June 21, 2018
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Abundance of cats takes toll on animal shelter

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

Just recently I returned to the Bangor Humane Society three of the five kittens my family has fostered most of the summer.

They were a bit of a motley crew, not your typical litter.

In this case there was one mom cat nursing and caring for two different litters: the two kittens she gave birth to and three other week-old kittens who were found on the side of a road. Their mother had been hit and killed.

The kind-hearted person who found the three orphans delivered them safely to the Bangor Humane Society and the staff took a chance and introduced them to a mother and her two kittens who had been surrendered a few days earlier.

That mother, a sleek black-and-white beauty, didn’t mind the tiny intruders a bit and immediately nestled them in and nourished them.

And when the new and bigger family was clearly settled, we, as a foster family, got a call to see if we would care for them in our home until they were ready to go up for adoption.

It was a fun summer at our house — kittens and cats in every direction.

There are cats and kittens in every direction at the humane society, too, but it has not been as much fun.

The shelter is currently facing a cat crisis.

Kennels have been full or nearly full all summer. Since the first of August 833 animals have been brought in as strays or surrendered by their owners, and 680 of those animals are cats and kittens.

That is about 112 cats per week.

While adoption numbers have been up thanks to the Rachael Ray-ASPCA $100K Challenge the shelter is involved in, the number of adopters has not been keeping pace with the number of cats being surrendered.

Staff has had to make the difficult decision to stop accepting surrendered animals for brief periods a couple of times and Executive Director Suzan Bell fears she will have to do it more often if the number of adopters doesn’t increase.

“It’s a terrible thing when we have to turn people away who are trying to surrender their animals. But if we are full, we are full. We try to be as creative as we can, but we have only so many kennels and filling a shelter beyond its capacity greatly increases the chances of widespread disease. I won’t allow that. I can’t. We owe it to the animals that are here to keep them as safe and healthy as possible. Cramming too many animals in this building does no one any good,” she said.

And each time they have to say no and watch someone walk out the door with the unwanted animal still in tow, the staff can only hope.

“We pray the person will hold on to that animal for a few more days until space opens up. We pray that they won’t choose to leave the animal on the side of the road, or worse. We try to do our best to assure them it will be for just a day or a few days and then we hope for the best. But in truth our hearts sink when they walk out,” she said.

The volume of cats and kittens in the building is taking an emotional and physical toll on the staff and volunteers.

“Physically it means cleaning 100 or so litter boxes a day and emotionally it is hard because these are great, loving and beautiful animals who deserve to be in a home, not in a shelter kennel, and seeing them here day after day is difficult on everyone,” said Bell.

Last week the staff had to ask a woman with a “boxful of cats and kittens” she wanted to surrender to wait a day or two until a few kennels opened up. She yelled and screamed at the staff.

“It can get overwhelmingly frustrating and sad,” Bell said. “But honestly five minutes later this wonderful family came in and adopted three middle-age cats that were brothers because they couldn’t bear to separate them. We live for those moments and we celebrate them.”

Two of the five kittens we fostered were adopted by friends of ours, so other than their overnight visit to the shelter for their spaying and neutering surgery, they spent hardly any time there.

The mom and three remaining kittens along with so many others are now waiting for homes.

Well, make that two of the three kittens. On Tuesday, I stopped by BHS for a brief meeting and using all the willpower I could muster, walked out having adopted only one of them, the runt. I have a soft spot for runts.

While the $100K Challenge continues, all cats 7 months old or older are fee-waived and kittens are $100. As always all cats and kittens will be fully vaccinated and spayed or neutered before adoption.

Because of the large numbers of cats in need of homes, the shelter will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays for adoptions only.

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