"Build it and they will come" held too true for the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter last year. Just after installing new cages to hold cats at the end of May, the animals started to arrive in record numbers.
There were pregnant cats about to give birth, cats that had just had litters of kittens and strays thatcame in alone. Some came from rural areas where they had been running free and catching their meals, while others came from downtown where they had been scrounging through garbage bins to survive.
The shelter received about twice as many cats during last summer and fall as it usually does, said Routt County Animal Safety Officer Cindy DelValle.
It got so busy, that almost every staff person and volunteer ended up taking home a litter of kittens for a short time to make room at the shelter.
The shelter received about 200 cats last year, DelValle said. Since fall, the number of cats coming in has slowed down because most litters are born during spring and summer, she said.
The new kennels were paid for with part of a $12,000 grant from the Lauretta Boyd Charitable Trust Fund through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.
Of the grant, $10,000 was used to build stainless steel kennels and an additional quarantine room to hold newly arriving animals while they're checked for illnesses. The new kennels increased the number of kennels in the adoption room from eight to 12, DelValle said.
The remaining $2,000 went toward spaying and neutering animals, DelValle said.
Spaying and neutering is the key to controlling stray cat populations and keeping the problem at a minimum, DelValle said.
"I just think it all comes back to spaying and neutering," she said. "Even though we can house a lot more cats now, it still doesn't change the fact that there are not enough people to adopt and not enough homes for these cats to go to."
To have a cat spayed at the Steamboat Veterinary Hospital costs about $170, while neutering costs about $95. For people who can't afford those costs, there is assistance available through the Animal Assistance League of Northwest Colorado and through the Routt County Humane Society.
Keeping the number of stray cats at a minimum also helps prevent the spread of diseases cats pass to one another, such as feline leukemia, feline immuno-suppressive virus and upper respiratory infections, said Sheri Geddes, a veterinarian at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital.
Geddes encouraged anyone with a cat that hasn't been spayed or neutered to make an appointment for the operation.
"Our biggest thing with stray or feral cats is just making sure they're neutered," Geddes said. "Because (if they aren't), it just leads to a lot more cats."
Anyone who finds a stray cat should call the animal shelter at 879-0621.
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