An influx of kittens is overwhelming Hillsborough County Pet Center
While the shelter finds homes for 60 to 90 animals a day, there are still 90 to 110 strays coming in daily.
It's kitten season. And with warmer weather comes an increase in cat births.
Lori Letzring, operations director of the Hillsborough County Pet Center, said the shelter is having trouble keeping up.
"In five and a half years I've never seen the cat population this high,” she said. “It's incredible."
County pet resource director Scott Trebatoski said the shelter has a normal capacity of 230 animals.
Now, it has more than 500 cats and dogs under its roof.
"We're kind of losing the battle of keeping up with the numbers,” he said. “But it's not like animals are sitting here. A lot of animals are moving through the shelter. It's just that, you know, we're kind of jammed up."
Each day, the shelter finds homes for 60 to 90 animals. But recently there have been 90 to 110 strays coming in daily. The shelter has been able to handle the influx because most of the cats are kittens, which don’t take up too much space.
“We have three, four or five cats sharing a cage, so it's doable. I'd like to give them more — I wish I could give them two cages so that they had a place to spread out and separate,” Trebatoski said. “But you know, we do the best we can.”
Cats tend to give birth during warmer months, but Trebatoski said he hasn't seen a summer quite like this one.
"In Florida, it's actually kind of worse, because if you're in a northern tier state, you probably get one set of litters during that period of time,” he said. “But here in Florida, we can get as many as three litters per cat, because we're warm the entire year.”
To fit the ever-growing cat population, the shelter wheeled housing crates into office space and put two or three cats in each module.
“When you're overcrowded, it's kind of a careful balancing act. Because in the industry, we have a calculation that's called capacity for care. That's your spaces plus your resources,” Trebatoski said. “So we get the double whammy on that — we're overcrowded and understaffed with veterinarians.”
The shelter has only one full-time vet, with four open positions. Trebatoski said he hopes to have the positions filled by the end of the year.
In the meantime, Jerica Brooks is responsible for spaying and neutering 30 to 50 cats a day in hopes of stabilizing the population.
Brooks started working at the shelter last summer during kitten season.
“This one is substantially worse,” she said. “It's nonstop right now. I could keep doing surgery all night and would never be done.”
The shelter started waiving adoption fees last month and will continue that policy through August.
“If it encourages people to come in, I'm more than willing to let them adopt free,” Trebatoski said.
The Hillsborough shelter is holding a free adoption drive July 22 and 23 to find homes for these animals.