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To ensure any kittens in your care and keeping have a long, healthy life, have them spayed or neutered. MOLLIE LASALLE | TCBTo ensure any kittens in your care and keeping have a long, healthy life, have them spayed or neutered. MOLLIE LASALLE | TCB

By Mollie LaSalle

Warmer months bring with them a population explosion of kittens. Kitten season starts during the hot summer months in most areas, but the warmer southeast Texas climate means that kitten season lasts much longer, and begins as early as March, and lasts well into the fall and winter months.

The multitude of kittens means that you see them being given away in the parking lots of big stores (Walmart) and ads being placed in the newspaper (free kittens). Sometimes, strays in the neighborhood bring their little ones to your back door, in the hopes of finding homes for their babies. I must confess, four of my bunch were acquired this way. I know their ages, and in two cases, their exact date of birth, since mama cat had them on my back porch. I currently feed the neighborhood strays, and two brother cats are so tame they try to come in the house on occasion.

To help control the pet population, responsible pet owners should have their fur babies spayed or neutered as soon as they are old enough; some clinics will spay or neuter a kitten at eight weeks old. A female kitten can start having kittens at four months of age and continue to have litters every four months; the fact is, cats who have just given birth can become pregnant again very quickly.

Spay and neuter programs significantly reduce the number of animals in shelters, and TNR (Trap, neuter, release) programs are also helping in this regard. These programs improve the health and well-being of cats, and the humans who take care of them.

Every year, more than 3 million cats and kittens enter shelters, and one million are euthanized; the cost to taxpayers is immeasurable. This is a totally preventable tragedy, as there are spay and neuter programs across the country whose sole purpose is improving the quality of an animal’s life. Remember when Bob Barker would sign off every day on the Price Is Right with the quote, “help control the animal population, have your pet spayed or neutered”? Mr. Barker was a fierce champion for animals and believed in this program whole-heartedly. Betty White was another advocate for the animals, as she held similar beliefs towards our four-footed friends.

There are some spay and neuter programs in east Texas; Dehart Veterinary Services is a mobile spay/neuter/wellness clinic that makes the rounds throughout northeast and east Texas every month offering low-cost spay/neuter services. Dehart Veterinary Services has a website: dehartvetservices.com, they also have a Facebook page. The Humane Society of Southeast Texas in Beaumont is doing wonderful things for the animals in their care. Their website is user-friendly, and they are a non-profit 501(C) (3) charitable organization run on donor contributions, community volunteers, and a lot of love. They rely heavily on donations to keep the doors open, and provide food, water, shelter and medical care to animals who desperately need it. To learn more about HSSETX visit their website at humanesocietyofsoutheasttexas.org. They also have a Facebook page.

Adopting a pet from a shelter is quick and easy; most shelters make you pay a small fee to cover the cost of spay/neuter surgery and shots. Owning a pet is a life-time commitment. The cute kitten or puppy under the Christmas tree is not just a one-time plaything. Too often, I see Facebook posts of people trying to “re-home” their animals. Sometimes, it’s because they can’t properly care for them any longer, or the owner has passed away, or they are moving and can’t take their pet with them. Whatever the reason, it just breaks my heart; the animal has bonded to the owner and doesn’t understand what’s happening. It doesn’t take long to get attached to that little ball of fluff, and vice-versa. A good majority of shelter pets are owner surrenders.

The bottom line is, when you decide it’s time to bring an animal into your home and life, consider your options, and make sure you are financially and emotionally ready to take that step. There are many loving pets waiting in shelters, and when you adopt, you save a life, and greatly enrich your own through the companionship a shelter pet provides. They just want someone to love and take care of them, and they deserve that chance at a better life, as most of these animals wind up at a shelter through no fault of their own.

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