By Nick Thomas

staff writer

nickthomas@eagles.ewu.edu

In the past few years, pet adoption rates have increased in the Spokane region, particularly dog adoptions.

Janet Dixon is Development Coordinator at SCRAPS, Spokane County’s animal shelter which also serves Cheney. She said while dog and cat adoptions have gone up, there has been “an explosion” in the cat population.

“People understand that dogs need to be spayed and neutered. They get that. But people view cats like ‘Oh but it’s a wild creature, it’s feral, it should be allowed to roam around and reproduce.’ The problem is that a single cat can have around 16 to 20 kittens a year, every single year, ” Dixon said. “They reproduce much faster than a dog. What ends up happening is that people don’t spay and neuter, and they don’t microchip.”

Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of cats are not able to survive on their own without the care of people. They are domesticated animals, just like dogs are. If left to fend for themselves, they will become malnourished, starve to death or be killed by natural predators like owls and hawks.

To avoid euthanizing cats, SCRAPS ships cats to the Seattle area where there is a higher demand for cats because so many people live in apartments where cats are more manageable. Euthanizing is only used as a last resort option with animals that are either too old or who have incurable behavior problems.

Julia Tribbett, a senior dental hygiene student, adopted a kitten named Louie from SCRAPS at Petsmart in May of 2012.

“He is the first pet that my fiancé and I had as a couple. The best part about having a pet as a student is having someone fuzzy to confide in. He helps me relax when I am really stressed out and overwhelmed after a long day at school,” Tribbett said. “It is always nice to spend some time with him.”

According to Spokane veterinarian Dr. Cheryl Fite, adopting a pet is a serious responsibility, like having a kid. Once you have one, it is for life. Taking them back should not be an option.

Dr. Fite said that first-time pet owners should know what they are getting into by taking classes and reading books, similar to being a first-time parent. Like new parents, first-time pet owners tend to over do it, so the more education the better.

Dixon encourages everyone, including students, to consider adopting a pet, although she has noted an increase in cats left behind in Cheney at the end of each school year.

“You can’t let a cat out into the wild or onto the streets. It won’t survive. It won’t live a fun life out in the prairie. An owl, raccoon or coyote will eat it. That’s what happens to domesticated cats.”

Since the holidays are upon us, people will be giving pets away as presents. Unless this has been seriously discussed and planned out, surprising a child, a boyfriend or girlfriend with a puppy or kitten is not a good idea.

“It is a very chaotic time of year. There are people everywhere, poisonous plants like poinsettias and garlands. The return rates are extremely high,” Dixon said.

That said, December is their annual “Empty the Shelter” adoption drive. Fees are reduced to $25 for dogs and $15 for cats. Dixon said SCRAPS hopes to find permanent homes for 214 animals during the drive.

Starting in January, SCRAPS will be the sole place for looking for lost pets, licensing pets, bringing strays and receiving training classes. This is part of an effort to streamline what is currently a confusing system of shelters in Spokane. Instead of one shelter for in-city animals (Spokanimal C.A.R.E.), another for county (SCRAPS), plus other independent but well-known shelters like Spokane Humane Society, there will just be one. This will alleviate confusion of where to go to find, adopt and license pets. It will also double the square footage of their facility which opens this April at 6815 E. Trent.

SCRAPS always needs volunteers to play with the animals and help with other tasks. For more information visit their website at http://www.spokanecounty.org/scraps.

A cute kitten at SCRAPS peers out of its cage looking for a new family. Photo by Nick Thomas.

A cute kitten at SCRAPS peers out of its cage looking for a new family. Photo by Nick Thomas.