LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA – The purring 6-month-old kitten with black fur at Long Beach Animal Care Services shelter appeared to have a very good chance at being adopted, but not every sheltered feline will find its way to its own forever home.
Long Beach’s City Council is set to vote Tuesday on a plan intended to redcue the rate of the euthanasia for shelter cats in Long Beach. The one-year plan involves a pair of nonprofit groups, The Michaelson Found Animals Foundation, Inc. and Stray Cat Alliance.
The groups plan to expand Animal Care’s current efforts to nurture stray kittens in order to prepare them for eventual adoption, as well as the spaying and neutering of other felines that would then be allowed to live their lives outside of a shelter.
“It’s going to help a lot, especially the kitten fostering part of it,” Animal Care Services manager Ted Stevens said.
• Long Beach Animal Care staffers would spay and neuter as many as 25 cats weekly. City employees would also be responsible giving those cats microchips, vaccinations and treatments for fleas. Stray Cat Alliance may then release those animals back into the city.
• The Michelson Found Animals Foundation would cover the bills for Stray Cat Alliance’s work.
• The Found Animals Foundation also plans to expand its kitten fostering program. Volunteers took in about 130 kittens from the Long Beach shelter last year, and Foundation animal care manager Melissa Heard said the group’s objective is care for nearly 500 young felines this year.
The kittens that go into the program are typically just 2 to 4 weeks old. After treatment at the Foundation’s kitten nursery in Culver City, the felines are placed into the care of volunteers who raise them until they are about 8 weeks old and healthy enough to be spayed or neutered, Heard said. Kittens need to weigh at least two pounds before they are strong enough for surgery.
“They go into foster homes. We like them to go at least in pairs if not a whole litter,” Heard said. “They stay nice and socialized.”
People can eventually adopt the fostered kittens or other pets from the Foundation’s Adopt & Shop centers located in Culver City or at Lakewood Center mall.
Long Beach officials declared in January that 2015 was the best year on record when it comes to the numbers of dogs and cats being impounded or euthanized at the shelter.
Cat impounds at the Long Beach shelter have fallen sharply from nearly 6,200 in 2005 to about 3,900 last year. The number of felines being euthanized has improved from nearly 5,100 in 2005 to less than 1,800 last year.
Stevens said Animal Care’s work, along with independent efforts made by animal-focused nonprofits to return spayed and neutered cats to Long Beach, has more than likely played a major role in reducing the euthanasia rate.
“I think that’s why we’re starting to see these empty rooms,” Stevens said while looking at several vacant cat condos at the city shelter.
That said, the coming of spring means “kitten season” is upon us. Stevens said the spring and summer months typically bring hundreds and hundreds of both cats and dogs to the shelter, which means the Found Animal Foundation’s efforts to help shelter those animals may prove to be more critical than ever.
“It’s a lot easier to save 1,200 than it is to save 1,500. And so on and so on,” he said.
Many stray cats rely on gifts of food from nearby residents who want to help the animals, Stevens said. Those cats mate with each other and reproduce, so merely capturing and euthanizing strays that cannot be adopted tends to contribute to a cycle in which stray kittens often end up replacing the older cats who are taken off the streets.
If, however, the strays go back to their turf after being spayed and neutered, those cats will continue to live off whatever food they can find in their area without producing new kittens or leaving the territory open for other strays.
“It’s great that they want to help these cats and be part of these cats’ lives, but we really want to get them spayed and neutered,” Stevens said.
For information on adopting a pet from Long Beach Animal Care, go online to www.longbeach.gov/acs or call 562-570-7387.