June set aside as special month for shelter cats

Local pet adoption centers hope to improve stray cat conditions in the area.
There are about 100 cats for every home in the Youngstown area, Diane Less Baird, co-founder and development director of Angels for Animals, says.
While that is a high figure, the number of stray and abandoned cats in the area has actually dropped because of efforts by organizations like Angels for Animals, a pet adoption center in Green Township, and Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County in Warren, officials of the groups said.
To help find homes for stray and abandoned cats, Animal Welfare League is promoting National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month in June, Debbie Serbati, shelter director, said.
"Adopt a Shelter Cat Month is a national effort to encourage people to adopt a shelter cat, because there are so many who need homes," she said.
Animal Welfare League received more than 700 cats last year from Trumbull County alone and has a waiting list for those cats they do not have room for.
The shelter can handle 100 to 110 cats and kittens at a time, Serbati said.
Friendliness to felines
When a cat is dropped off at Animal Welfare League, it is tested for feline leukemia and AIDS; if tests are negative, cats are de-wormed and vaccinated.
Cats at Animal Welfare League receive fresh food, water and litter boxes. Caretakers make efforts to take them out of their cages, pet and handle them, Serbati said.
Serbati said a cat typically stays at the shelter three weeks. If a cat is not adopted, it is euthanized.
"It's not fair to keep a cat in a cage its whole life; it's like solitary confinement," she said.
Baird said Angels for Animals is home for 100 to 125 cats and kittens; an additional 250 to 450 live in foster homes, and more live in several satellite divisions. Last year, 6,000 cats passed through their doors, and they expect to see 7,500 this year.
Baird said Angels for Animals receives 35 to 50 phone calls each day about stray cats.
Choice of care
People who bring stray or abandoned cats to Angels for Animals have three options. The first option is one of the spay-neuter programs, which have a fee to cover the cost of the procedures.
For $60, the cat is spayed or neutered, tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, and receives a rabies vaccination. "Show Us The Mommy" is an option for kitten litters. The mother receives the $60 package, and the kittens are spayed or neutered for $10 each.
The second option is foster care. People would agree to care for the cat in their home for two to six months; a contract and rules apply.
The third option is the drop-off area. Cats left in the drop-off area are euthanized. Baird said they receive 10 to 30 cats in the drop-off area each day, but can only place two to three cats per day in a home.
Cats who live at Angels for Animals stay until they are placed in a home, which usually takes more than two months, Baird said.
"The cats are so heavily screened at the beginning, we keep them until we place them in a home. We don't euthanize adoptable cats," she said.
The cats live in group rooms, a new concept in cat care; they are more pleasant for the cats and visitors, but more difficult for the caretakers, Baird said.
"Cats are like little kids: They are more entertained in groups, but are lousy disease fighters; when one cat gets sick, it spreads around," she said.
Baird said only one of 10 pets stays in its original home. Seventy percent of cat owners adopt free roaming cats they find in a parking lot or back yard; only 13 percent adopt cats from shelters.
To help reduce the number of stray and abandoned cats, Serbati said the most important thing anybody can do is spay and neuter their cats. She also encouraged owners to keep their cats indoors because of the hazards cats face outside.
Baird encouraged people to make donations, volunteer at adoption centers and, most importantly, be responsible owners. She encouraged people to spay pregnant cats before the litter is born, a procedure which is safe for the mother and a painless death for the kittens.
"We must change the future and get people to spay and neuter their cats. You must remember, in humane work, a good death is much better than a bad life," she said.

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