“Kitten Season,” a term coined by animal rescue groups, is right now. When warm weather and longer days overlap with unspayed female cats’ reproduction cycles, cats go into heat and unneutered Toms respond. The gestation period for cats is only 60 days, so thousands of kittens are born each year during the spring and summer months and unfortunately, many of them wind up in already overcrowded animal shelters.

The American Humane Association estimates that four million cats and kittens end up in shelters every year. Kitten season takes a toll on animal shelters as space and resources become limited. The hardest hit are the homeless adult cats, who are forced to compete with the abundance of kittens who are also looking for permanent homes. This is why shelters across the nation are currently celebrating “Adopt-a-Cat Month.” Here are some ways you can help ease the burden on shelters this time of year.

Spay or neuter your cat. The single most important thing you can do if you already own a cat is to make sure they are spayed or neutered and encourage others to do the same. Most veterinarians will spay or neuter a cat who is two months old and weighs two pounds. If you are having trouble affording the cost of the surgery, call your area humane society to see if there are discounts available. Beyond the obvious, there are many benefits to spaying and neutering. Check out a previous Pet Chat column for more information: independent.com/news/2009/feb/17/february-national-spayneuter-month/

Volunteer to become a foster parent. Many kittens who wind up at shelters are in need of fostering. Fostering entails taking care of homeless kittens who arrive at shelters too young to be adopted–typically those under eight weeks of age. Foster parents are also needed for kittens who are still nursing. Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) is in desperate need of foster parents. If you are interested, contact Lisa Lane, Volunteer Coordinator, at 681-4397 or visit asap.volunteercoordinator@gmail.com. To read more about becoming a foster parent for kittens in Santa Barbara, visit: asapcats.org/foster.html

Care for the feral kittens in your neighborhood. In addition to the kittens who wind up at animal shelters this time of year, even more are born to strays, radically increasing the feral cat population. If you notice “wild” kittens in your backyard, look to see if there is a mother nearby, who will most likely be hiding. You can try enticing them with food to get them to come to you. Attempt to scoop them up and put them in a cat carrier to take them to an animal shelter. It’s possible the kittens won’t let you touch them, in which case you should contact animal control to rent a live trap. Once mom and babies are caught, they can be checked out for worms, fleas, and other illnesses. Then they can then be fostered and eventually spayed or neutered, helping to reduce the overpopulation of cats.

Adopt a cat. Adopting a cat will enrich your life! Not only will their playful antics keep you entertained for hours, but studies have found that owning a cat can reduce your blood pressure and help prevent heart disease. Another good feature about cats is that they are independent and can be left alone while you are at work (especially if you have multiple cats). Cats are very low maintenance –they litter box train themselves and they stay clean since they bathe themselves (it also helps them stay clean if you keep them inside). Cats are also not picky about where they live; they are just as content in a one-bedroom apartment as they are in a four-bedroom house. Contrary to the opinion of some, cats are social and affectionate creatures. I’ve never owned a cat who didn’t want to cuddle and sleep in bed with me. Enjoy your life more with the addition of a cat to your family!

Specials for Adopt-a-Cat Month

ASPCA Adopt-a-shelter-cat-month photo contest.

This year’s ASPCA photo contest features cats caught in the act of exercising. Submit your best photos of your kitty working out. The top 10 winners will receive an ASPCA prize pack and be featured on their website. The deadline for entries is June 30. For more information, visit aspca.org/adoption/adopt-a-shelter-cat-month/ascm-photo-contest.html

Feed shelter animals with a free click on your keyboard.

Visit the Animal Rescue Site at theanimalrescuesite.com, and you can help to feed shelter cats (and dogs) while they await adoption.

Santa Barbara Humane Society

Santa Barbara Humane Society is offering reduced adoption fees for cats during the month of June. During Adopt-a-Cat Month, the adoption fee for cats is only $44 and includes the following:

* Spay/neuter surgery

* Current vaccinations

* Complete health screening

* Temperament evaluation

* Background/personality history

* Starter packet of food

* Booklet on cat care

* Cardboard cat carrier

To adopt a cat, visit the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Rd. For more information, call:964-4777. Shelter hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Animal Shelter Assistance Program

ASAP is celebrating Adopt-a-Cat Month with adoption discounts, give-a-ways, and an adoption fair on Saturday, June 27. These discounts apply for all cats who are six months of age and over.

* All month long there is a $10 discount on all cat adoptions and a free cat scratcher with adoption.

* ASAP is also having a Black Tie Affair–all black cats or black and white cats are dressed up with special “blinging” collars and they are discounted $20

* Microchips are offered for $10 for all adopted cats during the month of June.

* On June 27, all adoptions will be $25 off for cats.

* They will also be having a promotion for Axcess members. On June 27, Axcess members will receive free microchips and a pair of ASAP socks with each adoption.

If you are thinking of adopting a cat or kitten, stop by ASAP at 5473 Overpass Road, off Patterson Avenue during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. 4 p.m., (closed Sundays). For more information and to see some of their adoptable cats, asapcats.org

Don’t Forget to Help the DAWGs!

Today, Friday June 5, Valentino’s will be having a fundraiser for DAWG, the No Kill Shelter in Santa Barbara. Valentino’s will be donating 20 percent of all sales from this day to DAWG. Stop by and get a sub, salad, pizza, soda or anything else off the menu. They will be open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. and they also take phone orders. DAWG will be bringing by a few loveable doggies that are available for adoption.

DAWG is a fabulous nonprofit organization and they even have a free spay/neuter program for local residents’ pit bull or pit mixes. In the last seven years, they have helped more than 600 dogs. They not only give free surgical service they also provide free vaccines as needed, free Home Again Microchip, and will perform any small surgery the dog requires that can be done under the same anesthesia such as ear flushes or dental care. The dog is then eligible to purchase a $10 one-year county license, which would otherwise cost $20. License purchase is not required. The estimate is one third of all dogs in shelters are pit bulls so this is truly a great program!

You can call Valentino’s at 967-7338 and check out their menu at www.valspizza.com


Adoptable Pet of the Week

Meet Bo. This one-year-old, 55lb., chow/lab mix is a friendly, active, and playful kind of guy. He loves people and other dogs and cats and would do great with kids aged seven and up. Bo is full of life and is always up for anything fun. He’s hoping for an active home with a special person or family who wants to share good times with a really good dog. Stop by and visit him at K-9 PALS, 5473 Overpass Road, 805-681-4369, or online at www.k-9pals.org.


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