Tri-Valley animal shelters overflowing with felines are hopeful the fifth annual Clear the Shelters adoption drive this weekend will place plenty of rescues in new "forever homes" -- and finally give their remaining four-legged residents some much-needed elbow room.
Clear the Shelters is a nationwide pet adoption event on a mission to find permanent families for both dogs and cats by reducing or waiving shelter adoption fees.
Six local rescue groups, shelters and pet stores are participating in this year's campaign this Saturday (Aug. 17): East Bay SPCA, Tri-Valley Animal Rescue, PetSmart West Dublin, East County Animal Shelter, Tri-City Animal Shelter and Valley Humane Society.
Valley Humane Society executive director Melanie Sadek said there are 51 cats in the Pleasanton nonprofit's care currently and 28 of those are now available for adoption.
"If you've ever even considered owning a cat, now is the time," Sadek told the Weekly, adding, "We also have some really great old cats, they're not seniors, they're just past that little baby stage."
"We have a lot of teenagers looking for homes, but I can't say it's higher than usual," Sadek said. "We always get crazy in the summertime. All of a sudden we just get slammed with tons of kittens." At one point, Valley Humane had 88 kittens in foster homes.
Valley Humane isn't facing a dire cat-crowding scenario like Allie's Pals Cat Rescue or East County Animal Shelter, but Sadek said that Clear The Shelters "opens room in foster homes for us to be able to bring in more animals" brought in off the streets, and gets ones already in there out for good.
But conditions at some local rescue programs like nonprofit Allie's Pals are more crowded than usual this year, which founder Terry Duncan told the Weekly is a result of milder weather conditions throwing off cats' usually limited breeding season.
"There's been a lot of things that's changed in the cat world," Duncan said. "The weather's much more moderate now; we used to have what you call a 'kitten season'."
Kitten season usually lasts three to four months in the spring and then dies down again until the following year, according to Duncan. But warmer weather patterns combined with a cat's typical 62-day gestation cycle mean that "now we're seeing that feral cats, stray cats are having in the same year, two or three litters of kittens."
Allie's Pals specializes in fostering cats from East County Animal Shelter, helping to save them from euthanasia by freeing up limited space there. Cats pulled from the shelter are considered "at-risk," which can mean they have health or temperament issues, but Duncan said kittens are also considered part of that group.
This year Allie's Pals has seen a swell of kittens that's more than tripled their usual number of fosters.
"At our highest number this season so far, it's been 146 (cats and kittens)," Duncan said. "When it's not inundated with kittens, it's maybe about 40." Currently, Allie's Pals has 39 adoptable cats listed on its website.
Many cats end up in shelters in the first place because "we do not have enough spay and neuter resources in our area that are low cost," Sadek said. "There's still this idea that if your cat is indoors you shouldn't need to fix them and then they get out and make babies."
"I do think most of our problem is wild cats not owned by anybody," she added. "These are not cats that necessarily have a family, and then who takes responsibility to get those cats fixed."
Valley Humane is holding a "buy-one-get-one" deal for its cats and will waive the adoption fee on the second cat. "Kittens do really well when they have a companion in the home, and we really just need to clear out the shelter," Sadek said.
All animals being adopted out are spayed or neutered and have been vaccinated. Donations to help support free or low-cost spay and neutering programs are welcomed by Valley Humane and other shelters.
To learn more about the annual Clear The Shelters adoption drive, visit www.cleartheshelters.com.