As winter ends, kitten season begins
Now that the snow has melted, cats and kittens will come out to enjoy the good weather. Some of the cats will be friendly neighborhood cats out for a stroll. Others may be friendly cats that are lost, stray or abandoned. If you notice a friendly cat in your neighborhood that you don’t know, report it by calling the police department. Someone may be looking for it.
A stray or abandoned friendly cat may be adoptable, but shelters are usually full this time of year. The Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL) does not euthanize cats to make room for new admissions; you can make an appointment for an animal surrender when space becomes available. They will charge a fee.
An unfriendly cat may be feral. The APL will not accept healthy feral cats. Feral cats are the same species as domestic cats but they are not socialized to humans and cannot be adopted out as pets. Feral cats can live long, healthy lives outdoors, but they will be euthanized if they end up in shelters.
You can help both stray and feral cats through TNR (trap, neuter and return the cat to the where you found it). The Cleveland APL will spay/neuter and vaccinate outdoor cats in Cuyahoga County for $10 and “tip” the cat’s left ear. A cat with a tipped ear is called a community cat and should be left alone. Once the cat has been neutered and vaccinated you may safely feed it and shelter it outdoors. Inexpensive shelters can be fabricated from common household materials and straw.
The Cleveland APL and the National Animal Control Officers Association both support TNR as the most humane and effective way to reduce cat over-population. Friendly outdoor cats may be brought into the APL in a pet carrier, but feral cats need to be humanely trapped. You can borrow humane traps and get advice on trapping at clevelandAPL.org and from Friends of the Bay Village Kennel, friendsofbayvillagekennel.com.
Many cats have kittens in the early spring. If you see kittens outdoors, their mother is probably close by. A feral cat’s kittens can be socialized and adopted as pets, but “rescuing” kittens may not be a good idea unless you intend to care for them indefinitely yourself.
You may not be able to find a shelter that will care for the kittens until adopted. If the kittens are too young they may need to be bottle fed; if the kittens are too old they may be difficult to socialize. A kitten may not adapt well to being removed from its mother, or it may be frightened and bite you.
Alley Cat Allies, the expert on stray and feral cats, recommends watching to see whether the mother cat returns, offering food and shelter to keep the family safe and near, and then TNR’ing the entire colony when the kittens are old enough. For more information, consult Alley Cat Allies at www.alleycat.org.
historian, legal historian, former tax lawyer, author of Bankruptcy in an Industrial Society: The History of the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Akron University Press, 2014)