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Norwich Bulletin - 3/13/2005

Culture Shock

A fellow cat fancier approached me to help an acquaintance of hers who had fourteen cats and kittens living in her garage. She explained that the couple worked at one of the casinos and they were from an Eastern European country and did not understand the necessity of altering their animals. Since this has been a growing concern for Helping Paws and other local rescue organizations, I agreed to make contact with the family.

I admit I started out with the wrong idea in my head. I was convinced it was one more irresponsible family who did not take care of their pets. I get multiple calls every day from people who find pregnant cats who have been abandoned by their owners and mother cats with kittens living in dumpsters. After almost ten years of kitten season after kitten season, I want to see it end. So when I made my initial contact with these people, I was less than cordial.

It did not take me long to realize I had it all wrong and yet, at the same time, it was apparent that New London County was going to be in for a really bad time with animal overpopulation. The woman I spoke with truly did not understand why they had fourteen cats when less than a year ago they only had two.

As I questioned her, she explained that in her country there were not so many cats - that most of them died. There was little food for animals and no vets available to spay or neuter. The idea of altering her pets simply never crossed her mind or her husbands. We spoke at length and even though there was a definite language barrier, I was able to tell her about T.E.A.M. (Connecticut's spay/neuter van for cats) and start her on the road to altering the adult cats they wanted to keep. Meanwhile I took five kittens and found them homes.

But the truth is, unless she follows through and gets the other nine cats spayed and neutered, she is going to be over run with kittens. The kittens will continue to be inbred and eventually there will be disease and other health risks. And since there are so many immigrant families coming to this area to work at the casinos, Helping Paws simply does not have the financial wherewithal to prevent this from happening.

We have many families coming here from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Eastern European countries and Asian countries. These are countries in which people struggle on a day to day basis in order to take care of their families. There is no extra money for pets and there are no veterinary hospitals promoting spay and neuter clinics.

The way our country cares for their animal companions is completely foreign to many of our newcomers. And unless someone is willing to take the time to explain how much healthier our animals are and how pet overpopulation happens, we will be inundated with puppies and kittens this spring.

I am hoping that the local rescue organizations, along with T.E.A.M. and the casinos can bring together some type of program to prevent this from happening. Realizing first that there is a problem, is the first step to solving it. T.E.A.M. offers a wonderful educational brochure on how important it is to spay and neuter your cats.

I understand that there is a language barrier in many cases, so if the casinos were willing to have the brochure translated into the languages of the people coming here, we would be able to make huge strides in preventing a catastrophe. There is also the case of the initial outlay of having the cat altered. T.E.A.M. offers the distemper and rabies shots, as well as the spay/neuter for only $59.00.

If there are multiple cats to be done for one family, perhaps the local rescue organizations could assist with financing the cost for one or two of the cats. By working together we could certainly prevent the very real problem of having to deal with an overabundance of kittens and cats, along with too few homes.

I firmly believe the answer to this dilemma lies in the spay/neuter vans of Connecticut. To find out more about the availability of the TEAM van and its schedule, please call 1-888-FOR-TEAM.

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