New chance, new life for baby kittens

By Connie A. Hewitt | Feb 07, 2015
Photo by: Susan Kumpf NEW LIFE FOR BABY KITTENS — Littermates captured while still young become candidates for adoption. This snow-white group became 2014’s last TNR intercept, now under the care of FUR of WNC volunteers. Older relatives went back to their managed colony soon after spay/neuter, eartip, and vaccinations. Watch the kittens’ adoption progress on Facebook.com/FURofWNC.

A groundswell of cooperation among local animal groups bore fruit last year in their efforts to save the lives of Haywood County’s homeless kittens and young cats. The result is the number more than tripled in 2014 with 105 lives saved compared to an average of 29 lives in prior years.

“We sincerely appreciate the cooperation and coordination given by FUR of Western North Carolina and Sarge’s Animal Rescue over the last three years,” said Susan Kumpf, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) coordinator for Haywood Spay/Neuter. “Their efforts streamlined more than 160 homeless cats and kittens from field, to foster, to adoptive homes — in most cases bypassing the stress of an overcrowded shelter altogether. It’s such a positive and needed alternative for these forgotten felines. What an amazing group of volunteers. We are so grateful.”

Skipping shelter confinement supports the extra nurture, socialization or preparation for relocation as part of the rehoming process. The county shelter lacks the space and staffing to provide this critical step in HS/N's "No More Homeless Pets" initiative.  Haywood County residents are fortunate to have a team of volunteers and nonprofits working together to take the lead.

Did you know that feral or wild cats and kittens brought to the shelter in traps routinely are put down under current shelter policy, with virtually no chance of redemption?

Last year at taxpayer expense, the shelter euthanized 255 cats and kittens. That’s how many were left after rescue groups saved what they could. No report shows how many of those 255 were deemed wild and unsuitable for any purpose, not worth saving, their identity lost with their life. Nor does HS/N know how many were put down due to illness or advanced age or other conditions for which foster care is in short supply. An example? There is no rescue colony for cats known to be Feline Leukemia positive.

Leaving wild litters in the field is not the best alternative to the shelter either.

The dangers of outdoor living claim the life of up to 75 percent of kittens in their first six months, research shows. Top-shelf TNR programs recognize the value of finding homes and barns for agreeable cats, returning ferals to their outdoor home at the edge of society and community cats to their safe neighborhoods — after surgery, vaccinations, and eartip.

TNR is a proven solution to reducing shelter cat intakes across the country, and Haywood County is no exception. Less than half the number of cats entered the shelter in 2014 compared to 2008, the year prior to kicking off the current TNR project in 2009.

In the six years since, nearly 4,000 free-roaming cats have been sterilized and vaccinated under the project. Their left ear is clipped, or “eartipped,” to identify their status easily, avoiding re-trapping or concern about rabies protection.

“The results prove once again that the science of TNR works to stabilize and reduce the free-roaming cat population. No other solution tried in the county prior to TNR showed those results,” Kumpf said. “Trap, remove and kill is no solution, and certainly not a humane one. The contrast is striking and undisputable.”

Call the TNR “stray/neuter” Hotline at 400-5981 to help outdoor cats in your neighborhood.  It's a great way to celebrate National Spay/Neuter Month and World Spay Day on Feb. 24.