It’s the least favorite part of her job, but Missoula Animal Control shelter attendant Barbara Parker is having to decide which cats to “put down” more frequently these days. That’s because area shelters are overrun with cats.
“We’re getting an abnormally high number of small kittens for this time of year,” says Parker, who has worked at the shelter for more than four years. “Summer and fall are always bad but for some reason it’s much worse this year.”
Parker says the Animal Control shelter has processed a third more animals that it did by this time a year ago. As of press time, every cage in the cat room, including all six cages in the quarantine room, was full. Some cages even housed two cats.
The shelter is required by law to hold animals for at least four days, so that means for every new stray cat the shelter takes in and is forced to hold, a cat currently occupying precious cage space will have to be killed.
“We’ve taken in an overwhelming 48 cats just this past week,” says Peter Bensen, executive director of the Humane Society of Western Montana. “With 28 cats in foster care and now 99 cats and kittens in our shelter, we are in a crisis.”
Bensen says the Humane Society shelter is extending its evening hours and plans to offer special low fees for cat adoptions for the next two weeks to try to encourage people to take them…or else.
There are no parameters for deciding which cats will live and which will die. It’s up to Parker to make her best judgment as to which cats are most suitable—and desirable—for adoption.
“I don’t like doing it, but it’s better than some arbitrary process that would end up killing animals that would make great pets if we could find them the right home,” says Parker.
As the number of cats climbs without an equal number of willing adopters, Missoula’s animal shelters seem more like death row for kitties.