Too many cats

Published 6:59 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2019

By Diana McFarland


A toasty spring, summer and fall had apparently led to a bumper crop of cats and kittens. 

Kim Horne has personally offered up her home to about 20 feline fosters in an attempt to stem the tidal wave of cats arriving at the Isle of Wight County Animal Shelter.

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The Isle of Wight Humane Society president is just one of several members who are doing the same. 

Horne said the Humane Society is getting a lot of cat calls, estimating the ratio at 50 cats to one dog.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The volume of cats has led the shelter to set a new policy of just one feral or stray cat per household per week for those with more than 10, said Chief Roy Richards.

Richards said this policy applies to those who have feral or stray cats around their home, not the average person who needs to surrender a pet cat due to a death or other matter, he said. 

The shelter is not turning away cats, said Richards. 

Once at the shelter, the feral or stray cats are spayed or neutered and returned to the household, if wanted, said Richards, adding that ferals are often desired as barn cats. 

Feral cats do serve a purpose, said Horne.

One doesn’t hear of mice, rat or snake infestations where there are feral cats around, she said. 

Richards said the shelter does euthanize cats, mostly due to illness or inability to be rehomed. 

He said the shelter has euthanized 14 cats in the last four to six months. 

Meanwhile, the cat room at the shelter is full, and shelter staffers are busy moving the overload to other rescue organizations, such as those in Hampton, Virginia Beach and Richmond. 

Sometimes Isle of Wight does a “swap” with another rescue or shelter, since “a new look” helps with adoption, said Richards. 

It worked for two cats recently as they were adopted within three days, he said. 

Horne said the cat population in Isle of Wight is getting “ugly.”

Female cats cannot only get pregnant while nursing, they also mate with their own offspring, she said.

“It’s non-stop,” she said.

“If we could get a handle on it we could catch up,” said Horne. 

Horne said the Humane Society is practicing trap and release, T&R, where ferals are collected, spayed and neutered, and released. 

It works to control the cat population, but takes five to seven years to see results, said Horne, adding that the Humane Society has been at it for five years.

Dawn Morris oversees the T&R program at Newport News Shipbuilding. When the program began in 2008, the shipyard had around 1,500 cats, said Morris. 

Today, that number has dropped to about 400, she said. 

Morris said the shipyard used to trap and kill the cats, but that didn’t work.

“You can’t kill your way out of a population,” she said. 

The altered cats age and eventually die, and since they’re territorial, they tend to run off new cats trying to enter the system, said Morris. 

One advantage the shipyard has, is that its fenced and closed off, unlike a neighborhood, where cats can easily come and go, or be dumped, said Morris. 

Cats are prolific breeders. Females can go into heat at four months, and have two to three heat cycles a year. Each litter produces from four to six kittens, which means the average unaltered female can have up to around 18 kittens a year. And then those kittens go on to have kittens and soon it becomes “exponential,” said Morris. 

The Isle of Wight Humane Society offers low-cost spay and neuter services, as does PETA, said Horne, adding that the Society’s efforts rely on donation. 

For more information, visit

Want to adopt?

The Isle of Wight Animal Shelter is located at 13044 Poor House Road, Windsor. It is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. 

Cats and kittens are $75 and includes spay or neuter, vaccinations and deworming (including rabies). A FIV/FeLV test can be added for an additional $20. 

Dogs and puppies are $90 and includes spay or neuter, vaccinations and deworming (rabies included) and heartworm tests. 

The cost to obtain these services at a veterinary office would exceed $200. 

For more information, call 365-6318.  {/mprestriction}