How to Prevent Pet Overpopulation

February is National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, in preparation for the onslaught of puppy and kitten season in the spring. Starting at only five months old, dogs can have two litters a year, with an average of 6-10 puppies each time. An average cat can have 1-8 kittens two or three times a year. Without human intervention, pet overpopulation happens quickly and unwanted and homeless animals become a significant concern.

A Hypothetical Scenario:

You’ve just brought home an adorable new kitten. A little female tabby from a friend’s litter. She’s so tiny—you can hardly imagine her all grown up less than a year from now. You name her Bella, and keep her indoors. But she’s soon noticing squirrels and mockingbirds out the window, and chomping at the bit to get outside and play. You let her, and she loves you for it. Bella is now an indoor-outdoor kitty.

A few brief months pass and you think, Wow, Bella sure is getting chubby! Soon you realize Bella is going of have kittens of her own. Four or five months have passed so quickly; spaying slipped your mind.

This scenario is more common than you might think. Let’s assume for a minute that Bella has her precious kittens. You get lucky and find them all homes. But let’s keep playing. You choose not to spay (after all, kittens are so cute), and so do the homes where you’ve placed her kittens. Within a few months Bella is ready to have another litter—and so are her three female kittens. And so on and so forth. Left unchecked, within seven years, there could be half a million cats climbing and chasing squirrels in Bella’s family tree!

What is Pet Overpopulation?

This shocking number doesn’t account for accidents, disease, or cats being euthanized in shelters. But you get the idea. When owners do not spay and neuter their pets, companion animal overpopulation becomes an overwhelming crisis.

Every year in the US, nearly 6 million cats and dogs find themselves in shelters. A significant number of these are healthy, adoptable animals who find homes. But the remaining 2-3 million are euthanized. Furthermore, consider the many unwanted companion animals abandoned and left to fend for themselves without the basic needs of food, shelter, and love.

Are unwanted animals really still a problem in 2018?

Great question. Thanks to the No Kill shelter movement and the broad-spread practice of spaying and neutering that took hold in the 1980s, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of unwanted, homeless animals as well as a reduction in euthanizing companion animals from nearly 17 million annually to 3 million or less. That is progress worth celebrating, but that means still over 8,000 pets are euthanized in shelters each day, or 6 per second!!  That’s still alarmingly too many!

There are 3 primary contributing factors:

  • Not enough owners spay or neuter their pets. There are several misconceptions leading to this problem. Owners might believe the procedure is too painful or poses a health risk to the animal. Or that neutering will alter his personality. There is concern that spaying and neutering are too expensive. Many pet owners do not realize how early dogs and cats can begin reproducing and miss that critical window and wind up with at least a first litter. Still others believe that there are health benefits when dogs and cats have at least one litter for health benefits.
  • Research suggests that 7 to 20 percent of pets are no longer in that home only six short months after adoption. Owners do not always thoroughly research the breed of animal they are adopting or their ability to provide lifelong care to that animal. The puppy is too active and busy for their small apartment, and now he ate the coffee table while they were at work all day. The kitty is spraying their clothes and clawing the expensive leather couch. These pets are often abandoned or relinquished to already-crowded shelters.
  • Many owners hold on to dreamy ideas about particular breeds or misconceptions about adopting shelter animals and still turn to pet stores and disreputable breeders to find pets. This choice only encourages the irresponsible practice of poor breeding in puppy and kitten mills and reduces the number of successful adoptions from animal shelters.

How To Fight Pet Overpopulation in Greenville, SC

  1. Spay and neuter your pets. Many local vets and shelters offer low-cost spay/neuter options. Ambassador Animal Hospital currently works with Friends of Animals to provide lower cost spay and neuter certificates. Greenville Animal Care even offers free spay and neuter to low-income, qualifying dogs 40 pounds and over—as this is often the largest population in the shelter.
  2. Adopt from a reputable shelter or nonprofit rescue group.
  3. Do your homework before adopting. Know your breed. Know your resources of time, money, and attention for this life-long family member.
  4. Spread the word about overpopulation and encourage friends and family to adopt from shelters and to spay and neuter.
  5. If you really want to help your community make strides and you have community cats living in or around your neighborhood, consider contacting Animal Care to inquire about their Trap/Neuter/Release Program that aids in spaying and neutering as well as vaccinating feral cats.

And don’t forget, if sweet little Bella is nearing four months old, call Ambassador Animal Hospital today at 864-271-1112 and make an appointment for her to be spayed! We have affordable wellness packages for kittens and puppies to help them start life on the right paw.

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