Take a walk through Meow Town,
the main cat room at Anderson Humane’s South Elgin shelter, and you will likely be charmed by the occasional paw reaching out from an enclosure, kittens playfully wrestling in one of the larger condos, or a fluffy adult cat curled up for a purring nap.
Seeing all the cuteness, it’s hard to believe they would wind up here, homeless in an animal shelter. Though this is a vulnerable spot to be in, the cats at our shelter are among the lucky ones. With a strong demand for adoptable cats in the area and a robust foster community, these felines stand a great chance of landing in a loving home, and being well cared for throughout the process.
The Necessity of Teamwork
Tragically, cats and kittens in other parts of the country often don’t fare as well. Many strays live a hard-scrabble life in the wild, facing threats of hunger and wildlife. Those who make it to a shelter often face the threat of being euthanized if the facility becomes overcrowded and resources run short, despite the staff doing everything in their power to avoid that outcome.
“No shelter wants to euthanize an animal. We all have the same goal of keeping all cats safe and healthy,” said Alyssa Masten, Intake and Community Feline Coordinator at Anderson Humane. “People often don’t understand how much teamwork is necessary to help the cats in need of homes.”
For many shelters, especially those in less populated or resourced parts of the country, that teamwork involves transporting animals to shelters that offer a better chance at adoption. Anderson Humane takes in 30-40 cats and kittens from shelters in other areas each week, in addition to the cats we receive locally (more than 325 local cat/kitten surrenders and more than 450 local stray cats/kittens so far this year). “We try to keep full,” Alyssa said, adding that our fosters are vital, allowing us to house up to 200 more felines than our shelters can accommodate. “Every empty space could save a cat’s life.”
Valuing Each One
Kelly Blume of the Kankakee County Animal Control calls their ability to transport cats to shelters like Anderson Humane lifesaving. “If we didn’t have those transfers, we’d have so many more cats here,” she said of their facility, which can comfortably house 25 cats and kittens. When they have more than that, they have to keep the cats in enclosures next to dogs, which is clearly not ideal.
Kelly has taken cats home and sent some to temporary unofficial foster homes. When the facility gets over capacity, what does she do? “Pray,” she said with a laugh, adding, “Thankfully, we haven’t had to euthanize due to space for years now.” Transports to other areas have helped a lot to this end.
Some of their main sources of homeless cats are a couple of local trailer parks. “They’ve become dumping grounds for unwanted cats,” Kelly said, adding that people will often do this with an unwanted litter of kittens. “It would be nice to see people put more value to cats.”
A Compounding Problem
Jamie Ealy at South Bend Animal Resource Center says the main issue in their area is strays. “A lot of people will feed multiple cats in their neighborhood,” she said. So adoption rates for cats in their area are low, but the care for each of those cats is minimal.
Specifically, most of those stray cats aren’t spayed or neutered, so they multiply quickly. A cat will have three to six kittens in a typical litter, and they’ll have two to three litters a year. If those kittens also get pregnant, which they can do as early as five months old, the cat population grows exponentially from that one original cat. (This is why Anderson Humane spays/neuters all our adoptable cats and dogs.)
The South Bend Animal Resource Center works with a local shelter to Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) stray cats who are too feral to live in a home. (Anderson Humane also has a TNR program and has provided 320 TNR surgeries for local cats/kittens so far this year). Both South Bend Animal Resource Center and Kankakee County Animal Control encourage spay/neuter surgeries as often as they can. Thankfully, new laws on both areas now require the surgery for both cats and dogs caught by animal control a certain number of times. “That’s helped, but there are still a lot of cats reproducing,” Jamie said.
The Hope of a Home
The South Bend Animal Resource Center transfers roughly 50 cats a month to shelters in other areas, including to Anderson Humane. “Without those transports, we’d have to euthanize more,” Jamie said. It’s a tough reality that many shelters have to face. “I’m there for the animals,” she said. “Seeing success stories unfold keeps me going.”
Many of those successes come when their cats and kittens make their way to Anderson Humane, where we see roughly 40-55 felines adopted each week. Our staff take our good fortune – lots of adoptions and fosters, a strong spay and neuter rate – seriously. Alyssa said she will happily drive a fair distance to meet these transports, even to get one cat. Instead of a life of hardship and constant pregnancy, that one cat could wind up in Meow Town, where she meets the family who will finally give her a loving home.