Animal Shelter cuts adoption fees - staff and volunteers at the Northwoods Animal Shelter show off some of the many cats now available at the shelter. Front row, from left: Lynn Carlson, Michelle Guth, Jeff Roe. Back row: Claire Aspey, Bonnie Jewell, Sheila Hotvedt, Matt Bessemer.
IRON RIVER—“Hundreds of cats. Thousands of cats. Millions and billions and trillions of cats!”
The line from Wanda Gag’s beloved children’s story may be running through Bonnie Jewell’s mind lately. She is the manager of the Northwoods Animal Shelter on M-189 in Iron River, and the place is getting overrun with cats. Literally.
No joke. The shelter has kennels to comfortably house about 50 cats. “Right now,” she said during an interview last week, “I probably have about 70 back there.”
Like the book says, “Cats here. Cats there. Cats and kittens everywhere!”
“We are just so overwhelmed with cats,” Jewell said with a sigh. “It’s unbelievable.”
For that reason, the shelter is holding a special sale.
Now through Oct. 15, all cats that have already been altered (spayed or neutered) will be sold for just $15. The price for kittens will be $30—plus a $50 deposit that is refunded after the kitten is spayed or neutered.
All cats that the shelter sells have been vaccinated and de-wormed and have a microchip inserted in their neck (so if they ever get lost, they can go home again.) The shelter’s dogs are treated the same way.
Shelter management isn’t happy about doing this, because they will be losing money with each cat that goes out the door. Jewell said the shelter pays “at least $40” to have a cat vaccinated and spayed/neutered.
Cats are usually sold for $35, “so we’re losing money for every cat that goes out of here.” With the price lowered to $15, it will lose even more.
But since the shelter is crowded with cats, it didn’t have much choice.
How did the shelter get so many cats? And why isn’t there a problem with dogs?
Blame Mother Nature. Dogs usually have one litter, maybe two, each year. An unsprayed female cat can have three and even four litters. “She can have kittens when she is six or seven months old,” Jewell said.
That means a kitten born early in the year can be having kittens of her own by year’s end.
“Two weeks ago,” Jewell said, “I got in 13 kittens from a guy who said ‘Somebody dropped off these two pregnant cats at my house.’
“So instead of bringing us two pregnant cats to deal with, he brought us 13 kittens—and he didn’t bring us the moms! So the moms right now are probably pregnant again and getting ready to have 13 more kittens that he’ll bring to us in eight weeks!”
Some shelters, she noted, use a trap-neuter-release plan. “We don’t do that,” said Jewell. “Part of that is that we don’t have a vet who works with us to do them for free. We’re working on that.”
Another reason: The neutered cat would be released back into the outdoors—not a desirable outcome. “We have extreme conditions here: weather, predators.”
The shelter is also trying to impress on the general public how important spaying and neutering is to keep down the outdoor cat population.
What happens when a cat/kitten goes to the shelter and doesn’t get adopted? Then the shelter is its home. “A lot of people think we have a holding period,” said Jewell, “and then they get put down.”
They don’t. “For adoptable cats,” said Jewell, “we don’t have time limits on how long they can stay. We have adopted out pets that have been here for better than a year.”
Some cats, though, are not adoptable. Some feral cats are so wild that nobody can touch them. A committee at the shelter makes the decision case by case. “We feel we don’t have a choice,” said Jewell. “They have to be put down. We can’t handle them, and nobody wants to adopt them.”
When any stray is brought to the shelter, the staff evaluates it. “We take care of them, and if they are friendly enough and adoptable, they get vaccinated and spayed or neutered and go into the population.”
They also use a scanner to check the cat’s neck for a microchip. The chip, which is the size of a large grain of rice, can bring up a computer record of the cat—and help a lost pet find its way home.
A large bulletin board near the shelter’s front door has descriptions and photos of lost cats and dogs. If you have a cat or dog and want to help it get back home if it ever gets lost, the animal shelter will put a chip in its neck for a nominal fee. Think about the heartbreak you could be sparing yourself.
The cat sale is only for one week—it ends Oct. 15. “Now is the time,” said Jewell. “If somebody is looking to get a cat, now is the time to do it.
“There is a huge selection: color and personalities.” Staffers and volunteers who work at the shelter know the cats’ personalities well. “We’re pretty good at matching them up with what people are looking for.”