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Cats: Problem everywhere

We know a couple of suburban Charleston women who wage their own catch-neuter-release humane mission. The Oakridge residents scoop up visiting stray cats, pay a vet to spay them, and turn them loose again.

This selfless project deserves applause, because wild-roaming felines pose a frustrating overpopulation problem. A research group says:

"One unsprayed female cat having just four kittens a year and just two females per litter can be the cause of over 10,000 kittens being born over the next seven years."

Think of that -- one cat produces 10,000. No wonder Charleston council is trying to reduce the city's cat-apulting numbers. But limiting cats per household can't be a complete cure, because about half of the animals don't belong to any particular home.

California researchers estimated that America has nearly 150 million cats -- half of them feral, surviving on their own by foraging food however they can.

For years, experts estimated that U.S. cats kill 500 million birds every year, plus more mice, moles, rabbits, chipmunks and other small prey. But the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute recently made a much-worse tally. Researcher Pete Marra told National Public Radio:

"We estimate that cats kill somewhere between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds a year. For mammals, it's upward of about 15 billion."

Good grief. Nature is a slaughterhouse. And people are helpless to prevent a lot of the gore.

Across America, between 3 million and 9 million unwanted cats are "put to sleep" at animal shelters yearly, simply because it's impossible to care for so many. Currently, leaders of the Kanawha-Charleston shelter are stewing over a proposed "no-kill" policy that would save lives but add to overpopulation.

Amid all these complications, what can conscientious people do? Few can afford to spay and release strays like the Oakridge pair. However, responsible pet ownership can be a partial solution.

Spay your household cats to halt the upsurge of litters. Keep your cats indoors, safe from outside perils. Don't buy fancy kittens from breeders or stores, but adopt castoffs from your local shelter to ease the excess load.

Each family's sensible contribution can help with the national quandary.


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