Pet overpopulation has left animal shelters and rescues across the Valley at capacity or nearly full with pets needing homes.
Kattered Tails, a Chandler foster home-based rescue, is at capacity and in desperate need of help with food and supplies for their 80 cats and kittens in care.
“You get tired of telling everyone ‘sorry we’re full,’” said Monica Colello, CEO of Kattered Tails.
With community support, Colello and her colleagues believe they can continue to fight pet overpopulation and ensure that every homeless cat and kitten they foster finds a forever home.
“Community support is integral for us to continue to support the community,” the rescue stated on Nextdoor.
“Without community support we will be forced to implement the full surrender fees when taking in cats and kittens. Caring for these little families is not free. Support is needed.”
To help find homes for some cats, Kattered Tails will hold an adoption event 11 a.m.-3 p.m. July 24 at Gordy’s Goodies Pet Food & Supplies, 15425 S. 48th St., Ahwatukee.
Gordy’s Goodies owner Lisa Thayer has long helped rescues all over the Valley by hosting adoption events. She allows Kattered Tails at least one Saturday a month to hold an adoption event.
Pet overpopulation in Maricopa County was once second nationally only to Los Angeles County, according to the Arizona Humane Society.
Since then, more efforts have been made to save lives and Maricopa County Animal Care and Control reported a decline in overall animal intake numbers in recent years and a higher percentage of animals being adopted out or relocated after coming in through their doors. MCACC has maintained an average annual save rate of 94 percent or higher since 2017.
Yet, the influx of homeless pets is
Animal shelters and rescues like Kattered Tails now have to turn away pets due to lack of space, fosters, supplies or money.
Shelters being at capacity is normal for this time of the year, according to MCACC.
Although the pet population always increases during kitten season – when shelters and rescues are flooded with litters from unaltered cats – Colello said this year is worse.
One reason may be that animals adopted during lockdowns at the height of the pandemic last year are now being abandoned. Moreover, many adoption events were canceled last year.
Colello said she noticed a correlation between the pandemic and amount of pregnant cats and kittens on the streets.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of people may have picked up kittens off of the street, didn’t get the kitten fixed, the kitten got pregnant and shooed out the door,” Colello said. “We’re finding a lot of dumped pregnant cats and we know they were formerly pets because they are approachable. Strays are approachable, ferals are not.”
Due to the pandemic and a national veterinary shortage, many veterinary clinics were temporarily closed, shut down, no longer taking new clients, not accepting walk-ins, or booked for long periods of time. Hence, many strays were not being fixed.
“People weren’t able to get their cats spayed or neutered,” Colello said.
Closures and limited veterinary services weren’t just hard on pet owners but also impacted Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs, said Amber Gries, intake coordinator for Kattered Tails.
TNR is a humane and effective way to stabilize outdoor cat populations by which feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and then released into their colony environment, according to the AHS.
TNR programs help reduce cat overpopulation without the need for euthanasia. It also reduces displeasing mating behaviors such as yowling and spraying.
“Vets were shut down,” Gries said. “Even now, I know people who do trapping, neutering and releasing and they can’t get appointments right now because vets are booked several weeks out.
“When you’re a trapper, you don’t have that much time to sit on a cat you trap. You have to get it in and release it. Feral cats can’t be caged for very long. It’s making the overpopulation cycle so much worse.”
The average mature cat can have three litters with a total 12 kittens per year, making it possible to have nearly 200 kittens in her lifetime, according to the AHS.
“We want to stop the cycle,” Gries said.
The mission of Kattered Tails is “to rescue cats and kittens left behind for whatever reason within local communities and shelters where there is high risk of euthanasia due to overpopulation, abuse, neglect, abandoned or homeless strays.”
However, there is only so much that Kattered Tails can do without community support.
Donations have significantly faltered for the rescue, which they rely on to keep operating.
“Lack of funding happened,” Gries said. “We’re basically out of money.”
In the beginning of the pandemic, Kattered Tails received a lot of community support and there was an increase of adoptions during lockdowns, Colello said. Yet, over time adoptions slowed and people lost their jobs, which meant money stopped coming in.
“Almost everything is out-of-pocket now,” Colello said.
Kattered Tails goes through about 75 pounds of cat food per week, Colello said.
Gries has 16 foster cats and kittens in her house alone. Formula and wet food for kittens costs more and she goes through four cans twice a day for six kittens.
Kattered Tails provides the food for all of their fosters, along with litter boxes and more, unlike most rescues where foster parents are often responsible for all caretaking costs, Gries said.
“If people are going to foster for you then you need to provide for them,” Colello said.
Kattered Tails relied on social media outlets to get kittens adopted when adoption events were canceled, Gries said.
However, social media isn’t enough. Cats are not being adopted fast enough and the rescue can no longer keep up with the influx of homeless pets.
“I’ve been turning away people,” Gries said. “We can’t take in more cats without more fosters and funding.”
Pet overpopulation worsened and at one point the rescue had over 100 cats and kittens in care from around the Valley, Colello said.
Now, with 80 cats and kittens in care, Kattered Tails needs help more than ever.
“For a while we didn’t have to put out a plea for food, but now we’re desperate for donations,” Colello said.
Even though Kattered Tails is not currently intaking, their agreement with Petco Love (formerly The Petco Foundation) requires they take in any kitten dropped off at Petco, Colello said, “whether we have room or not.”
They also pull from Yuma’s euthanasia list because there are no rescues there.
Kattered Tails has plenty of cats and kittens waiting to be loved. They are all spayed, neutered, tested for FIP and FeLV, microchipped, vaccinated, dewormed, and cleared by a vet for adoption.
“That’s especially why we need funding so badly too,” Gries said.