Pandemic pressures hit cat shelters amid kitten boom

Cat shelters are reporting pandemic-related trends, with a kitten boom in some areas and unintended lockdown effects surfacing.

By Karoline Tuckey of

There have been many negative effects on cats from the Omicron outbreak, the global pandemic and the wider economic situation, cat shelters told RNZ.

But Upper Hutt Animal Rescue reports that an unexpected good side effect has been that there are more people at home during the day meeting stray and stranded cats and kittens, and asking for help.

Volunteer Nicki Campbell said several litters of kittens have been rescued in recent weeks and only discovered because people were working from home.

“The other weekend we had 19 kittens that were found under someone’s house – they had noticed a lot of stray kittens,” Campbell said.

“A lot more people are noticing kittens under the house, and we’re getting a lot more strays.”

The main kitten season begins in October, but the more recent trend of a second, smaller burst of kittens in the fall is underway.

Cat, file

Campbell said their shelter was small compared to some, but the number of kittens was disproportionate.

“Since October we have had over 105 kittens, compared to 40 or 50 [in that period] one year ago.”

She explains it at least in part by the fact that sterilization and sterilization was considered elective surgery and could not be performed in Level 4 lockdowns, with only limited quantities allowed in Level 3, despite the retarded guys.

The shelter has received many pregnant cats, with owners telling them they tried to get appointments to get them fixed but couldn’t get an appointment due to lockdown rules .

But Wellington is also experiencing a shortage of vets, in part due to the closure of border controls.

Campbell said they repeatedly see the same vet staff every time they take cats to the clinic, and those vets were clearly working long hours and exhausted. “They would normally have a few people from Australia or other places and we would see a few other faces.”

Getting vet appointments was difficult, she says. A litter booked a month ago for neutering could not be seen until April – delaying their adoptions as cats need to be neutered before going to a new home.

“A lot of cats are arriving with contagious diseases which are rampant at the moment, more than normal. At the moment, the number of cats arriving with diseases outweighs those who do not,” he said. she declared.

This was partly because they had more stray cats than usual, but there were still an unusually high number of disease-carrying cats from the homes.

“It’s because of how difficult it is to get to the vet, and the more kittens and stray dogs we see in any area, the more you expect to have these diseases,” Campbell said.

Among the diseases now circulating are panleukopenia, cat flu and giardia.

Campbell said supply chain issues meant cat food was often hard to come by, and they weren’t able to source it from overseas for cats with health issues like kidney damage.

Number of cat shelter workers reduced by Covid-19

The Upper Hutt Animal Rescue is run entirely by volunteers, and Campbell said that as Omicron grew and more people were sick or isolated, those who remained often had to work long hours.

Cats Protection Wellington president Iona Anderson said the staffing shortage was also hitting them hard.

“We have around 60 volunteers and two staff, we have to be very careful about their health at the moment, and for them managing the health of their teams is the biggest risk.”

They split the teams into two bubbles with no crossover, but that made communication and continuity of care for sick cats more difficult.

Confinement adoptions and tensions in the rental market

Cat looking out the window.

During the shutdowns, many people coming to adopt a cat said they were working from home and so decided to get a cat to keep them company, Anderson said.

Adoptions had remained high, but they had a “huge” list of cats waiting to be handed over for adoption.

Unusual amounts were being given away by loving homes because tenants faced rent increases they couldn’t afford, had to move, and were unable to find a landlord who allowed cats.

“It’s devastating for them, especially for some who say their cats are the only thing that gives them love and care,” Anderson said.

“A good half to a third of the cats on our adoption waiting list are because of this. [rental increases]. It’s been steadily increasing for the past two years.”

“And the cost of vet bills is a factor for a lot of people, more than before.”

She said more people home during the outbreak meant adoptees were more willing to bring home cats with higher needs or health issues.

“That works in our favour. When people work from home, they are now more able to

confront these cats, because now they can be there around them.”

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