A recent flood of felines has filled several animal adoption agencies to the max, and animal shelter officials anticipate the overcrowding could continue for months.
Organizations such as Jackson County Animal Care and Control, the Southern Oregon Humane Society, and Committed Alliance to Strays are all reporting they are at capacity and that hundreds of cats and kittens have been placed on waiting lists. Many remain in a holding pattern, waiting for new owners.
"We filled up more quickly than expected for this time of year," county animal services manager Barbara Talbert said in a release. "Since we only have so much space for cats, we are no longer accepting cats surrendered by their owners, and we do not have enough resources to treat cats or kittens that come to us sick or injured."
Officials say this isn't a new problem, but this year's early heavy influx has been building up for a while.
"It's been ongoing in increments over time, getting worse and worse and worse," said Sally Mackler, of Spay/Neuter Your Pet, a nonprofit with the aim of reducing cat overpopulation. "This year I think the shelters have filled up earlier than they ordinarily do, which does not bode well. It's a sign that we are in an epidemic here and are reaching crisis proportions for cat population."
There are more than 120 cats waiting to be adopted between all three shelters, with more than 60 cats — mostly kittens — in foster care, an effort largely supported by volunteers.
"We are currently full, and we are starting our waiting list for both adult cats and for kittens," said SOHS Director Kenn Altine. "It's a crisis that just sort of gets exponential."
Shelter officials are encouraging Rogue Valley residents to take on a more active role in helping the problem. The current push is the "just one more" approach, urging anyone who has been feeding a stray to take it in (and get it spayed or neutered). They have also been pushing for more animal adoptions and foster care volunteers to take care of newborn kittens.
One female cat and her offspring can produce 25 new cats annually.
"I wish there were some magic bullet we could draw upon that could draw relief to the situation," Mackler said. "We can't make it go away. I wish we could. But we can take steps to help. The Band-Aid approach isn't going to work any longer."