Beltsville Community Cats (BCC) is sad to report on an unfortunate and disturbing trend. People all over Prince George’s County are abandoning their pet cats, releasing them outside to fend for themselves for food, water and shelter. Many of these cats are unaltered. Some are pregnant. Some are sick. Many, if not most, of these cats will not survive through the winter. Unfortunately, some will suffer long, drawn-out deaths, some will be hit by cars, and some will be killed by wild animals.
The reasons for the increased frequency of abandoned cats are many. First, the cost of everything has increased significantly, placing an economic burden on many households. In addition, stores are often out of reasonably priced cat food. Second, it is getting more and more difficult to secure vet appointments in a timely manner to get cats sterilized, vaccinated, and treated for illnesses and injuries. For example, low-cost options for spay/neuter surgeries are often booked out for 2 to 3 months.
Third, many people living in this area are transient residents (college students, contract workers, military personnel, etc.). When moving, some people simply release their cats outside. Those that actively try to rehome their cats often wait until the last minute to ask for help. It is important for pet owners to be aware that almost every cat group in PG County reports that their options for fostering kitties are very limited. Local shelters also have limited space and require you to set up a “surrender appointment” which is often booked out a month or more. Furthermore, some pet owners are elderly people who must give up their pets due to illness, injury, or moving in with family members or into a facility.
If you have a pet cat (or dog) that you are looking to rehome, BCC recommends going through the following steps as soon as you know you will not be able to keep your pet.
· Network: Approach family members, friends and neighbors to see if they are willing to take your cat.
· Advertise: Post your cat on Nextdoor, Facebook and Craigslist to see if anyone is interested in taking your pet. Make sure you carefully screen anyone who responds to make sure your pet is going to a good home.
· Plan Ahead: Immediately contact your local animal control agency and the cat group serving your area. Local shelters, which are stretched to the limit, require an appointment to surrender your pet. The sooner you contact them the better chance you have of finding somewhere that can take your cat. To find the local cat group serving your area, visit www.pgcatalliance.org, click on “Get Help”, and scroll down to “Contact your local group.”
· Be Mindful: Local cat groups are mostly staffed by volunteers and funded by grants, donations, and fundraising. Calls about cats needing to be rehomed have increased significantly. Most local cat groups don’t have “facilities.” Foster-based rescue programs are stretched to the limit. The more lead time you give a local group, the more likely they will be able to help you. Unfortunately, Beltsville Community Cats does not have the capacity to foster or rehome pet cats.