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SC animal shelters struggle with unprecedented kitten surge

Published: Jul. 18, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Local animal rescues say they are overwhelmed with the number of kittens being found and surrendered this year. Kitten season spans from March through October and is when most kittens are born.

Michelle Altmeyer, owner of Avalo Cat Sanctuary, says the problem extends across the entire state and is likely due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because (people) weren’t working, they couldn’t afford to spay and neuter their pets, even more so than they already don’t do that,” said Altmeyer. “A lot of times, people don’t even know that they should be doing that or that they’re actually free services out there to get it done.”

Cat rescuers say spay and neuter education is key, especially in rural areas where people may not know about low-cost or free community resources.

Altmeyer says many vets had to scale down their services during the pandemic, and due to the increase in pet adoptions last year, many veterinary offices are still overwhelmed more than a year later.

Due to the increase in pet adoptions and decrease in spay and neuter procedures performed, Altmeyer says this kitten season is unlike anything she’s seen the more than 10 years she has been rescuing cats.

“You know, every year, we all say, ‘Oh my god, this is the worst kitten season ever,’” she said. “But, I really think this has been the worst year. I think I’m getting two or three phone calls and emails every day, to the point almost where I don’t even want to answer my phone.”

Avalo Cat Sanctuary is so overwhelmed with new intakes that Altmeyer says she can’t accept any more cats, and it’s a problem she says all rescues and sanctuaries are dealing with.

“I have to say no,” said Altmeyer. “I think that’s the biggest thing I have to do, I mean I think I’ve got 16 kittens in the last month and a half from newborns to 12-week-olds, and I wish I could take them all, but I can’t and it’s just heartbreaking, but we’re all in the same boat.”

Lou Kinard, Trustee of Avalo cat Sanctuary, says the unprecedented rise in kittens found this year is almost as surprising as the number of kittens being found injured.

“So many are hurt,” said Kinard. “We’ve had some injuries; kittens being found crossing the roads, obviously injured. Newborns being abandoned, along with sick kittens.”

Rescuers say hurricane season is another time when more kittens and stray animals are found. Altmeyer urges South Carolinians to be aware of stray animals and check to see if there is a mother around. If there is not one, she recommends calling local no-kill shelters for guidance.

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