Updated: November 12, 2012 11:55AM
It is not for nothing that we refer to rabbits when we use the term “breed like a rabbit” — this is a species that can start having babies at nine months of age and has a gestation of a mere 30 days. That’s even shorter than the presidency of William Henry Harrison.
But don’t go to sleep on cats — they get things done nearly as quickly, with a gestation of 65 days. Female cats can enter their sexual maturity as early as six months old, and once they’re active, they can go into heat at two-week intervals and produce up to three litters a year. Boom goes the population.
These are numbers to keep in mind as animal advocates in Waukegan team up with PetSmart Charities to pursue another round of Spay and Stay, the program that seeks to control feral-cat colonies by outsmarting them. Rather than attempting to permanently remove wild cats from a territory, which experts say can inspire remaining cats to overcompensate in their re-population efforts, organizations like Lake County Spay and Stay trap, neuter or spay, and return (TNR) cats to their colony, resulting in fruitless efforts at reproduction.
In 2011, the first Waukegan edition of Stay and Spay — in which feral cats are not only spayed/neutered but also vaccinated and microchipped — covered 250 cats between July and December of that year. Local animal-rights activists Anna Finn and Amy Strege told me that a second grant was recently awarded that aims to perform the surgeries and vaccinations for 750 free-roaming cats through July 1 of next year.
Considering the fact that an active female cat can have three to five kittens at a shot, the math starts to add up. According to Lake County Stay and Spay, more than 5,449 cats across the county have been processed over the past 10 years, working in cooperation with some 800 caretakers of feral-cat colonies.
In Waukegan, residents who choose to act as caretakers of feral cats are required to register with a TNR program approved by the city, which includes Spay and Stay. Anyone interested in registering a colony and requesting spay/neuter service through the new grant program are being asked to visit spayandstay.org or call (847) 289-4557 for more information. Interested parties can also contact Waukegan Animal Control, 1698 N. McAree Road, at (847) 599-2690.