While most attention this summer has been directed towards encouraging smooth post-pandemic transitions and other pressing national issues, a local — and far more adorable — problem has been receiving less recognition.
Currently, Berkeley animal shelters are experiencing a major influx in kittens, already housing more than three times the number from last year, and counting. California’s perpetually temperate weather means that there’s a somewhat consistent feral feline population, but the surge this year is especially dramatic due to COVID-19 and the subsequent veterinarian shortage.
Under normal circumstances, feral cats are often trapped, spayed or neutered and released, with successful procedures being universally signified by ear-tipping. But with the pandemic, there have been both fewer people available to trap stray cats and fewer veterinarians available to perform the surgeries. As a result, the population has continued to increase.
Now more than ever, residents of Berkeley and surrounding areas should consider visiting local shelters to foster or adopt kittens, including black ones, which statistically have the highest rate of euthanasia and lowest rate of adoption nationwide.
Since the beginning of this year, Berkeley Animal Care Services has already taken in 122 kittens, and there are many currently available for adoption. Because of the crowded shelter environment, these kittens are more susceptible to the spread of disease and, unfortunately, also often receive less attention and care. While current volunteers and staff are already doing what they can, they are spread thin, and Berkeley Animal Care Services is continuing to look for more volunteers.
Aside from the cats, staff members and vets may have also been experiencing the adverse effects of this influx. The sheer number of animals in the shelter could potentially increase their stress, possibly exacerbating the existing issue of depression, anxiety and burnout among veterinarians.
In times like this especially, the Berkeley community must come together and relieve some of the pressure on the shelters and its animals before this negative cycle spirals out of control.
For anyone who has had any inkling or wishing to adopt or foster a kitten: Now is the time to finally follow through, especially with adoption fees being waived for the months of July and August, if not longer. Although specific dates and locations have yet to be released, the shelter plans on holding an adoption fair later this month.
For those who would like to help but don’t currently have the capacity to care for a cat full-time, consider volunteering at a local shelter. What better way to make a difference than by playing with kittens?
As a community, let us all come together to provide respite for shelter staff and local vets, to provide furever homes to these adorable, helpless animals.