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Overrun with cats, Northern Utah animal shelters turn to public for help

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Mar 24, 2024

Jamie Lampros, Special to the Standard-Examiner

One of of the recent kittens at Furever Friends Animal Oasis in Harrisville.

Every day, local animal shelters and rescues receive phone calls from the public asking for help rescuing a stray, feral or abandoned animal, and right now, many of those calls are about cats that need help.

But rescue workers say the scope of the need is too great for them to handle, so they are urging community members to pitch in and do their part to help.

March through November is typically known as “kitten season,” but this year, rescuers say the season came a few months earlier than expected.

“We started seeing newborn kittens in January this year,” said Nancy Immormino, a volunteer rescuer and committee member at the Humane Society of Northern Utah. “We already have 12 litters of kittens and I’m taking care of four pregnant cats. We have about 73 cats right now as of January.”

Immormino said HSNU has approximately 27 volunteers and 20 people who foster both cats and dogs, but it’s not nearly enough. In addition, rescues depend solely on donations and are not funded by the state, so there is always the need for money, food, litter, blankets, toys and other essentials.

Jamie Lampros, Special to the Standard-Examiner

One of of the recent kittens at Furever Friends Animal Oasis in Harrisville.

“We are running a million miles an hour to catch and care for the cats and kittens right now, but we can only do so much, so we’re asking the community to step up and do their part to help us. It really does take a community effort,” she said.

Immormino said one of the best ways the public can help is to get their own pets spayed or neutered. She said just one unfixed cat and her kittens can produce up to 420,000 kittens in seven years. She said if you fix your own cats, that’s a big step.

“It’s not the cats’ fault they’re out there fending for themselves and reproducing,” she said. “It’s the humans who don’t take steps to spay and neuter and let them outside to roam, or they move and abandon their cat. So now we’ve got this issue that we need to work hard on and we don’t have the manpower or the resources, so we need help.”

Danna Hutchison, HSNU treasurer and volunteer, said if you come across a stray or feral cat, call a local shelter and ask if they can loan you a trap. Feed the cat under the trap at the same time every day until it can be caught. Then it can be taken to a veterinarian and spayed, neutered and even vaccinated. If the cat is truly feral, it can be released back into the community where it came from and then it’s up to community volunteers to provide food and shelter for the colony.

“The cat will go back to its colony and will no longer reproduce,” Hutchison said. “This cuts down on a lot of fighting and disease. If people will provide food and shelter, the cats should do well. If the cat is not completely feral, they can be put up for adoption.”

Photo supplied, Nancy Immormino

Northern Utah animal welfare organizations are reporting that kitten season came earlier than usual and local rescues are already overwhelmed.

Dr. Eleanor Jenson, a local veterinarian and owner of Furever Friends Animal Oasis in Harrisville, said she had just finished spaying three feral cats before talking with the newspaper.

“It’s a huge problem with cats that are as young as 5 or 6 months old giving birth to four to six litters of kittens,” Jenson said. “That’s why it’s so important to catch them while they’re still young enough to be socialized, fixed and adopted. You can start spaying and neutering at 4 months of age.”

Jenson said the most successful time to socialize a kitten is between the ages of 5 and 9 weeks of age.

“After 9 weeks, you lose some of that opportunity,” she said. “There are feral cats in every community and if they aren’t fixed, they go around and breed and spread disease amongst themselves. If you trap and release them back into their natural habitat, it stabilizes the population in that area because cats are very territorial and they don’t routinely allow other cats into their territory.”

Mary Beus, co-director of Furever Friends Animal Oasis, said she gets calls every day asking if the rescue can take in a feral, stray or abandoned cat.

Jamie Lampros, Special to the Standard-Examiner

One of of the recent kittens at Furever Friends Animal Oasis in Harrisville.

“I field a lot of calls on a daily basis,” she said. “We want to help, but we are only allowed to take in so many cats. So if you find a cat, keep trying to contact places who will loan you out a trap and help get them fixed and back into the community or up for adoption. There are several places who will offer vouchers to sterilize cats and many places hold events at a low cost. We know a lot of people can’t keep the cats they find, but if you can rescue them and help us go through the process, it helps everyone in the community.”

All four experts said if you see a litter of kittens, leave them alone. If the mother suspects danger, she will relocate them, making it more difficult to catch them.

“Mother cats don’t typically abandon their kittens,” Immormino said. “They are likely out hunting for food for themselves and their kittens or they may be hiding from you, but unless something has happened to them, they’ll return to the nest.”

If you don’t see the mother after a few hours or the kittens are in any kind of danger, call a rescue or your local shelter to come out and loan you a trap or rescue the kittens for you, if possible.

“Just be sure to keep feeding them and the mom on a regular schedule, so they get used to coming to the same place at the same time,” Hutchison said. “Make sure they have a safe, warm place to stay until we can catch them.”

Jamie Lampros, Special to the Standard-Examiner

One of of the recent kittens at Furever Friends Animal Oasis in Harrisville.

Immormino said while HSNU helps as much as it possibly can, the situation could be much better if community members would agree to be part of the solution.

The bottom line is — fix your own cats and don’t abandon them if you move.

“They’re not ‘just a cat,’ so if you’re going to move, find a place that will allow your cat to go with you or try to re-home the cat. Don’t just abandon,” Immormino said. “Cats are very social animals and it’s not their fault we’re dealing with a population problem. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Spay, neuter, vaccinate, adopt, foster and donate — and above all, call and ask for help. Everything we’ve done, we’ve had to learn how to do it ourselves or from others and we are more than happy to help.”

HSNU holds adoption events on Saturdays at Petco stores in Clinton and Riverdale. Dates and times, as well as donation information, are posted on their website at humanesocietyofnorthernutah.com. Donations to Furever Friends Animal Oasis can be made through its website at fureveroasis.com. Both nonprofit organizations require appointments to visit adoptable animals.


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