Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Commitment to an animal lasts a lifetime

Kitten season is upon us again and a greater number of unwanted animals is being added to the county surplus. During this time I hear of kittens and cats that wandered into the care of people who are not able to keep them but who want to do the right thing.

Wild-born kittens are at risk of becoming feral if they are not socialized to humans. A socialized cat is an adoptable cat where a feral cat is not -- and, alas, too often a feral cat's fate is to be euthanized. According to shelter statistics on the Lake County Animal Care and Control Web site, 2,032 unadoptable cats were euthanized in 2009.

I would like to believe cats could exist in the wild since they're equipped by nature to be hunters -- provided the lessons are taught in childhood by a hunting adult cat.

One night I watched a parenting cat, in this case a surrogate father, attempt to teach a kitten how to hunt, catch and eat a mouse. In spite of what seemed, to me, to be a very clear pantomime by the adult cat, the kitten just didn't get it. The lesson ended with the still-living mouse crouched between the kitten's front paws as she sat there not sure what to do.

What I've observed is that feral cats tend to congregate near enough to humans to rely upon them for food. Thus feral cats pose a risk of disease and injury to domestic cats.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that one female cat will produce three litters in one year with each litter averaging between four to six kittens. Each kitten that survives to adulthood will produce more cats.

So the message I hope I am getting across is that adopting an animal should not be a casual decision. Don't take an adorable kitten home unless you are prepared to accept responsibility for that kitten for its entire life -- not just for the brief duration of its adorable kitten-hood. Animals mature, they get sick and they grow old. They need love and care all the while.

It might help to realistically access whether other animals in your household will welcome an intruder in their ranks. Remember too that owners of dogs and cats are required by law in Lake County to have them spayed or neutered.

There are low-cost spay and neuter programs in Lake County to assist low-income families. The SPCA of Clear Lake is loccated at 8025 Highway 29 near Clear Lake Riviera; call 279-1400. The Animal Coalition of Lake County operates out of Clearlake; call Rita at From Me 2 U at 995-0552.

Lake County residents might also consider donating the cost of a spay or neuter surgery to lower the cost of an animal adoption. Call 263-0278 for information.

For more information about various issues related to animal adoption and to lifetime care of an animal, visit the Lake County Animal Care and Control Web site, www.co.lake.ca.us/Government/Directory/Animal_Care_And_Control.htm.

Published Nov. 16, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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