This has been a stressful "season" for Lee County Domestic Animal Services.
The agency has taken in 35 percent more felines this "kitten season" over last, with an intake tally of 356 from Sept. 1, 2016 over last year's 263.
There are 275 cats awaiting adoption at the shelter plus another 100 in foster care, according to statistics released by Animal Services Thursday morning.
The cages are filled and cats and kittens have spilled over into rooms and offices where the fur-babies can be seen "playing and hanging out."
It's a sad, sad situation that begins each May despite efforts to educate pet owners about the importance of having their pets neutered or spayed, despite the county's Trap-Neuter-Return Program for feral cat colony strays.
What happens when too many cats and kittens crowd the shelter and, efforts to find more adoptive or foster families fail, too many animals must be "put down," including healthy dogs and cats that would make wonderful pets.
In August alone, 181 cats were euthanized. So were 71 dogs.
There are some ways to help.
For every person looking for a pet, there are many, many, at Animal Services looking for a home.
This month the agency is offering a "Hot Dogs and Cool Cats" promo. Through Sept. 30, any pet can be adopted for $30 with cats two-for-one. "Senior citizens" who adopt "senior" pets may do so for free.
That's a substantial savings over the "regular" rates - which are a bargain themselves -and include spay/neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations; rabies vaccination and county license; 30-day pet health guarantee; Microchip ID; feline leukemia and AIDs test; flea treatment; worming; training DVD and a bag of Science Diet pet food.
All told, that's a $500 value and it provides your new family member with a great start that's easy on the budget.
Those who can't make a long-term commitment can still help. Animal Services also accepts applications for "foster volunteers."
The foster program is used to provide temporary homes for adoptable animals when the shelter is at capacity, for underage pets not old enough for adoption and pets needing tender loving care, socialization and/or obedience training.
Finally, the agency offers the Trap-Neuter-Return Program to prevent the unwanted litters of feral and free-roaming cats.
Stray cats are trapped by their caretakers, spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies and then released back where they were found.
Given that the average unspayed female can give birth to up to eight kittens per litter two or three times a year, the free TNR program can help prevent the very situation Animal Services is facing now.
For more information about adoption or the foster program, or to make a donation of cash or supplies, visit leegov.com/animalservices
Information about the Trap-Neuter-Return Program is also available there, or call 239-533-9234.
Lee County Domestic Animal Services' motto sums up the situation succinctly: The best shelter is a caring community.
This crisis is a community problem. And the only way to fix it is for the community to be part of the solution. Let us do what we can.
- Eagle editorial