The Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society has issued an urgent call for help after dozens of cats contracted health problems due to unprecedented crowding.
The society’s facility on Riverbend Drive in Kitchener, which normally houses about 165 cats, is currently providing shelter for 397 cats and kittens.
Jack Kinch, the executive director of the KW Humane Society, told The Morning Edition’s Craig Norris on Wednesday that more than 60 of those cats have been diagnosed with upper respiratory illnesses.
Illnesses like that, Kinch said, are "nature’s way of reducing the population in any crowded situation."
The cats’ immune systems weaken and any diseases become more active, he said.
The cats are receiving medication and are staying in the shelter, but if diseases worsen and spread, "then we do need to look at euthanasia as an option," Kinch said.
So the society is looking for people who can adopt the cats on a temporary basis — for about a month — so that the cats can receive treatment and recuperate. The society promises to provide food and medication to the temporary adopters.
After the cats have recovered, the temporary adopters can return their cats to the shelter. At that point the society can try to find permanent homes for the cats; a clean bill of health is a required before final adoptions can occur.
Ever-increasing populations a trend
Kinch said this is typically the time of year when the shelter sees a spike in cat populations.
"Once the frost goes away, the females get in heat, the males become active, the kittens are born and now these kittens — those that are in the wild — are being captured by the public or picked up by our team," he said.
"Those that were brought in earlier and fostered are now mature and need to be adopted."
Kinch said he believes the shelter will continually run into the issue of caring for ever-escalating cat populations.
"Every year it compounds. So the cats from last year are reproducing, and it just keeps coming in bigger waves each year."
Pet owners who neglect to spay and neuter their cats are largely to blame for overpopulation, Kinch said.
"Individuals who own cats are not being responsible and ensuring that their cats are fixed properly," he said.
The problem is exacerbated by a growing feral population, Kinch said.
"It’s not so much that there’s an adult population, it’s that cats breed so well. An adult female can have three litters per year."