ROCHESTER — Local cat shelter It’s All About the Animals is facing a kitty conundrum as an overabundance of kittens threatens to overwhelm the already overworked shelter, according to Founder and President Pam Robinson.
Currently, the shelter is caring for 77 kittens — 39 of which are housed at the shelter with the rest fostered elsewhere — and two adult cats. That is substantially more than the shelter’s normal 30-cat population this time of year. And the problem is expected to get worse before it gets better.
“This is just the beginning of kitten season,” said Robinson, explaining that the season when most cats typically give birth runs from April to October.
Robinson says that one of the primary causes for the boom is that covid slowed down the rate at which veterinarians could spay and neuter cats, leading to more kittens being born and an even greater backlog.
“You’re going to feel this,” she said, “it’s a snowball effect.”
Shannon Ewell, a veterinary technician at the Mattapoisett Animal said that covid has put a tremendous amount of strain on the entire veterinary industry for a variety of reasons.
For the first four months of the pandemic, she said, the Mattapoisett Animal Hospital was restricted to emergency surgeries because so much of their supplies were being diverted to the human medical industry.
“We only had one box of surgical gloves per doctor,” she said.
Additionally, veterinarians have had to close off their facilities to the public — having veterinary technicians collect dogs from their owners in the parking lot and bringing them back out when they’re done — significantly slowing down operations.
Ewell and Robinson both indicated that many people adopted new pets during the pandemic, creating even larger demand for care.
“Covid has turned the veterinary industry on its head,” said Ewell.
It has reached the point where the animal hospital cannot take any new patients. Even for current patients, appointments are being scheduled six weeks in advance for basic visits and into September for surgeries, despite now operating five days a week, up from three.
All of this creates a devastating ripple effect for the shelter where Pam and her husband Oren Robinson already work long hours caring for the cats.
“I work 14 hours a day at the shelter, I haven’t had a day off in 23 years,” said Pam Robinson. “I’ve slept in [the cat room] on a cot because a cat was sick.”
Despite the higher-than-usual capacity, the cats at It’s All About the Animals receive a very high standard of care. Each one gets a battery of tests and vaccinations, as well as being sterilized (spayed or neutered) and microchipped, when they arrive.
The best-case scenario cost to the shelter for getting a kitten ready for adoption is about $275, according to Robinson, and that is for a kitten without any major medical problems. When things go wrong, the costs can be much higher.
“I’ve got kittens that I’ve got over $4,000 in,” she said.
One kitten that she took in earlier this year, named Squid, was born with six legs and other birth defects, but she still did as much as possible to try and help it live.
“I did everything I could to save that cat,” she said.
Even with all the costs attached, the shelter only charges people about $250 to adopt a kitten making it dependent on donations to continue operating.
Over the years, Pam and Oren have even dipped significantly into their own retirement savings, spending over $100,000 of their own money on the shelter since beginning it in 2009.
“That’s how much this means to us,” said Pam.
The facilities at the shelter are in top-notch condition, with newly installed seamless — and in places antimicrobial — floors, air conditioning, and air purifiers in all units; a special unit to separate cats with ringworm; and a screened in “catio” porch that let the cats get some fresh air.
Robinson said that the most important thing people can do to help in the long run is to spay or neuter their cats. But, in the short-term, donations are crucial.
The shelter accepts donations in many forms, including checks written to It’s All About the Animals or to the Marion Animal Hospital in the shelter’s name. People can also give money via Facebook or buy supplies directly from the shelter’s Amazon wishlist.
Food and supplies are always gladly accepted, though it is recommended that people consult the shelter’s website to get more details on what is needed.
For more information or to submit an adoption application, visit itsallabouttheanimals.org.