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HOW TWO FRISKY FELINES CAN CREATE 80-MILLION MORE

With continued breeding, the cat population can explode exponentially over 10 years.

Animals don't just reproduce quickly.

They reproduce exponentially.

Two cats and their offspring are theoretically capable of producing 80-million cats in 10 years.

Understand that and you can begin to understand why the workers at Pasco County Animal Services and nonprofit animal clinics in the region beg you to have your pet sterilized.

Getting pets spayed or neutered is relatively simple. Several low-cost options are available, and Pasco County will even reimburse dog owners up to $40 for having their dog sterilized at a participating veterinarian or clinic.

According to Rosemary Lyons, education coordinator for Pasco County Animal Services, health benefits associated with having pets spayed or neutered when they are young include a decrease in cancer risk and the elimination of the heat cycle.

"Having a litter does not improve the health of a female or improve her personality," Lyons wrote in an e-mail. "It's cheaper to spay a dog or cat than to pay the expenses associated with an unwanted litter."

So how are two cats able to produce so many kittens?

Jason Wetherington, math instructor for Pasco-Hernando Community College, explained this math problem with a fancy formula.

"It's calculus," he said.

"Anything that grows exponentially will skyrocket," Wetherington said, punching a few numbers into a Texas Instruments graphing calculator to demonstrate the difference between linear growth and exponential growth.

A drippy faucet, while wasteful, drips consistently for a period of time. Each drip doesn't make more drips. It's linear. Each day, the same amount of water is wasted.

The ways cats multiply is exponential.

The American Humane Association says about 2.8 kittens result from every romantic liaison between two feral cats. With two litters born each year, and the new cats having kittens of their own, the numbers increase exponentially. That's 12 kitties in one year, then 66, then 382. By the 10th year, there are 80,399,780 cats - all descended from those two efficient reproducers.

Of course, many don't survive in the wild due to disease and predators. But many do.

About 10-million pets are taken to animal shelters around the country each year, the American Humane Association says. Only 25 to 30 percent of those are adopted. That means that millions of unwanted cats and dogs are euthanized every year.

FAST FACTS

Nonprofit spay/neuter clinics

P.A.W.S.11720 U.S. 19Port Richey, FL 34668(727) 819-1910, (727) 863-1309www.pawsfl.com

PetLuv7346 Broad St. (U.S. 41)Brooksville, FL 34601(352) 799-9990

Animal Coalition of Tampa (ACT)1719 W Lemon St.Tampa, FL 33606(Neuter Scooter pickup in Wesley Chapel)(813) 250-3900www.actampa.org

Spay PascoSan Antonio(352) 585-6205

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