IOWA CITY — Overrun with kittens and cats, the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center is in desperate need of barn homes for some of its more feral felines.
Cats have crowded the shelter as temperatures begin to drop in the evenings, which often prompts Iowa City residents to scoop up cats who have wandered their neighborhoods during the warm summer months, said shelter supervisor Liz Ford.
“They feel bad for those cats or kittens, so they start to bring them in this time of year,” said Ford, whose shelter had about 200 cats last week. “Unfortunately, we have such a bad community cat overpopulation here in our area, which means they are just feral cats living out on their own like raccoons would.”
Kittens sometimes need to be socialized by 5 or 6 weeks old for them to be able to be adopted by humans, Ford said.
If they miss that window, “we have no choice but to try to place them in a home where they can be released,” she said.
Most of the cats and kittens in the shelter, 3910 Napoleon Lane, are socialized and up for adoption, she added, and finding them homes also benefits their less-social counterparts.
“If anyone is thinking about adding a cat or kitten to their family, now is the best time,” Ford said. ”You not only save that cat or kitten, you open up space for another homeless animal.”
In Iowa City and in Cedar Rapids, it’s against city ordinances for cats to wander outdoors off-leash.
Enter the Iowa City shelter’s search for cat adopters with barns or similar open structures — outside city limits.
“We’re trying to find barn homes, or any place where it’s OK to have an outdoor cat as a mouser or an outdoor cat that’s spayed or neutered,” Ford said. “The only alternative, if we’re not able to find barn homes, is euthanization.”
This time of year, the number of cats in area animals shelters “is always high,” said Diane Webber, the program manager for Cedar Rapids Animal Care and Control.
The Cedar Rapids shelter had about 160 cats and kittens last week, Webber said.
Because Cedar Rapids’ shelter serves only Cedar Rapids and Marion, it can be difficult to find more rural, barn homes for the feral cats it receives.
To that end, Webber said she is hopeful Cedar Rapids will update its pet ordinance to include a “community cat” provision. She said she hopes to bring the issue to the City Council in the next six months.
The provision, which has been introduced in several municipalities across the country, would allow residents to opt to allow stray cats to remain in their neighborhoods. The cats would need to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies.
“They (would be) allowed to stay there without having to be trapped and brought in here — where there’s no positive outcome for them,” Webber said.
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