Shelters overflow with kitten explosion

Two thin cats scurried to the driveway as Ann Beamon and Pam Little recently pulled up to the empty side of a Kannapolis duplex.

The cats meowed and circled their feet, watching as the women poured food and water into bowls near where seven kittens laid under the shade of a cardboard box placed beside the home's patio.

The cats had belonged to the family that lived there, but when the people were evicted, the cats were left behind.

Neither of the women can bring the cats home, where they already have several rescued pets. They tried calling animal rescue groups, veterinarian offices and everyone they could think of to find a home for the cats.

"They're just all full," said Beamon, who volunteers with Second Chance Kitten Rescue.

Kitten season has hit Cabarrus County, and combined with hard economic times that have left many pet owners unable to afford care for their animals, the number of unwanted cats has increased dramatically this year, say local animal advocates.

Now those advocates are scrambling to find homes for the deluge of cats - the result of pet owners who don't spay or neuter their animals, they say.

Judy Sims, CEO of the Humane Society of Concord and Greater Cabarrus County, said the number of people calling about finding homes for cats has doubled. She recently received requests to find homes for 52 cats and kittens - in one day.

"I can't remember it ever being this bad," she said.

The Humane Society's cat kennels, housed at Cabarrus County Animal Control's shelter off N.C. 49 in Concord , are full with about 30 cats. The organization's cat facility, Princeton's Meow on Brookwood Avenue Northeast in Concord, is also at capacity with more than 40 cats.

Lt. David Taylor, administrator of animal control for the Cabarrus County's Sheriff's Office, said a spike in the number of cats coming into the shelter is typical during this time of year.

About 60 cats came into the shelter each month in January and February. The number jumped to 92 cats in March and then to 227 in May.

"I've been doing this since 1996, and 227 is very high," said Taylor.

Of the 227 cats that came into the shelter in May, 161 of them were euthanized. In June, 186 cats came to the shelter, and 181 were euthanized.

Taylor said he suspects that many people can no longer afford to care for their cats - and the kittens they produce. But many people just drop the kittens off away from their home, often behind grocery stores, he said.

"It just kills me," said Taylor. "Some people would rather throw them out than try to get them spayed or neutered. But spaying and neutering is the only thing that will cut down on those numbers."

The Cabarrus Spay Neuter Clinic will offer $50 spay and neuter procedures for male or female cats during July. Residents who qualify for assistance from the Cabarrus County Department of Social Services can receive a voucher for a free spay or neuter for their pets.

Patsy Beeker, director of Kitty City pet rescue and adoption center on Union Street South in Concord, explained that a cat can become pregnant at 6 months old, and kittens are born 63 days later.

A cat can have more than 20 kittens a year, she said.

She's been forced to recently turn away about 100 kittens a day.

"That phone has been ringing off the hook," she said. "I'm maxed. I've tried to give cats away, but you can't make the demand go up."

When Beamon and Little got a call from the concerned relative of a neighbor who lived near the abandoned cats in Kannapolis, the kittens were only about a week old.

When they arrived, they found four cats. Two of them were pregnant, and the other two had recently given birth to seven kittens.

"The thing I don't understand is that spaying and neutering is cheaper than trying to find homes for all these kittens or feeding them," said Beamon.

Beamon and Little drive out to the house every day to feed the cats. And when the kittens are old enough, they'll pay for their shots and vaccinations. Meanwhile, they'll be looking for homes for the cats.

Beamon laughed as she watched a fuzzy, gray kitten stand in the food bowl while he ate.

"He's going to be some cat."