The problem of abandoned kittens is being faced head-on by Zarli Kew, one of Pet Medical’s team members, and the SNIP Kitten program.
One of the more distressing aspects of working in a veterinary clinic is dealing with unwanted kittens. Many years ago, when I started working at Pet Medical, we would regularly have unwanted kittens delivered to us. We had two choices—either they went to the pound or they were put to sleep. We hated having to do either of these two options but that was, unfortunately, just the way things were because there were too many kittens. So, I decided to do something about it.
I started the SNIP Kitten program—which stands for Spay and Neuter for Income-qualified Pets. The idea behind the SNIP Program was to work with these homeless kittens; have them de-sexed, microchipped, vaccinated, wormed and flea treated, and then find suitable and loving homes for them. We always try and suit the kitten to the needs of the family. For example, if a kitten was particularly shy, we wouldn’t try to place it with a family with small children. Or, if a family wanted a farm cat, we would home one that is a little more confident and independent.
We don’t have a fancy set-up or a network of foster carers – so, when we are presented with an abandoned cat, either myself or vet nurse Bonnie Smith, keep them in our houses until they go to their new homes.
The beginning of the SNIP Kitten program
When we first began, I did most of the advertising of finding new homes on Gumtree. We have also set up a SNIP Kitten Facebook page. In recent times we have found most families through word of mouth. People hear about us and ring the clinic looking for kittens.
Many people like the idea the kitten has already had all their vet work done and they don’t have to worry about that side of things. We also have many people asking if we can help them find people to take on their cats, however we don’t really work that way. We prefer to help the kittens and cats that have nowhere else to go – those that have been abandoned or dumped. If someone is looking to surrender a kitten, we prefer to try and send them to other rescue organisations that have more foster carers available to them.
The importance of desexing
Another reason we are doing this is to educate the community about the importance of desexing their cats. Many people think, ‘we’ll just let them have one litter, it will be fine’. Or, they don’t believe it’s an issue for them because they have a male cat.
But it all does matter to the cats on our streets. We have got so many street cats and it is all because people have not desexed their pets. We really want to reinforce the importance of responsible pet ownership by desexing your pet cat.
A couple of times a year, we run what we call ‘SNIP Sunday’, where all our staff volunteer their time to come into work and desex cats. Cats may not get booked in otherwise. We try and get them booked in for these special days where the service of desexing is offered at a really discounted rate.
A month or so ago, I was nominated as a Local Legend in the Muswellbrook area for my work with SNIP Kitten Rescue. This was a huge thrill and very flattering and inspires me to keep on with this important work.