tampabay.com

Feline friends await homes

Shelters are overwhelmed, thanks to mating season and pets left behind.

By ROBBYN MITCHELL
Published June 4, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Linda Spaulding has what some might call a large family. She shares her Brighton Bay home with two sons, two dogs and 13 cats, four of which are foster cats. She took in the animals because of the swelling overpopulation of cats and kittens in local shelters.

Rows and rows of cats and kittens sit in kennel cages waiting to be adopted at the Friends of Strays Shelter, where Spaulding is the weekend supervisor. The agency also has more than 80 other cats in foster homes.

The influx at local shelters happens every year, attributed to spring mating season and pet owners who don't spay or neuter their cats, officials said. They also blame snowbirds who leave their pets behind.

"Right now, we are overwhelmed with cats and kittens and we're trying to get the word out to the public to come to the shelter and adopt," said Marissa Weeks, the public relations coordinator for the Tampa Bay Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals.

"This time of year basically spring has sprung, and we see a lot of new kittens coming into the shelter because the owners can't afford to support them," she said.

Weeks said her agency has dropped the price of adopting an adult cat from $35 to $25. Adult cats are harder to place, she said, because new pet owners gravitate toward younger animals.

The shelter also waives fees for senior citizens looking for pets and offers a pet matching program to help people find just the right pet.

Friends of Strays is trying to combat the problem by extending adoption hours into the weekend.

Spaulding said the Friends' no-kill shelter can house 230 cats and 15 dogs. Adopted cats are neutered, litter trained, vaccinated and tested for feline AIDS and leukemia.

Joyce Cole, volunteer coordinator at Friends of Strays, also encourages people to become foster parents to the abandoned animals.

It's an easy process that involves training and a home inspection, she said.

Though the past few weeks have been trying times for both shelters, Weeks said she doesn't foresee the overgrowth becoming a permanent problem.

"Cats are the No. 1 pet in America, and we are just trying to get some of the ones we have in-house into loving homes and families," she said. "Adopting a dog is like having a toddler at home, and adopting a cat is like have an adult who listens and understands."

HOW to ADOPT A CAT OR KITTEN: The Tampa Bay SPCA: People can check out the cats and kittens available for adoption at the shelter's Web site, www.spcafl.org,which displays animal names, ages and profiles. The shelter is at 9099 130th Ave. N in Largo. Call (727) 586-3591. Friends of Strays: The shelter, at 2911 47th Ave. N in St. Petersburg, has extended weekend hours for adoptions. It is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call (727) 522-6566.