The Lewis County Animal Shelter is inundated with cats and kittens — likely the product of unneutered pandemic pets — and officials are encouraging those considering adoption to walk in and meet a potential furry friend.
This time last year, the shelter was holding 88 cats and 113 kittens. Now, those numbers are nearly double: 184 cats and 205 kittens.
Lots of those are likely the offspring of felines bought during the original COVID-19 shutdowns last year. Back then, getting new animals spayed and neutered was considerably more difficult.
And with those new pet owners returning to work and a semi-normal life, “those cats are no longer the focus of the family, and they’re wandering more,” said Shelter Manager Jennifer Teitzel.
The shelter is also seeing a major increase in domestic bunnies found as strays — 14 total this year — also likely the product of pandemic-era purchases.
Some cats have also been surrendered to the shelter after animal owners were forced into tougher living situations during the pandemic. However, with limited space, the shelter has turned some owners away, prioritizing stray cats over ones with homes.
Even with clinics beginning to lift restrictions, getting pets spayed or neutered locally is still a challenge, as demand is high.
“They are extremely backlogged,” Teitzel told The Chronicle.
Some clinics, including Cascade West Veterinary Hospital in Centralia, have stopped taking new small animal clients. In a Facebook post last month, the animal hospital cited heightened demand for appointments.
Tacoma’s Northwest Spay and Neuter Center may be a good option, but with the suspension of its shuttle services, Teitzel said, it means owners are in for a long drive. She understands why people don’t want to make the trek.
“It’s very unfortunate the consequences it has, though,” she said.
Fortunately, space restrictions haven’t resulted in any euthanasia. The decline in the shelter’s euthanasia rate is something public health officials have highlighted this year. Teitzel said Tuesday that the rate is now less than 6%, all of which were either court-ordered or medically necessary.
The shelter manages limited space by coordinating with other rescues or shelters in communities that have different demands.
Some places, for example, may see a high demand for barn cats. In Lewis County, Tietzel said, there’s a “very high demand for Siamese, or any sort of oddities, such as lynx.”
Swaps can increase the likelihood of adopting animals out.
Overall, Teitzel said the shelter is fortunate that locals understand the importance of adoption.
The shelter is seeking donations in supplies, including food, laundry soap and cleaning solution, and is encouraging residents to walk in to see what animals are available for adoptions. Staff try to pair pets’ personalities with owners’ lifestyles.
Current fees for adopting felines are $60 for seniors, $75 for adults and $100 for kittens.
Teitzel also said residents who notice a stray cat should contact the shelter.
“Because the sooner it’s off the streets, the sooner it can be reunited with its family. Or after the applicable hold, it could be adopted out, which means it could be spayed or neutered,” she said. Letting cats roam unchecked “allows the pregnancy rate to escalate.”