Did you know: 23,574 cats and kittens entered Portland-area shelters in 2010 alone. To help reduce the numbers of homeless cats in our area, the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland developed Spay & Save, a free/low-cost spay & neuter program. Since the program began in 2010, Spay & Save partners have completed 60,000 spay/neuter surgeries and reduced the number of felines being brought to local shelters by 38%. There’s much more to Spay & Save than numbers, however: each and every cat, kitten, and human caretaker has a story.
This is the story of Pearl, a cat who decided that our house would be her house and that it was the best place to raise her kittens.
My sister and I had seen Pearl sloping around from time to time, painfully thin but with a very round belly. She was a tiny thing, and, we thought, probably feral. Then, one day, the round belly had gone and we figured that she had given birth. It was evident that she was starving so we began to put some kibble out for her on the porch. Pearl kept her distance but was brave enough to come to the bowl. This went on for a couple weeks. Then, one morning, a small miracle happened.
I was putting the food on the porch when I saw Pearl appear at the foot of the stairs. I knelt down and stretched out my hand to her, not really expecting that she would trust me. But she did! Pearl came right up, purred, and began rubbing around me, tail in the air. This was clearly no feral cat!
Later that day, Pearl tried to lead us somewhere. She went down the steps, stopped and looked, waiting for us to follow. Then she disappeared under the gate of a storage yard, two doors down from us. Through a gap in the gate, we could see an old trailer—and under it were Pearl and her kittens.
Over the next week, we tempted the kittens with canned food on a paper plate. We put the same food out for Pearl on our porch. One morning, Pearl surprised us–there on one of our catnip pads was Pearl with all four kittens.
We made a nursery for them and received helpful advice from the Oregon Humane Society. We were told how to get an inexpensive blood test for Pearl from Vetco at Petco, to make sure she was healthy enough to be around our cats in residence. And we were told about Spay & Save—a low-cost spay & neuter program that is affordable for anyone, even people with low incomes.
Spayed, Saved & On to Forever Homes
Pearl and her four kittens have all been spayed/neutered now. Using the Spay & Save program could not have been easier. We called to make the appointment and gave information about the cats and ourselves at that time. When we arrived at the shelter on the morning of the big day, it was as simple as handing the cats to the attendants and paying the modest fee. Then we came back at the end of the day and collected the cats. Done! They all recovered easily.
We worked hard to socialize the kittens and have found homes for two of them. The remaining two will be placed through OHS, where there are no time limits on an animal’s stay. None of Pearl’s babies will suffer the way their mama did, starving and alone on the streets. They will all have loving homes.
And Pearl? She is staying with us. We are sure this was part of her plan, all along—and a fortunate ending for all of us.
Contributed by Sara Reed