In an effort to help cat owners facing an economic crisis, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay will offer free food, litter and toys for those in need.
"We're trying to keep pets in people's hands so they don't have to be turned in to a shelter," said Sherry Silk, executive director at the Humane Society.
The Humane Society's giveaway is being sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the makers of Fresh Step and 9Lives Cat Food.
Fresh Step had been teaming up with animal shelters across the country to provide food and cat litter for those in need. The intent is to prevent more cats from being left at shelters, which could become a burden on the taxpayers, Silk said.
"Anytime an animal is in a shelter and you have to feed, clean it and have the staff take care of it," she said, "it is very costly."
Often dogs get adopted faster than cats, which means cats face a higher rate of euthanasia, said Dennis McCullough, operations manager for Hillsborough County's Animal Services.
About 13,677 cats were euthanized last year — that's almost twice the number of dogs, said McCullough, noting that a large part of the problem is also the lack of spaying and neutering.
"We don't want to kill these animals," McCullough said. "That's not the answer."
Humane Society officials say they will trust the word of cat owners who say they are in need. A veterinarian also will be on hand to answer health-related questions.
"Everybody has a bond with their pet," Silk said. "Nobody wants to be forced to give up their pet because they lost their job."
Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3405.