way to groom a "Persian" cat with a matted coat that had been turned in by its owner.
From her description over the phone, it was obvious the cat was too matted to comb out, so clipping was the only option. There was a long silence at this suggestion...
Their staff had never clipped a cat - and were not sure how to go about it. I volunteered to come do it for them.
When I first saw the poor feline, it was obvious it was not a a purebred Persian, but was a long-haired cat in truly dire condition. The cat had been living in a shed, with straw for a bed. Its coat was a solid mass of wet, dirty mats. I couldn't even fell the skin beneath the lumps and bumps of matted coat.
I took a deep breath and began to unpack my grooming tools.
I stuffed cotton in the cat's ears to reduce the stress of the sound of the clippers, and began to clip... 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch... It was a difficult job. The coat was so matted that it came off almost in one piece - like a sheepskin rug! Underneath was an emaciated cat with sores all over its skin, the result of bits of hay caught in the coat rubbing irritated holes into the skin. Maggots were growing around its tail.
I have never, before or since, seen a cat in worse condition... Named "Harry", he was my introduction to the rescue of abandoned cats, and the first in a long line of felines in need that became part of my activities as a cat lover.
As a breeder, I am pleased that we don't see many recognizable breeds in our local shelter. It is mostly cats of unknown mixed heritage. Because it helps a cat to be adopted if a breed name can be applied to it, it is not unusual for shelter employees to suggest a cat is a specific breed if it even vaguely looks like it could be purebred.
The #1 Reason Cats Are Abandoned: Behavioral Problems
Even after all this time, I still have not grown accustomed to the number of cats abandoned to local animal shelters. One thing that has stood out in my experience is that the number one reason a cat is abandoned or turned into an animal shelter is due to a behavioral problem that the owner cannot solve. The most common complaint is poor litter box habits. The second most common issue is a cat that destroys the furniture with its claws.
Low Cost Neuter/Spay Clinics
Every spring, our local shelter is flooded with pregnant female cats and cats with litters of kittens. How easily we could reduce the number of felines in the shekter simply by making sure all pets are neutered or spayed. Every community should be encouraged to provide easy accessible low cost spay/neuter clinics. If it costs next to nothing to spay your female cat, and is relatively convenient to do so, the likelihood of there being another litter to abandon at the shelter is much less.
Pet-Friendly Housing Policies
Modern society is a mobile one. People often change jobs, move for education, divorce... all involves finding new housing. With the current financial crisi in America, many people are losing their homes and having to find alternate accomodation - and the majority of rental housing in most cities prohits pets of any kind. To help families keep their cat, we all need to lobby our local governments to promote pet friendly housing policies.
Owning A Cat is a Lifetime Commitment
In an increasingly disposable society, breeders can endeavor to educate the next generation to understand that that pets are commitment for their lifetime. .
As a breeder, each of us have a responsibility to try to make sure that none of the cats we bring into the world end up in a shelter. How can you be part of a solution?
- Breeders can provide information and support
- Each breeder should be willing to always accept a returned cat, no questions asked
- If possible, volunteer services to your local shelter
- Help establish a local hotline to help with feline problem behaviors
One has only to look at the San Francisco SPCA for ideas on programs to rehabilite and retrain abandoned pets while providing a pleasant, convenient place for people to go to adopt their next pet.