Debunking the Myths: Just One Litter

We have been talking about numbers in this series. The number of loving cats and dogs that go without homes. And we hope that through this discussion, Cats in Tow can make a small difference in those numbers.

The Humane Society has a succinct list of myths and facts surrounding spaying and neutering. We will explore some of these myths in more depth in the next few posts.

The first myth is a prevalent one: It’s better to have one litter before spaying a female pet.

Where does this myth come from? That is difficult to say. There may be a relationship to the myth that having a litter will calm a dog. There is no evidence for this. Dogs and cats are not human. They mate and breed because their natural instincts tell them to do so, but having a litter does not change the essential nature of most dogs or cats.

Many people even think that letting their dog have a litter of puppies will fix behavioral problems. No! Fixing behavioral problems in dogs requires training and exercise. In fact, some dogs become more aggressive because their natural instinct to protect their offspring kicks in. This again is biology. They are protecting their gene pool and should not be confused with a mothering instinct.

The truth is that there is a lot of medical evidence that shows cats and dogs that do not give birth are healthier:

  • Female dogs and cats spayed before going into heat have a significantly reduced risk of developing mammary cancer.
  • Spaying your dog greatly reduces the possibility that she’ll contract pyometra, a potentially fatal bacterial infection.
  • While ovarian and uterine tumors are uncommon in dogs, spaying reduces the risk that they will develop.
  • Carrying and giving birth to puppies can cause physical suffering and stress for dogs.

(For more details, visit the ASPCA website.)

According to Alley Cat, “research shows that kittens and puppies spayed or neutered before 12 weeks of age have fewer complications from surgery than those over 12 weeks. Also, kittens and puppies rebound much faster after the surgical procedure, with less stress than their counterparts over six months of age.”

As well, “[s]payed and neutered cats lead improved, healthier, and longer lives. Spayed outdoor females are able to enjoy a happier and longer life without the constant stress of endless pregnancies and nursing kittens, and neutered males are calmer and no longer suffer injuries in fights over females and territory.”

If you wait to spay or neuter, you run the risk of inadvertently contributing to pet over-population, and ultimately to the death of dogs and cats. Dogs and cats in heat are focused on one thing, breeding. Even indoor cats and highly-supervised dogs are notorious escape artists at this time.

In terms of emotional health, cats and dogs will not regret not having a litter. Yes, we love them like family, but we need to remember that they having offspring is purely biological for them. They do not have an emotional tie to being a parent as people do.

If the health of your pet is your first concern, then spaying or neutering is the best course.

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Feral Cats in Ireland, Guest Post

In honor of St Patrick’s Day, we are sharing an article from Ireland.  This post was originally published by Feral Cats of Ireland. For more information on what this kind-hearted organization is doing for feral cats in Ireland, visit their website or Facebook page.

Ireland Has a Feral Cat Crisis

Feral and stray cats can be found right throughout Ireland in our cities, towns and countryside.  In housing estates, industrial estates, at factories, on farms, at hotels and hospitals, in car parks and derelict buildings.  In groups called colonies, they manage to survive by living on their instincts and with the kindness of humans who feed them daily.

Feral cats in Ireland are more commonly described as ‘wild’ cats. They are the same species as domestic cats, in fact many are former domestic pets that have been abandoned by their owners or left behind when their owners moved house or passed away.  Some have strayed from home and are lost.  Many become wild in order to survive and their offspring will also be wild as they will have had little or no human contact.  All are trying to survive as best they can.  It is not their fault they find themselves homeless and hungry.

There are no official statistics as to the number of feral cats in Ireland but their numbers have been guesstimated at hundreds of thousands.  The reason for this vast number is that the majority of feral cats are unspayed and unneutered and consequently breeding uncontrollably.  One female cat and her offspring can be responsible for a colony of 30 cats in an area in just one year.

Whatever the true number, Ireland has a feral cat crisis.  That such numbers of cats are living in our communities, often struggling to survive in sometimes harsh conditions with not enough to eat on a daily basis, a lack of adequate shelter from the elements and with no access to veterinary treatment for minor or major illness or injury or just the basics such as parasite treatment is unacceptable.

We have created this crisis and it is up to each of us to be compassionate in our dealings with stray and feral cats in our neighbourhoods, responsible and humane when addressing their plight and to educate ourselves on the most effective way to address the issue of uncontrolled breeding which is Trap/Neuter/Return.

