Fort Worth

Kitties galore: North Texas animal shelters overrun with stray cats

Jordan, left, and Willis were rescued from a storm drain.
Jordan, left, and Willis were rescued from a storm drain. Special

Not all kittens are as fortunate as the two that were rescued from a storm drain last week in Keller.

Especially during “kitten season,” said Fiona Green, founder of Animal Advocates of North Texas.

Green is fostering four kittens this week, including the two that gained media attention after Keller firefighters rescued them from a zipped purse that had been tossed into a storm drain.

Green said the high-profile kittens will likely be adopted quickly but her other two might not be as lucky.

“It’s kitten season so our group has lots of cats. We have about 20 kittens and several adult cats in foster care,” Green said of her organization, which was founded in 2008. “This time of year is just crazy for rescue people.”

Sandy Shelby, executive director of the Humane Society of North Texas, said kitten season is the time of year when cats give birth, flooding animal shelters and rescue groups with homeless litters.

But at the shelter they call it “baby season” because “we are inundated with nearly as many puppies as kittens.”

“Nature has a way of having babies born in the springtime because you have a greater chance of survival with the warmer weather and plentiful food supply,” Shelby said.

That time is peaking now.

‘It’s just nature’

During kitten season, thousands of unwanted kittens are turned in to the Humane Society’s Fort Worth location, which is the largest open admission shelter in North Texas. On Thursday, Shelby said the shelter had 482 cats in its system.

Their roster includes cats in quarantine, in surgery holding to be spayed and neutered, in the rehabilitation center, at their off-site adoption centers and in foster care.

The slow periods are Oct. 1 to March, and slowest in December and January.

The monthly intake reflects that trend. In January, the shelter took in 471 cats, 594 in February, 547 in March, 922 in April and 1,285 in May.

“Here we’re nine days in this month and we are almost at 500,” Shelby said. “We’ve already exceeded what we took in for the entire month of January.”

For shelter workers, kitten season can be the worst time of year. Pet overpopulation means more animals may get euthanized.

“When you are an open-admissions shelter taking in more than 25,000 animals a year, it is impossible to be a no-kill shelter,” Shelby said.

She said the shelter never turns anyone away, but that means taking in animals that are aggressive toward other animals and people, are sick or suffering, or have other issues that make them poor candidates for adoption.

“We focus on the healthy ones to save more lives,” Shelby said. “For those who say they can’t go to ‘those places’ to adopt because there are animals that won’t make it, I respond, ‘How can you not?’ 

Resources already hard to come by — like food, money, space — are often stretched to their limit as shelters and other rescue groups, which often take in thousands of adult animals every year, are inundated with homeless kittens. As such groups struggle to house as many cats as possible, the risk of illness increases.

‘Simply overwhelmed’

Shelby said the shelter’s foster care program is a critical part of their efforts and officials there are always looking for volunteers.

“We have all these little kittens, but they are just too young to be adopted out,” Shelby said. “Putting them in foster programs gives them time to grow.”

Green said her group helps by providing that foster care.

“Unfortunately it is impossible for rescue groups and shelters to keep up with the arrival of so many kittens,” Green said. “And while they help whenever they can, they are quite simply overwhelmed. Like most rescue groups, Animal Advocates of North Texas works with foster families who take care of kittens in their homes.”

Green said the organization can rescue kittens only if they have available foster families. She and co-founder Chris Ryder are always looking for more people to join.

She said that if people would take the time to spay or neuter their pets, the group wouldn’t face the same crisis every year.

The organization’s purpose is to “prevent animal cruelty and neglect, reduce the euthanasia rate of healthy animals in shelters and develop a network to increase the placement of homeless and abandoned animals into permanent, loving homes,” Green said.

‘Cats are happy and healthy’

When the storm drain kittens were found, Debra Crafton, the Keller fire marshal and the department’s “resident cat lady,” said firefighters handed her the purse and she found the kittens dirty and frail.

“The little tabby was meowing,” Crafton said. “The little black and white one didn’t have a whole lot to say.”

After the rescue, the kittens were sent to a veterinary clinic, where they checked out healthy. A Keller 911 dispatcher agreed to adopt them after they spent a week in a foster home. But she turned out to be allergic to kittens, so they ended up with Green.

Green named the black and white kitten Willis for the Willis Cove neighborhood, where they were found, and Jordan for Jordan Sieger, the firefighter who rescued them from the storm drain.

They join two other foster cats at the Green home — orange tabbies Harry and Will — and the family’s personal menagerie.

Now, living with Green, they are doing just fine.

“Willis is very communicative. He ‘talks’ a lot,” Green said. “Jordan likes to explore. Both have great appetites.”

Keller police are investigating who put the kittens in the drain. The culprit could face a charge of abandonment of an animal, a Class A misdemeanor, city spokeswoman Rachel Reynolds said.

“We were just so pleased with the happy ending,” Reynolds said Tuesday. “We’re still looking for information about the incident, but at least for now the cats are happy and healthy.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Marty Sabota: 817-390-7367

Contact info

  • Animal Advocates of North Texas: www.a-a-n-t.org
  • Humane Society of North Texas: www.hsnt.org, 817-332-4768

Five ways you can help a cat

  • Spay or neuter your cats. Cats can become pregnant as young as five months of age. Fortunately, kittens as young as two months and weighing two pounds can be safely altered.
  • Help your local shelter during kitten season (and all year). Donate supplies, money or your time. Contact your local shelter to find out what’s needed most. You can also volunteer at your local shelter’s adoption events or promotions.
  • Care for homeless or feral (not tame) cats in your area. Work with your local animal control or feral cat group to help manage your neighborhood’s feral and stray cat populations.
  • Become a foster cat parent. Contact your local shelter or rescue group to learn more about becoming a foster parent for cats or kittens in need.
  • Adopt a cat. Open your home to a new cat or adopt a playmate for your existing pets.

Source: Humane Society of the United States

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