An appeal is going out to Blount Countians who may need a furry, whiskered four-legged friend — or even two.
That’s because there’s been a very busy kitten season here.
“We are overrun with kittens,” said Pam Ragon, volunteer with Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation. The Blount County Animal Center, she said, has more than 100 kittens who need forever homes. Some came in with their mothers, still nursing. Some are owner surrenders and others are strays picked up off the streets.
Fortunately, the BCAC has foster families who can take the most fragile; some have to be bottle-fed, Ragon explained. The kittens have to be eight weeks old before they are adopted, and each must also be spayed or neutered. To undergo those procedures, they must weigh at least two pounds.
Jim Naelitz, director of BCAC, said this kitten season has produced a few more kittens than in recent years. It seems every year they are overwhelmed.
“In a two-week period, we had 100 kittens come in to the center,” he said. “We had four mothers with kittens all at one time in isolation.”
Naelitz checked the center’s records and found that 468 cats have been brought in since Jan. 1. Of those, 269 have been brought in since April 15. He said he feels like people are taking more responsibility and taking advantage of the spay and neuter programs that are offered. It especially seems to be working to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.
“Overall our intake numbers are down,” Naelitz said. “But cats are staying the same.”
Kittens are typically born in March and April, but this year, the cycle was later, in May and June, the director said. If the cats aren’t spayed, they can have another litter in fall, he pointed out.
In fact, an unspayed female can give birth to more than 100 kittens during her lifetime.
Ragon said the BCAC is doing everything it can to get these cats adopted. The cost to take one home is only $45, and that includes the spaying or neutering, all shots and getting de-wormed. The fee is usually $85.
To also get the word out about the need for homes, the BCAC has a website where the animals are listed, and the Friends of the BCAC puts them on their Facebook page. It has made a difference, Ragon said.
The problem stems from people not spaying and neutering. To encourage cat owners to do that, the BCAC offers a free clinic each month on the second Saturday. Each cat owner can have up to two cats fixed, but appointments must be made.
This clinic is made possible through PetSafe and sponsored by Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation. SMACF is the non-profit partner of the BCAC.
Judy Huffstetler is the new cattery operations manager, on the job for two months. She previously worked for a spay/neuter clinic. She said there is a challenge to adopt older cats versus kittens, but she said they have been successful here. Special needs cats need adopting, too.
As for this kitten overrun, Hufffstetler said this is exactly what happens when people don’t spay and neuter. She will keep on preaching that message.
“The kitten season is nothing new to me,” she said. “I knew what I was getting into.”