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Surplus cats fill Whidbey shelters

Donna Dunn, a staff member at a WAIF animal shelter, cuddles with Fern, a calico kitty that was picked up as a stray near Freeland. - Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
Donna Dunn, a staff member at a WAIF animal shelter, cuddles with Fern, a calico kitty that was picked up as a stray near Freeland.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

Whidbey Island can be a cruel place for cats without homes.

The two animal shelters and two cat adoption centers run by Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, commonly known as WAIF, are overflowing with nearly 100 felines and many more are on waiting lists to be surrendered. A total of 114 kitties are on the list for the Coupeville shelter alone, where 32 cats linger behind bars.

The situation could get much worse in the next months unless more cat-minded folks open their homes to down-and-out kitties. To deal with the impending crisis, WAIF is offering special bargains to encourage adoption.

“It’s kind of scary,” shelter manager Shari Bibich said. “We’re coming into kitten season and we’re seeing a lot of pregnant cats.”

While many people are waiting to give unwanted cats to the shelter, Bibich said a shocking number of folks simply abandon their cats or don’t look for them when they get lost.

The statistics tell the story. Of the 214 stray cats brought to the Coupeville shelter last year, only eight of them were picked up by their owners. By comparison, 156 of the 159 stray dogs were picked up and brought home.

“People think that cats can fend for themselves,” Bibich said. The truth, she explained, is that most cats don’t survive on their own.

Many stray cats end up at a shelter, where it’s easy to find homes for kittens but not so much with older cats. The shelter staff often has to deal with stray cats that have suffered terrible injuries from cars or other animals.

Kit Maret, the board president for WAIF, said part of the cat problem is the continuing high number of kitten litters. In the 20-year history of WAIF, she said the number of puppy litters has drastically declined because most dogs are spayed and neutered. But the number of unwanted kittens or pregnant cats that end up at the shelters hasn’t changed.

“I don’t know why, but people are more responsible with their dogs,” she said.

To encourage more people to adopt shelter cats, WAIF is offering a special deal. Under the “30 for 30” program, the usual $65 fee to adopt a cat is reduced to $30 for those that have been in the shelter more than 30 days. The cats are spayed or neutered and have all their vaccinations.

In addition, the “Seniors for Seniors” program allows senior citizens to adopt a cat that’s more than 8 years old for free.

For those who can’t adopt, Bibich said people can help by volunteering or donating. WAIF relies on private donations now more than ever. The nonprofit organization contracts with Island County to run the Coupeville shelter and with Oak Harbor to run the shelter on the Seaplane Base. The county cut its funding of the shelters by 10 percent this year.

“We will have to juggle more and more,” Bibich said.

The Coupeville animal shelter is located on Highway 20 next to the county transfer station. It’s open to the public from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday though Sunday. For more information call 678-5816.

The Oak Harbor animal shelter is located on the Navy’s Seaplane Base. It’s also open to the public from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday though Sunday. For more information call 279-0829.

The shelter also runs cat adoption centers on SE Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor and on E. Scott Road in Freeland.

Community Events, April 2014

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