Stray cat population explodes as Valley pet shelters fill up - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Stray cat population explodes as Valley pet shelters fill up

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Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 9:31 am | Updated: 10:44 am, Wed Jun 6, 2012.

Caught in a feline frenzy, pet shelters across the Valley are hoping to find the "purr-fect" home for cats and kittens at affordable rates as the amount of homeless cats continues to increase.

Zoe, a 6-year-old black cat, was a good match for Shelly Shelton who was looking for a pet that already was trained through the Arizona Humane Society's PAWS (Partnering Animals With Seniors) program.

Shelton, who lives in east Phoenix, said she adopted Zoe last week after seeing dozens of cats at the Humane Society's shelter and selected her because she was an older cat.

"So far, so good," Shelton said. "I liked her because she was calm, and a lot of seniors like me don't want a younger cat, but want one that's already trained and won't tear up everything. Anything you can do to help an animal, it's nice. It also helps people, too."

Whether it's at the Arizona Humane Society, HALO (Helping Animals Live On) Animal Rescue or Lost Our Home Pet Foundation, which works with real estate agents discovering abandoned pets in foreclosed homes, pet shelters and their volunteers who foster them are running out of room to keep them - if they haven't run out of room already.

The Arizona Humane Society has 265 cats and kittens and 76 of them have not even made it to the adoption floor yet due to space limitations.

An Arizona Human Society spokeswoman told the Tribune that pet overpopulation in Maricopa County is second nationally only to Los Angeles County, and although pet population always increases this time of year, it's higher now because nearly all pet shelters are overcrowded.

"If anyone has ever thought about opening their hearts or homes to pets, the summer months are critical," said Bretta Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Humane Society. "The pet population always goes up this time of year, but this year has been just astronomical. There's just boxes and crates all over the shelter filled with pets - and they're just stacking up. It really, really is heartbreaking to see."

"People really need to spay or neuter their pets," Nelson added. We're literally overflowing with cats and kittens and it's a direct result of the pet overpopulation."

In addition to seeing an 11 percent increase in the number of pets it has taken in this year compared with two years ago, the Arizona Humane Society also has 62 "critters" (rabbits, gerbils, hamsters) it would like to place, Nelson said. The Arizona Humane Society took in 44,000 animals last year, averaging 121 a day.

So far this year, the Humane Society has taken in 9,311 cats and kittens and for its fiscal year that started Nov. 1 it has taken in 12,429 cats and kittens, according to information from the Arizona Humane Society.

HALO (Helping Pets Live On) Animal Rescue is hoping that cat lovers will take advantage of its adoption special that it is conducting for the next two months due to the cat population being up.

Lost Our Home Pet Foundation, an East Valley-based, no-kill pet rescue group that works with real estate agents who discover pets abandoned in foreclosed homes or yards, is "fostered to the fullest," and looking to find permanent homes for dozens of cats and kittens. The pet fosters of that no-kill pet rescue has taken in all it can take, and has a three-month waiting list for pet owners who are trying to find temporary homes for their pets.

"We're up to our foreheads in cats," said Jodi Polanski, executive director of Lost Our Home Pet Foundation. "We're really overwhelmed. This year, it's been harder to find homes for cats, but it's hard to tell whether the pet population is up this year, or if people just aren't adopting cats. Cat adoptions are really down right now."

Polanski said Lost Our Home has continued to see a problem with people leaving their pets behind when their home is foreclosed on, but there are options instead of leaving a domesticated animal to fend for itself.

"If you have to give up your pet, first see if you can find someone you know and trust who will keep it," Polanski said. "If they can't keep it, try the rescue shelters or groups."

Polanski said that if the pet rescues are full and can't house the pet, it would be best to pay a fee so the animal is taken in at Maricopa County Animal Control.

"Getting a pet placed in one of these places is much better than turning it loose on the street," Polanski said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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