Kings County SPCA shelter manager Deborah Gaul holds one of about 100 cats at the Waterville facility in need of a loving home. – Kirk Starratt, www.kingscountynews.ca
“The hardest thing is realizing that we can not possibly, physically or emotionally, save them all.”
That was the reality faced by Deborah Gaul when she took on the job of managing the Kings County SPCA Care Centre in Waterville in 2012. She was overwhelmed at the scope of pet overpopulation problems at first, but she doesn’t regret her career decision for a moment.
“We cry tears of remorse some days, and other days, we cry tears of happiness,” Gaul said.
Currently, the centre is overwhelmed with about 100 cats and kittens. A more manageable number would be 75 or 80.
“We have a few too many at this time, but we’re trying to take in as many as we can. With the cold weather here, we don’t want them dying of the cold,” Gaul said.
She said they’ve lost closet and office space in facility to set up some kennels for the overflow of cats. The shelter was designed originally for about 25, so significant layout changes have been made.
There are another 80 cats on a waiting list. Kings County Animal Control has another 20 or so at their pound to bring in and other animal control agencies further down the Valley have a few more waiting for spaces. Gaul said demand typically slows around this time, but not this year.
Adoptions slowing down
Unfortunately, adoptions slow down at this time of year. The Kings SPCA has come up with an “energetic” adoption strategy, including “specials,” with reduced adoption fees.
People are often wooed with the offer of a free cat, but those animals don’t turn out to be free. Gaul said they want people to realize it’s cheaper in the long run to get a cat from their shelter or another rescue agency, as the cat will be vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The regular adoption fee, $100 for an adult cat and $150 for a kitten, represents about a third of the cost of having these procedures performed by a vet independently.
Gaul said the SPCA does get a bit of a price break from vets, but they take a loss to keep adoption fees as low as possible. They raise funds to cover the difference to make sure the medical procedures get done and cats get into homes.
The shelter is open everyday from 2 to 5 p.m. for those interested in adopting a cat or kitten. Most people can leave the same day with a cat. However, if you rent, landlord permission is required first.
“We’re firm believers that the cat will pick you,” Gaul said. “We’re good at matching people with pets.”
Spaying, neutering key
Gaul believes the answer to finally getting a handle on the number of cats is a low-cost spaying and neutering program. The cheapest way to go about it would be targeting the males. Gaul said the Kings SPCA hopes to get such an initiative off the ground in the near future.
She said they are in frequent communication with other rescue groups and they try to help each other out as much as they can.
“People are getting burned out in the rescue world,” Gaul said. “Every rescue is full. Rescues are having trouble getting volunteers. We can’t afford to lose even one rescue right now.”
The Kings SPCA is also in need of volunteers, especially people who can help out at the care centre in Waterville. Gaul said they took in 466 cats in 2013, as of Dec. 17, with another 10 coming in that week.
“It’s the highest intake we’ve ever done,” she said. “People need a break.”
For more information, call the shelter at 538-9075. To watch a video featuring interview clips with Gaul and several of the cats and kittens up for adoption, visit www.kingscountynews.ca.
Where are all the cats coming from?
Left to procreate unabated, cat populations increase exponentially year over year.
The biggest problem is people neglecting to get their cats spayed or neutered, said Kings SPCA shelter manager Deborah Gaul, and it’s a problem province-wide.
A lot of the cats come from animal control agencies. Gaul said they’ve noticed an increase in the number of people moving away and leaving their cats to become strays.
“People get desperate and they leave their cat behind,” she said. “It’s hard to find pet-friendly rental accommodations.”
The Kings SPCA has also dealt with a number of emergency situations this year. If someone finds a stray that is injured, the shelter will take it in. If there is a death or someone is hospitalized for an extended time and no one is left to care for a pet, the SPCA will care for it, even if it’s just until the owner gets better.
Often, people have female cats that get pregnant and have kittens. They can’t keep the kittens, so they’ll give them away. If the cat isn’t fixed, it will soon get pregnant again. This becomes a “vicious cycle,” adding to the population problem.