Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Will 2010 be the year of the cat?

They are the ghosts of our community, winding around the edges of our neighborhoods and businesses, seen but not quite seen. A source of annoyance for some, of pity for others, and their numbers, despite strong efforts from several fronts, are not dropping nearly as much as anyone would like.

We are failing the cats in our community. There’s no other way to say it.

While we continue to euthanize far too many dogs, the number of dogs entering the shelter and being reunited with their owner, released to rescues or adopted out is increasing. It is a far different story for the cats where, in 2009 of the 13,852 cats who entered the shelter 11,042 were euthanized. Eighty percent. By any standard applicable, those numbers are dismal.

We bring kittens into our homes because we love their fluffy goodness, then turn them out --- for shedding, for scratching on furniture, for not using the litter box, for allergy issues…the list goes on. We move and leave them behind on the streets because we “can’t bear to take them to the shelter”, or we drive them to the outskirts of town and dump them.

We buy into the myths about their lack of trainability, their independence, their safety around babies and about how spaying or neutering cats make them bad hunters. Or maybe we don’t really buy into it at all, but choose the excuse that makes it easiest for us to believe that it’s O.K. to care for a creature one day and abandon it the next. After all, there’s always another kitten out there when we want to give it another go. Right?

One day, maybe not. There’s a coalition forming this year, made up of representatives of just about every agency, nonprofit, rescue group and feral cat colony caretaker in the greater Bakersfield area who wish to work towards a solution. No one group has the power to tackle of this problem alone, and they all know it. They’ve tried. The Bakersfield SPCA went through $275,000 in 2008-2009 in Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) funds. In 2009 the BSPCA offered 500 vouchers TNR. They were gone in three weeks. Our failure is that large.

Maybe this new joining of forces will finally begin to accomplish what individual groups have thus far been able to do. Perhaps as a unified coalition their collective voices will be heard loudly enough that we as a community will hear them clearly and help do our part to do better by creatures who were once revered as gods in the ancient world who, through no fault of their own, have fallen so very far from grace.

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