Feral cats have the right to live long, healthy, safe and peaceful lives in their territories without the burden of breeding or threat of death.  Trap/neuter/return offers them that opportunity.

With many thanks to Feral Cats of Ireland for allowing Cats in Tow to share this post.

Have you had experiences with feral cats in other countries? We would be interested to hear your stories.

Time for A New Addition, Part 6: Finding Our Furry Friend

Decisions, decisions. For those of you following along, We are contemplating a new addition to our household for 2014: two cats. I gave a short introduction in Part 1, talked about space in Part 2, time in Part 3, money in Part 4, and considerations of type of animal in Part 5.

As most of my questions have been unanswerable, I am quite happy to announce that this week the topic requires no decision on my part! My cat or cats will be adopted from a shelter or rescue organization.

Reputable shelters are absolutely the best option when adopting a pet. Shelters are overrun with cats and dogs all times of the year. They are always looking for loving forever homes for their furry charges. No-kill shelters and rescue organizations in particular struggle with not being able to take on new animals when they are over capacity. Most of these are run by people who just love animals and want the best for them. Cats in Tow is a case in point! They have teamed up with PetSmart in Brea, California so that people looking for a new animal companion have a place to visit the animals ready for adoption. Or check out our page of currently adoptable pets.

Shelters work hard to make sure each adoption is a success. Many have foster programs where animals that are not quite ready to be in their forever homes stay temporarily in safe places. There could be many reasons why an animal isn’t ready: females who have just had kittens or puppies, puppies or kittens that are too young, illness, shyness due to abuse or abandonment issues, just to name a few. Many people think that shelter animals all have behavioral issues, but that is simply not true.

Shelters also work with veterinarians to make sure the animals are healthy. Spaying and neutering is required to keep the abandoned animal numbers from continuing to grow.

Some of the expenses that most shelters cover before adoption: spaying/neutering $150-300, two distemper vaccination $20-30 each, rabies vaccination $15-25, heartworm test $15-35, flea/tick treatment $50-200, microchip $50. Those expenses would need to be covered by you if you got a free pet from a friend, advertisement or other source.

This article dispels some of the myths around adopting from a shelter.

And most important for me, shelters are not focused on profit. They are focused on the health, well-being and positive outcome for the animals. An animal is a living being and deserves better than to be commodity. If you are still unsure of shelters being the best option, please do some research, talk with a veterinarian, look into the problems of animal cruelty and animal overpopulation.

Finally, we have our new love or loves (well, not really, but in blog land!) The end? Not quite, next week we will wrap up the series with some tips for successful adoption and introduction of new family members.

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Two lovelies looking for their forever home. Thanks to Hugh Mobley (Hugh Mobley Photography,http://www.hughmobley.com/) for the photographs.

Cats of Israel, Part 2

Angie, one of Cats in Tow’s amazing volunteers recently returned from a trip to Israel. On this trip Angie experienced how well feral cats are treated in Israel and was inspired to share the story. This is part two, so if you missed the first post, click here.

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“The Israelis are respectful of the cats and treat them so well. I was amazed and proud of the citizens of Israel! I also saw that many, many of them have their ears tipped, indicating they practice TNR. The cats are so used to people that some will let you pet them for a minute, but most will at least let you get close to them and talk to them. There was even a cat at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem! And it was okay with everyone. No one was shooing them away or anything.”

Cats of Israel (Part 1)

Cats in Tow Volunteer Angie came back from a trip to Israel with an heartwarming story about the feral cats living in this fascinating area. We’ll share her story over the next couple weeks.

“On a recent trip to Israel, I was so proud to see an amazing example of coexistence between feral cats and an entire country!

There are literally hundreds of feral cats roaming around there. Everywhere, in every alley, in every nook and cranny of every city…and they are amazingly healthy and happy. There are feeding stations everywhere for them and they wander around the outside seating for restaurants (which almost every restaurant has) and customers also feed them.”

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More Help for Feral Cats

We hope you have found our series on feral cat care informative.  If you have missed any of the series, here are the links: First Step; Stray, Feral, Pet; The Feral Fix; Why TNR; Cat Colony Care; TNR: Humane Trapping; and Colony Carer Help.  We are still looking to hear from people involved with feral cats – carers, vets who offer low-cost help with feral cat colonies, someone who has a adopted a former feral or kitten from a feral litter.  Leave a comment below to tell us your story or let us know if you’d like to contribute your story as an interview or guest blog.

