With the complications of our ‘new normal’ created by countries and states going into strict quarantine due to COVID-19, many who care for feral cats are worried. One issue is whether a colony caregiver can physically even get to the cats who depend on them. Another is whether caregivers can remain virus-free and alive. Now picture no more TNR services.
Today I’d like to introduce another MAJOR problem that in the end has the potential to make 2020 the worst ‘kitten season’ ever on record. The worst because the way veterinarians are having to run their practice and this includes trap-neuter-return clinics. All except emergency surgeries are being postponed and the majority of TNR clinics have sent caregivers a notice that they can no longer spay and neuter feral cats for the foreseeable future.
My personal veterinarian sent out an email last week stating that all pet owners would have to call ahead and the veterinarian will come out to the vehicle to perform basic exams and treatment. Should the pet need more thorough care, the cat or dog will be taken inside while the owner waits in the car.
Vet clinics are trying to do their part by donating as many masks as possible to the hospitals that need every mask they can get their hands on. There’s also the ‘social distancing’ way of life that has emerged as our new norm. Some veterinarians now have stated only one person on the staff can be in an exam room. Medications are refilled and taken to the owner’s car and payments made by phone.
This not only knocks feral cats out of the opportunity to be spayed or neutered, it may also affect pet owners who have a less than friendly cat that will most likely panic when their person isn’t allowed inside. So this may also hinder normally tame cats from getting treatment.
Unfortunately, this won’t work with feral cats. Unneutered male cats stink to high heaven even when they’re NOT spraying everything they touch and females may ‘call’ at all hours of the day or night. It’s not like these cats can be kept inside until things go back to normal. Because normal is gone.
I don’t know how to fix this. We’re in for the worst kitten season on record. It’s terrifying when you start doing the math and what will happen when the mid-year litter normally delivered by a feral cat isn’t stopped before it even starts.
Many open intake shelters have closed until they deem it safe for the public to come in and once again adopt a pet. Shelter staff is reaching out to those who must remain at home for weeks (to months) about fostering a dog or a cat. Newborn kittens, even with a mother cat to help, would put too much of a burden on cat lovers who are already stressed.
If shelters aren’t accepting mama cats or kittens, there are going to be a lot of abandoned cats, either pregnant or with kittens. Not to mention those who die during delivery or from hunger, thirst, animals and automobiles.
A big question is whether what we are going through becomes the new normal by which I mean will the virus comes back every year like the flu virus with which we are very familiar and accept. The answer depends on how widely Covid-19 spreads.
Anyone with suggestions or who would like to describe veterinary care restrictions in your area, please do so in the comment section below.
P.S. Provided there are no restrictions against it and provided there is social distancing, TNR volunteers should still feed feral cats.
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