Animal rescue is not all sunshine and roses. If 50 percent of what we do turns out happy, that’s a win. Of course, if all you do is adopt out puppies and kittens and they always find good, loving homes, you lead a perfect life. For everyone else, there are moral ambiguities, such as the one that appeared before me on Facebook this morning.
An area SPCA did a feral spay/neuter clinic over the weekend, reaching 93 cats. Expecting maybe 10 offspring/year from each, that is a huge reduction in feral cats in coming years. No-kill shelters exist only because of the reduction in shelter intake that widespread spay/neuter makes possible. God bless the spay/neuter folks!
So far, so wonderful.
Then the kicker at the end of the Facebook post: Sixteen of the cats were pregnant.
That was also presented as a big win. But at an estimated five kittens per momcat, this means they aborted 80 kittens. Is that really something to be proud of? Or did it take some of the shine off the virtue of spay/neutering 93 cats?
What would or could I do?
I will not intentionally order a spay that also creates an abortion. Though I may have paid for one in the past. Yet, I know spay/neuter volunteers who only see the good — fewer feral cats — in spay/abortion procedures. I won’t criticize them since I understand what they are confronting — a world awash in kittens that never find good homes.
I also know people who will foster a pregnant cat, raise the kittens, and then run the family through the normal spay/neuter then adopt out process. Of course, this is preferable, if not always possible.
How many groups could accept 16 pregnant cats at once? And raise/place 80 kittens? I know there are some, but it would be a tall order for many organizations (as if trapping 93 cats is not!)
If we put on our what’s-best-for-the-most-animals suit of emotional armor, we say a prayer and do the spays, even if unborn kittens must die. If we flinch, what do we do? Release the 16 cats to have their kittens in the wild? That’s not a win. Maybe find a few fosters willing to help feral moms with having kittens in their homes? Better, but an awful lot of work.
I don’t have the answer and I’m glad I am not in charge. Maybe I don’t have the guts or emotional distance for the job?
But I know one thing for sure: Advertising that we’ve just aborted 80 kittens, even if we phrase it as “spaying 16 pregnant cats” is simply not something we should do. Raises an issue that too many supporters — including me — find troubling. And some will leave our movement as a result.
So let’s share the things we can celebrate and not force our moral concerns out on an unready world. Spay/neutering 93 cats is a really big accomplishment, but we don’t have to share our unfortunate realities with people who may not be ready for them. And we really need to think before we post.