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Heaven Can Wait

Cat overpopulation a ceaseless issue in local rescues

Written and photographed by Devon Langille for the Okotoks Western Wheel

Animal rescues continue to deal with cat overpopulation issues because people view them as more disposable than dogs.

With a current population of around 150 cats at Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation, the coming “kitten season” is a cause for concern.

“I remember last year. I think we were a month and a half into kitten season and I stopped counting at 50, so it’s hard,” said Angie Berner, adoption center manager and cat health coordinator at Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation.

“Kitten season” starts when the weather turns warm, and a higher number of kittens will be turned in to animal shelters.

“It still happens all year long, you just don’t see it until it gets warmer because that’s when they start surviving.”

Cats can start breeding as early as four months old, and are capable of delivering up to two or three litters a year, with an average of four kittens per litter.

Angie Berner, left, and volunteer Val Hargrave, right, execute the daily cleaning duties in the cat areas at Heaven Can Wait.

“Unfortunately, cats are disposable, so when it gets tough, or when it gets sick, or when they want to move, or whatever, it’s just easy to get rid of it and get a new one later on,” said Berner.

Heaven Can Wait is currently not accepting owner surrenders because of lack of space, but the rescue tries to work with owners to help them overcome the circumstances that led them to surrendering their pet.

“A big part of our job is trying to make people realize that they aren’t disposable,” said Berner. “That they need love, they need care, and if you’re not willing to do those things then you shouldn’t be getting one.”

Owning a cat comes with responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is to ensure that your pet has been spayed or neutered.

“It’s a big thing with dogs, but it’s a really big thing with cats,” said Berner, who says cats are more likely to be wandering freely outside, and coming into contact with other cats.

There are programs, such as the Meow Foundation, that can assist people who are low, or no-income, with spaying and neutering their cats.

“Logically nobody should not be spaying or neutering their cats,” said Berner. “Even if they can’t afford it, they can be getting help from someone that will either offset the cost or do it no cost.”

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Angie Berner cuddles with a cat while she cleans his litter box and cage.

Kim Hessel rescues a cat from a bad situation, and takes the cat back to her rescue to be assessed.

Vetting can cost an average of $400 per cat, so if a litter of kittens comes in, it can cost the shelter a lot of money.

“Right now, we have about 150 cats at $400 a piece,” Berner said about vetting costs.

Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue’s adoption fees for cats under six months is $250, and $200 for adult cats.

“In reality we make back about half of what we put in, just on normal vetting,” said Berner. “That doesn’t include their food, their water, their care, or anything extra.”

The adoption fee is set in place so the rescue can make back some of the money they put into the animals, but it also ensures that new owners understand there are costs that come with caring for animals.

“They are worth spending that time, and they are worth spending that money,” said Berner.

Heaven Can Wait also offers a boarding kennel, which generates money to pay the staff and the mortgage. Donations, in the form of financial support or supplies, help with vetting and various costs involved in running an animal rescue.

“Amazing things have happened to keep us going,” said Kim Hessel, owner and founder of Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation.

“It’s going to get busy and it’s going to get tiring and frustrating, but ultimately you know you’re helping them,” said Berner.

Angie Berner assesses the rescued cat’s state of health, and gives her a shot to help with dehydration.

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Angie Berner calms the newly rescued cat before taking her to a cage to rest.