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Saving the world one cat at a time

It's that season again. I'm referring to the cat season; the season when cats all over the bay area are having kittens.

According to various veterinarians I spoke with, cats can become pregnant at a very young age, some as early as 4 months old. And once a cat goes into heat, she can repeat this heat cycle every two to three weeks until she has bred. Their gestation period is around 60 days before the very adorable, very unwanted litters of between two to eight kittens arrives.

It is public knowledge (the Internet is a plethora of information about anything you want to know) that one cat and her first litter, left unspayed, can produce as many as 420,000 cats in a seven-year period.

It angers me that with all the unwanted cats running around, people don't take it upon themselves to get these cats fixed. I realize it's an expense, ranging as high as $175, but I'm of the belief that if you take in a pet, that's an unspoken pet-owner responsibility. If you call around, there are several facilities that will do it cheaper.

My girlfriend in Apopka took in two stray cats, of which both delivered three kittens two months later. My next-door neighbor fed a stray cat last year and a litter was delivered three weeks ago. I saw a feral cat down the road a few weeks ago carrying a wandering kitten across the road toward their home (wherever that may be).

I have taken in my share of stray cats over the past two decades, and the first thing on my list is to get them fixed as soon as possible. Mostly my rescues are kittens who are still nursing, so we bottle feed and keep the kitten indoors until they reach 6 months old — the age of spaying.

So when we found an abandoned 4-week-old kitten last January, my husband thought we should take it in. We already have a couple of cats — all spayed or neutered, thank you — and I wasn't so thrilled to have another one. But since the cold snap the end of January threatened its wee-little life, I relented.

First stop, the vet's office. After a clean bill of health, we took her home and began the nurturing process. She was frail and lethargic, for about a week. Then she turned into this vicious, ungrateful, wild creature. She bit my husband to the bone, scratched me and gave me the infamous cat scratch fever, then slipped through the doors.

I thought that was the end of her. But no, she hung around and begged for food. Again, I gave in. She was here to stay after that.

To save money on the spaying costs, I called one of the local organizations but they wanted to set an appointment. I tried to explain to the kitten that I had an appointment, so please try to get trapped on Thursday by 9 a.m. She didn't cooperate. So, I called my regular vet and he agreed that no matter when I caught her I could bring her in.

The dilemma came when she reached 6 months old. How do you catch a wild cat? I called the county for a live trap; no help there. I was told the only way they'd bring out a live trap is if they take the animal away. I didn't have the heart to do that. So, we purchased our own live trap and set it up. After retrieving our two other cats from the live trap, we locked them in the house and reset the trap. Bingo! We got her!

And $175 later, I picked her up from the vet's office. Upon picking her up, they informed me she was pregnant with four little kittens but they "took care of the problem." Now I suppose we'll have to pay for counseling.

Although it was expensive to get her fixed and she is still quite ungrateful, it was worth it to me to save the unsavory population of hundreds of thousands of unwanted cats in this country.

She's a bit more receptive to a touch now and then before she hisses and runs, but I will never have to worry about her getting pregnant. Ever.

Darcy Maness lives in Leisure Hills.

Saving the world one cat at a time 07/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2008 8:01am]

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