By Mark Clements | LSU Student
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that the number of stray cats in the nation ranges up to 70 million, with the peak of the problem occurring each spring. Louisiana is not exempt.
And while everyone loves a fresh-faced, furry feline, the number of strays emerging in the spring cause a cat craze for members of animal-saving non-profits such as Project Purr Baton Rouge. They are turning to "kitty socialization camps."
Maria Thomas, director of foster services for Project Purr, said the organization is aimed at saving as man cats and kittens from the city's pound as possible. The ultimate goal: making Baton Rouge a "no kill" community.
"People laugh when I say kitten season, because it is spring," Thomas said. "While kittens are fun, we wish kitten season hadn't hit quite so hard because we can't save them all (even though) that is our goal."
Project Purr, formed in 2010, aims to keep cats from getting euthanized in shelters by finding adopting homes through socialization camps where kittens to meet other cats and interact with people before going to a permanent home.
Marsha Rish works in conjunction with Project Purr to host one of these camps in her store, Honeymoon Bungalow, giving shoppers an opportunity to hold a rescued kitten with them throughout the store while they browse.
"Our customers carry them while they shop," Rish said. "This takes a cat that would otherwise be feral, and within a few weeks they start relaxing and understanding that being around people isn't that bad."
Several cats live in a large cage inside the store and are fed and cared for by Rish and other employees, giving the kittens a chance for daily interaction with other kittens as well as humans.
Before the cats are sent out to new homes, they are each spayed or neutered, vaccinated, micro-chipped, de-wormed and tested for disease.
Veterinarian Craig Alberty, board member for the Baton Rouge Spay and Neuter Clinic, said Project Purr weekly sends several cats to him, among other vet clinics, for some sort of treatment.
Alberty said that while most non-profits simply maintain an animal's health during their stay, Project Purr gives the felines the basic preventative health measures it needs to ensure it stays healthy.
"The animals that you end up getting from Project Purr are . . . pretty healthy before they find a home, and they're animals that otherwise have no lives."