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Berkshire Humane Society Overloaded With Cats
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
06:16AM / Saturday, September 17, 2022
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Speedy and Psych are 1-year-old females looking for a home. The Berkshire Humane Society says it's overflowing with cats and kittens.

Only one kitten, Sagittarius, a male, out of this litter of 12 is not on hold or adopted.

Percy is only a year old.

Garfield, another ginger, is 2.

One-year-old Domino is up for adoption. The shelter is reducing its adoption fees for cats 7 months and older by half to thin out its clowder.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Have you been considering welcoming a feline friend into your life? Now may be a good time.

The Berkshire Humane Society is overloaded with cats and kittens due to decreased spay-neuter surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shelter currently has a wait list for cat surrenders and is discounting adoption fees for adult cats 7 months and older by 50 percent for the rest of the month.

Executive Director John Perreault said pet ownership boomed during the pandemic but during that time, the veterinary community got smaller with some vets leaving the profession and fewer entering it.

He clarified that the overcrowding has nothing to do with COVID-19 adoption returns.

"During COVID, spay-neuters were not essential surgeries ... There are millions of surgeries that didn't happen, and now it is getting more and more difficult to find a veterinarian if you didn't have one," Perreault said.

"They're all heroes, our veterinarians, they just do such great work but at the end of the day, there are only 24 hours in a day and they can only do so much."

Because neuter and spay surgeries are harder to come by, this also increases the felines' stay at the shelter while they are waiting for surgery before they go to a forever home.

Earlier this week, the shelter received a group of 21 cats that started out as one pregnant female last December.

"We've got cats everywhere, we've got a lot in foster homes, we've had a lot in foster homes, we've fostered cats with kittens that were too young and now they're old enough so we're having some of those come back too because they're ready to be adopted," Perreault explained, adding that probably for the first time he could say that this is "definitely the result of COVID."

This is not specific to Berkshire County and is a national problem.  

A study by the University of Florida's shelter medicine program found almost 3 million missing neuter and spay surgeries in the United States due to the pandemic and reported that this, combined with veterinarian and staff shortages, is contributing to widespread overcrowding at pet shelters.

Adopting and fostering are the biggest help but having patience is also helpful. 

"If there's somebody out there that needs to surrender their cat today, and we had to say, 'we have no space,' just to have some patience, work with us," Perreault said when asked what the community can do.

"Ultimately, the goal is to find that pet its forever home, which if it's a nice adoptable cat, we can certainly do that, we just need to work together as a team to make that happen, which may mean hanging on to that cat for maybe a few extra weeks before it comes into the building."

He urged residents with issues, concerns, or questions to call the shelter to see if they can help before the problem gets to the point of pet surrender.

BHS is still trying to do as many surgeries as it can and is hosting vaccination clinics in the community, including a rabies clinic on Oct. 29 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Haddad Subaru.

Cat surrenders typically increase in August, September, and October.  

Perreault said from his experience he has observed that cats breed by season in the Northeast and go out of season from around Christmas time until spring. When they are back in season, they have kittens and the ones who cannot find homes stay with the family throughout the summer and when school returns, there is an uptick in surrenders, he said.

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