To wrap up this series, we have researched other feral cat organizations around the US and world.  If you are outside of the Cats in Tow area, consider getting involved with one of the organizations below or something similar.  These organizations are committed to spaying/neutering, keeping adult cats healthy and preventing kittens from being born into the wild and without adoption placements and ultimately, killed by many overcrowded shelters who don’t have any other options. 

Spaying/neutering your own animal, donating money or supplies to shelters, volunteering at shelters, adopting a shelter animal, caring for feral cat colonies, getting the word out about spaying and neutering.  There is so much you can do!

Around the US:

Alley Cat Allies, Making Connections

Orange County SPCA, Additional Resources

Sacramento Feral Resources

Forgotten Feral Cat Rescue, Michigan

List for organizations in Massachusetts

List for organizations in Western Washington state and beyond

Aggie Cat Services, Utah State University 

Neighborhood Cats, New York City

Around the world:

Toronto Feral Cat Coalition

Quadra (British Columbia) Cats

Cats Assistance to Sterilize (C.A.T.S.), Australia

United Kingdom, Celia Hammond Animal Trust

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a quick survey of the web to show how many cats out there need your help.  If you don’t find your area above, search online. There is sure to be an organization near you.

Cat Colony Care

Caring for a colony of feral cats is the best option for these cats.  It keeps them out of traditional shelters where they are most likely to be euthanized or no-kill shelters that are often overcrowded and just cannot take on more cats (no matter how much we want to). 

This should also mean that the cats in the colony are healthier.  In a cared-for cat colony, the cats are trapped and spayed/neutered.  Fighting among the cats is reduced when they are not competing for mates, and spayed/neutered cats have much lower incidents of cancers and other diseases.

When the cats are trapped for spaying/neutering, the vet will check over their general health.  This is only the beginning though.  If you are thinking of caring for a cat colony, you need to educate yourself on monitoring the cats’ health on an on-going basis.  Fleas, worms and other parasites may seem like harmless nuisances.  But, they can actually be deadly – especially to young kittens.  Monitoring behavior and checking with a vet applies to feral cats as much as it does to our pets.  Severe malnutrition, anemia, dehydration and secondary infections are all possible as a result of these parasites. Treatment is vital.

We’ll talk more about the resources available to cat colony carers in upcoming blogs.  And we would still like to hear from people who are caring for feral cat colonies.  Please send us a message to tell us about your experience.

Feral, stray, pet.

What is the difference between feral, stray and pet cats?  Why does it matter?
 
Feral, stray and pet cats are all domesticated cats. Feral cats may not seem domesticated, but that is just to distinguish them from actual wild cats. Feral cats are just not socialized, so they don’t know how to live with people and will never learn to.  Stray cats have been pets but have been abandoned or lost. They may seem feral on the surface, but many of them can learn to live with people again.
 
Why are these distinctions important? Because they help you figure out the best thing to do if you become aware of cats that might need assistance in your community. The best thing to do for a pet cat is to help her find her way home. The American Humane Association has some tips here.
 
 What’s best for stray and feral cats? We’ll talk more about this in future, but for now here is a very helpful page for figuring out which you are dealing with and what is best for the cat: Difference between stray and feral cats.
 
Visit our ‘About’ page to learn more about how Cats in Tow helps feral and stray cats. And if you are ready to offer a fur-ever home for a loving companion kitty, visit ‘Adoptable Cats’.

What to do

You see a cat hanging around your house. Not your cat or a cat you know. Perhaps it looks well cared for and does not seem to fear you too much. Or perhaps it looks a bit rough, not very clean, thin and quite scared of you and others. You see it once, then twice, then several times a day. Then you see another cat.
 
Do you know what to do in this situation?  There are of course many things that you can do, but what is best for these cats?  What is best if they are truly feral?  How about if they are abandoned or lost pets?  They could be neutered/spayed, but if not you know things will only get worse.
 
If you don’t what to do, you are not alone.  That’s why Cats in Tow is happy to see that the Orange County SPCA has launched a new website with a great deal of information relating to lost pets, spaying and neutering, helping feral cat populations, pet care assistance for low-income households and more. 
 
Click here to learn more then share with your friends and family. Knowing where to go is a huge part of figuring out what to do!