Friday, July 09, 2004

article on cats

Kittens overwhelm two shelters

By Katherine Sather
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Eastside animal shelters are trying to cope with a feline baby boom — one of the busiest kitten seasons in years.

A mild winter may have brought on an early breeding season, and the Mercer Island Eastside Orphans and Waifs (MEOW) shelter in Kirkland is overflowing with about 100 more kittens than normal.

Volunteers are having trouble figuring out what to do with 411 cats and kittens at the shelter or in foster homes.

The Humane Society's Bellevue shelter had to bring in a trailer to house some of its 436 cats. It's sending newborn kittens who need extra care, like bottlefeeding, to MEOW, which rarely turns newborns away.

"We're trying not to panic," said Bonne VeVea, who founded MEOW in 1997. "It's hard to turn people away. When it's our back yard, its especially difficult. Sometimes we can't say no."

Cats typically go into heat in mid-January, said Brian Huntsman, a veterinarian with the Humane Society. But the mild winter may have kick-started some cats' hormones in December. And they'll keep on romancing until next month.

"If we're starting to get busy now, as the season progresses along, it's going to get worse," Huntsman said.

At MEOW, the influx of kittens has meant extra cleaning time for its volunteers. Workers start washing out the cages and litter boxes at 7 a.m. each day. What's usually a three-hour job is taking five, lately.

Keeping clean is important with so many cats in such close quarters, VeVea said. Tuesday the shelter was crawling with 80 felines. About 80 foster parents in the area are housing the 300-plus cats that aren't staying at the shelter.

"It's like a day care," she said. "They get sneezes and colds — all it takes is one."

VeVea founded the organization in Mercer Island seven years ago, and moved it to Kirkland in December. Shelter space, which includes play rooms for the cats as well as stacks of cages, is reserved for felines who need special care from volunteers.

A recent arrival is Max, a 5-week-old kitten that was abandoned at the Redmond Transit Center. Teenage girls found the cat and used an eye-dropper to feed it cow's milk, which will often upset cats' systems, said Rachel Desler, a MEOW staffer.

"At this age, the kitten wouldn't have made it in the hands of someone who's not familiar with them," she said. "They need to be in the hands of someone that can watch for symptoms."

Each day the organization has to turn away cats from people, but with situations like Max's, it's hard to say no. Callers are counseled on caring for strays and on spaying and neutering.

"We help people work through logical solutions so (the cats) don't have to be euthanized," VeVea said.

MEOW has a no-kill policy. Nationally, the number of cats euthanized has dropped. But that may be a reflection of increased spaying and neutering.

Last year, 1,356 cats were adopted from MEOW. Since January, 575 cats have found permanent homes.

Katherine Sather 206-464-2752 or


At July 14, 2004 at 8:45 PM, Blogger Joe said...

I love the kitty boom! This is seriously one of best articles the Times has printed. It's refreshing to read about something other than Killing, War, and Politics.


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