Taking Care of Cats

The Greater New Haven Cat Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to ending the suffering of homeless cats.

A feral cat colony Photo courtesy of The Greater New Haven Cat Project

Sometimes the best of intentions leads to the problem of cat overpopulation. A person finds a hungry cat and decides to rescue it. Then another kitty shows up at the door and is taken in as well. If they are of different sexes and not spayed or neutered, a new litter can arrive in just two or three months. Because females can go into heat as young as four-months-old, owners who don't alter their cats can quickly be overwhelmed.

Educating people to avoid such scenarios is part of The Greater New Haven Cat Project's mission to control cat overpopulation. Run by an all-volunteer network of cat lovers since 1996, the organization also spays or neuters about 500 abandoned and feral cats and facilitates 100 adoptions yearly.

Because the state of Connecticut does not mandate animal control for cats as it does for dogs, it is left to volunteers to address cat abandonment and overpopulation. The Greater New Haven Cat Project relies on private donations and recently received a $1,000 grant from a donor-advised fund at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

Cat abandonment is especially acute in areas with high transient populations and becomes worse during economic downturns such as the Great Recession, according to President Cheryl DeFilippo.

"It all starts with a person, an irresponsible person," says DeFilippo. "Cats really can't survive by themselves outside. It's sad that there are all these rescues. People think their pets are disposable."

The Greater New Haven Cat Project volunteers respond to calls reporting abandoned cats and visit colonies of feral cats, which are not trusting of humans. Volunteers trap unaltered cats and then have them spayed or neutered and vaccinated before releasing them back to the colonies. Abandoned cats that are friendly are placed in foster homes and put up for adoption.

One of the biggest causes of cat overpopulation, DeFilippo says, comes from a lack of resources or information on the part of pet owners.

"You meet people who don't have two nickels to rub together. Or they receive a kitten as a gift and don't know what to do," DeFilippo said. "In one case, a woman called for help saying she had four cats that needed to be neutered. We called to follow up and when we came to her house, there were 45 cats!"

For more information, visit The Greater New Haven Cat Project profile on giveGreater.org.

Did you know?

Declawing a cat is an amputation that is not medically necessary, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA recommends alternatives such as scratching posts and frequent nail trims.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.