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Stray cat overload, NKY shelters seek foster parents

May and June often heavy months for cats
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Posted at 1:00 PM, Jun 08, 2022

The busy season for cat and kitten populations in animal shelters across Northern Kentucky is here.

March is breeding season for cats, making May and June the months when shelters start to get a LOT of kittens — and Kenton County Animal Services is looking for volunteers to help foster them.

The shelter, on Mary Laidley Road in Covington, received 77 cats during the four-month period from Jan. 1 through April 30. From May 1 through May 24, it took in 82 cats and kittens.

With more cats arriving in 24 days than in the previous four months, the shelter has focused on their trap, neuter, return program — also known as TNR — and their kitten foster care program.

Click here to apply to foster with Kenton County Animal services

The TNR method consists of humanely trapping stray cats, spaying or neutering them, then returning them to the location where they were living.

“We’re getting creative here in the shelter and definitely hustling on getting them out and coming up with creative solutions for outcomes,” Kenton County Animal Services Director Kelsey Maccombs said.

“Every shelter in this region is full. I was getting a lot luckier at the start of the season because my area partners weren’t as full, but now everyone is full, and we’re all desperate to get some outcomes.”

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The shelter works with the community to identify areas with large populations of outdoor cats. The shelter’s animal control team traps the cats, then the shelter works with the Ohio Alleycat Resources, also known as OAR, to perform the surgeries.

The TNR program, Maccombs said, is the best way to manage the feral population outdoors and reduce kitten intake in shelters. As long as the cat successfully lives outside, it will be returned once it has been spayed or neutered. If the cat is unhealthy or underweight, the shelter takes it in.

The gestation period for cats is about 60 days — so they can have a lot of kittens, which can be born in litters of up to about 12, in a matter of months.

“Getting them fixed and then returning them to the region that they came from is really what needs to be done to keep that population down,” Maccombs said.

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The shelter focuses on communities where residents are receptive to the program.

“Right now, we’re trying to work with the communities in areas that are welcoming and understanding of what we were trying to do,” Maccombs said.

“Not every community feels the same way. We’re starting with the ones we know we have folks already on board. And then as we increase our capacity to do more and more, we’ll start tackling other areas, and we’ll have some conversations of trying to get those folks on board.”

Kittens are the most vulnerable population that animal shelters care for, Maccombs said. If a stray cat has kittens and something happens to the mother, depending on the age of the kittens, they could have to be fed every two hours. Animals under eight weeks lack immunity and vaccines, making them the most likely to get sick in a shelter.

This is where the kitten foster program comes into play.

Maccombs said the shelter had a handful of people who foster with them, but she is trying to amp up the program so that they know who to call when they do get an influx of kittens.

“Trying to move as much of your population into foster homes and out of the shelter is the best-case scenario,” Maccombs said.

People who are interested infostering can sign up for free. Kittens stay in the foster home until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered and then are put up for adoption. The shelter provides the food, litter, medical costs, and other supplies needed to help raise them.

“It’s really just: Can you lend us a spare room in your house and give these animals the attention and love they need for that period,” Maccombs said.

Maccombs said the cat and kitten intake in shelters won’t slow down until around September.

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If you are interested in adopting an animal, Maccombs recommends starting by making sure the animal is a good fit for your home life, whether you have kids or other animals living in the house.

Then go to your county shelter, as they tend to overcrowd first. If you are looking for something specific that is not at the animal shelter, Maccombs said to expand your search to local rescuers like the Stray Animal Adoption Program.

This story originally appeared on LINK NKY. Click here for more.

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