100 Kittens and Counting – The Ripple Effects of COVID 06/30/2021 By Kerry S The landscape of rescue and animal welfare is always changing and evolving to meet the needs of the moment. One constant in the welfare industry is to reduce the number of unwanted pets and increase awareness of the importance of spay and neuter. In March of 2020, the world was faced with a pandemic as we had never seen before. Concerns over PPE shortages and not having enough equipment needed to care for people suffering from COVID pushed the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association to place a temporary ban on non-emergency procedures. Spay and Neuter surgeries were considered an elective non-emergency procedure and in early April of 2020 thanks to COVID-19, non-emergency Spay and Neuter surgical procedures were deemed non-essential and veterinarians and shelters across the state of Minnesota were told to and put a halt to all Spay and Neuter procedures until further notice. This ban lasted several months impacting the landscape for cats in the state of Minnesota dramatically. Rescues and municipalities across the state scrambled to prepare for the impact of not being able to Spay and Neuter pets coming into their care. Organizations that offered low-cost Spay and Neuter services to the public, such as MNSNAP, were forced to close. lay off staff, and cancel thousands of surgeries. The future effects of this ban were unknown but many of us in the rescue community felt the landscape suddenly shifting and the progress that had been made in the reduction of unwanted pets through Spay and Neuter efforts suddenly slipping. Now over a year, later the ripple effects are clear. While the Spay and Neuter ban has been lifted, Veterinarian Clinics are backed up with pets needing services and struggle to keep up. What does this mean for our community? Every spring brings with it an onslaught of new baby kittens from stray and owned pets who have not been altered. Lovingly referred to in the animal welfare world as ‘Kitten Season’, this annual spring influx of baby kittens and mother cats puts a heavy burden on the resources of shelters and rescue groups. As homeless and stray pets are left unaltered and females go into heat, this year’s Kitten Season was feared to overwhelm our animal care providers……and it did. We have seen a dramatic increase in unwanted litters of kittens (also puppies) and have worked hard to say “yes” to as many as we can! From January 2021 to June we have more than doubled our intake of kittens and pregnant/nursing moms. We prepared our Cat Division Team for this increase in pregnant cats and kittens by increasing our Feline Fosters. We started training more fosters in Kitten and Pregnant Mom care. We also created a new position, Kitten / Queen Foster Manager, to support our fosters and the influx of pregnant, nursing moms, and kittens. We also worked with our veterinary partners to ensure we would be able to provide the care these felines needed. Through our partnership with Mission Animal Hospital, we planned high volume Spay and Neuter days which are incredibly impactful to reduce the number of future unwanted pets. We currently have seen over 100 kittens in foster care and work hard to say yes every day to the little lives that need us thanks to the support of our volunteers and supporters. Over 100 kittens are safe, not at risk to breed more kittens, and finding loving homes through our adoption program! We hope to save 100’s more. If you would like to help us continue to say YES to these sweet little lives please consider a donation or a contribution to our 2021 Amazon Kitten Wish List.