To the editor:
When spring comes, something besides warm breezes and fragrant flowers comewith it--cats and kittens.
At this time of year, cats become interested in being outdoors. Mature un-neutered male cats get the urge to roam. Strong urine odor, spraying and marking behaviors, result in owners putting male cats outdoors. These cats travel great distances and encounter numerous dangers. Rescue groups prepare for an influx of calls concerning stray cats suffering from fleas, mites, worms, wounds, frostbite, and dehydration, to name a few. It is costly and heartbreaking to deal with homeless cats and their kittens.
Roaming cats are also at risk for many diseases. One of the worst is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
This disease can be transmitted through bite wounds, and because unaltered roaming male cats tend to fight with other cats, the risk for them is high.
Most animal welfare volunteers who work with strays make sure all incoming cats are tested for FIV. A positive FIV diagnosis is not an immediate death sentence, but it does decrease the options for the cat. An FIV-positive cat ideally should not be placed in a home with healthy cats in order to ensure that the healthy cats remain free of the virus. This limits possibilities for placement, because most cat lovers already have cats and most of these cats are healthy.
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Occasionally, someone with an FIV positive cat will consider taking on another, but this is rare. So although the FIV cat might be sweet and lovable, and perhaps able to live for a number of years with few disease-related problems, there often are no homes available to them.
A simple spay or neuter surgery performed on a cat by about six months of age will put an end to the unwanted litters, improve the animal's behavior, reduce the incidence of some forms of cancer, and with males, deter the desire to roam and fight, and eliminate the offensive odor of male cat urine.
If the cost of the surgery is prohibitive, organizations such as the Keweenaw Spay Neuter Assistance Group offer financial assistance to pet owners.
It is frustrating to witness the deplorable condition of beat-up, matted, bedraggled stray cats that once were much loved family pets. It doesn't have to be this way.
Pet owners: Don't treat your cats as disposable property. Value them for the living, affectionate creatures they are.
Keweenaw Spay Neuter Assistance Group