Animal Planet veterinarian visits MEOW Cat Rescue in Kirkland
By CARRIE RODRIGUEZ
Kirkland Reporter Editor
July 15, 2009 · Updated 12:45 PM
They call them “pin heads” in Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald’s line of work.
Out of his veterinary office in Denver, where the temperature drops below zero a couple weeks out of the year, he ends up cutting the frostbitten ears off of feral cats. Or there’s what Fitzgerald refers to as “fan belt cats” he treats that climb under the warm hood of a car on a wintery evening and get caught by the belt when someone starts the engine.
“The problem with this business - it never stops,” said Fitzgerald as he bent to pet Marion, a tiger striped cat curled up next to a window at MEOW Cat Rescue in Kirkland Thursday. The star of Animal Planet’s Emergency Vets came to visit the no-kill shelter and speak with volunteers before heading out on a lighter note to Laughs Comedy Club for an evening of comedy to benefit MEOW Cat Rescue.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something happens, Fitzgerald continued. But you can’t get tired.
“You’ve got to always put on your game face everyday because there are 3,000 kittens born every hour in the United States,” he said.
In Denver, there are 11 shelters in a three-county area that put to sleep 43,000 kittens last year, “and that’s not sick cats,” he said.
Buts it’s not all bad news.
“In that room there’s a lot of good news,” Fitzgerald said, pointing to a handful of MEOW volunteers. “But something like this where someone’s doing good, you never hear, so that’s why this is so important.”
He heard about MEOW Cat Rescue from an old classmate who lives in Kirkland and said the first thing that struck him about the organization is how clean it is. He’s seen shelters in deplorable conditions, but at MEOW “people are jazzed up and they like what they do, so there’s a lot of good vibes.”
During his visit, he spoke with volunteers about why educating people about cats is so important.
Spay and neuter your cat
MEOW Cat Rescue processes 1,500 cats a year and currently has 300 cats waiting to be adopted. The organization’s greatest need is for people to be responsible, says Director and co-founder Bonne VeVea.
“Spay and neuter your pets and step in when you see a stray and do something,” she added.
Fitzgerald said cats have a “tremendous potential” to reproduce. Cats are known as “induced ovulators,” which means that “every time there’s a copulation, there’s an ovulation,” he said. In seven years, two cats that have an average litter of five kittens can have up to 174,000 offspring.
The problem is unsustainable, he says, and people need to educate themselves.
Take care of your cat
Many people think that because cats are more independent than dogs that they need less care, but that’s not true, Fitzgerald said. He recalled when his childhood cat, Snowball, had an abscess on its head and his father wouldn’t take the cat to the vet.
Just because cats are independent doesn’t mean you should ignore them, he said.
Cats are also not disposable, he said, citing a trip to New Orleans when the Animal Planet funded a trip for his team to go and help cats that were victim to Hurricane Katrina. They trapped more than 200 cats, but many of them didn’t need to be trapped.
“They were coming up to you on the street and they were house cats from people that left in a panic,” he recalled. “These cats would come up to you like, ‘Hey! Where is everybody?”
His team wound up putting five of the cats to sleep and found homes for the rest.
MEOW Cat Rescue also took in 40 cats after the hurricane, says VeVea, including Angelo and Paul, who still reside at the shelter.
Fitzgerald, who spoke fondly of his own cat, Charlie, said the good news about cats is for the first time in 2008, they passed dogs in American households as the preferred family pet.
But some cats have got it too good, he warned.
If a cat owner can’t feel a cat’s ribs, chances are the cat is obese, he said. He was horrified when his brother pulled out a beer stein and used it to measure cat food.
“The thing that I impress upon people the most is just to measure food,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m not a big fan of free-choice feeding.”
Obesity is a real health issue and can lead to diabetes, arthritis, degenerative joint disease and other problems for cats.
Though his cat Charlie loves popcorn, he urges people not to feed their cats people food.Contact Kirkland Reporter Editor Carrie Rodriguez at email@example.com or 1-425-822-9166 (ext 5050).