Cat population explodes at Berkeley animal shelter

BERKELEY (KPIX) — In Berkeley, the city shelter is flooded with felines looking for a good home.

Berkeley Animal Care Services says the number of cats being sheltered has tripled compared to last year and the manager suspects that increase can be linked to COVID-19.

“We’ve had more kittens come in this year than we had in a long time,” said Amelia Funghi, manager at Berkeley Animal Care Services.

So many kittens, in fact, that the Berkeley Animal Care Services shelter had to move cats into the dog kennels. The shelter typically takes in 40 cats between January and July. This year, the number jumped up to 122.

Funghi believes the coronavirus pandemic is partly to blame.

“During COVID, we know that not as many people were out trapping, neutering and fixing feral cats and we know from the statistics that half of kittens that come to shelters come from feral cats,” she explained.

Now the shelter is scrambling to find homes for all of those kittens. Three were sent to “furever” homes on Thursday and others are in foster care.

It’s important to free up shelter space for more animals coming in.

“Having that many kittens is a stress for the staff but also for the animals. One thing we know, we know this very well from many studies is that overcrowding in shelters causes stress which causes disease,”  Funghi said, 

The shelter has signs posted on their doors and at the front counter. At least for the months of July, August and possibly longer, cat-adoption fees have been waived.

“When most people come in and take a look at a room full of kittens playing with each other, it’s pretty easy to be swayed,” Funghi said.

Pet parents know all about the lack of vet availability during COVID. That has also significantly set back the effort to spay and neuter animals.

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