Eric Francavilla/The Daily Evergreen Four-month-old Elliot needs a new home.
The domestic shorthair kitten was found abandoned in an apartment unit on Northeast Kamiaken Street in July by a cleaning crew.
When the Whitman County Humane Society took the black ball of fur in, he had an advanced case of ringworm, said Brittany Bryant, the director of shelter operations.
On Wednesday, Elliot playfully swiped his paws through the bars on his cage as Bryant pulled on gloves and scrubs to protect herself from the contagious fungus.
Holding the squirming, purring kitten in her arms, she said Elliot’s infection had cleared up and he was of a healthy weight, if not a little fat from the wet food used to give him his oral medicine twice a day.
With a little luck, Elliot could find a new home soon, but kittens are being abandoned faster than the shelter can take them in, Bryant said.
The high abandonment rate occurs every summer, from May to September. The increase is mostly caused by cat-breeding season and owners that do not spay or neuter their cats, but college students are responsible for a spike every year around the end of spring semester, she said.
The shelter has taken in about 150 kittens since May. It currently has twice as many kittens as it does during most of the year and a handful of extra cats and dogs.
Lori Freeman, director at the Humane Society of the Palouse, said the Moscow shelter has taken in 125 cats and kittens since April, also double its normal occupancy.
“I think a lot of students jump into pet ownership without thinking about the responsibilities, but irresponsible pet owners can come at any age,” Freeman said.
Both nonprofit, no-kill shelters try to accommodate all the animals, but the seasonal spike forces them to turn some away.
Owners wanting to give up their pets are put on a waiting list that grows longer and longer. Bryant often refers owners to other adoption organizations, like Pets Are People Too in Pullman.
“The biggest issue we have is space,"she said. "When we have these influxes, we start to run out of room and it becomes an inhumane situation (to overfill the shelter)."
The Whitman County shelter chargers $35 for owners surrendering their pets, but most pets are brought in by good Samaritans, law enforcement and animals control.
Bryant said she suspects some people bring in their pets claiming they do not own them. Other owners tie their dogs to the garbage bin outside the shelter.
Cats are allowed to roam free in Whitman County, but injured or pregnant ones are brought in.
The Whitman County shelter currently has two litters of kittens, 12 cats and 10 dogs at the shelter. Another five litters of kittens, two cats and one dog are in foster care.
About half the people who adopt pets from the shelter are students, Bryant said. But before anyone adopts this year they should consider a few things, she said.
Future pet-owners should research the breed of animal they want to adopt and consider whether that breed is suitable for their lifestyle, Bryant said.
“Adopting a large, high-strung dog for an apartment would not work well,” she said.
Also, having a pet can be expensive and time-consuming, so students should budget their time and money to take care of their pet, Bryant said.
Freeman said, “Owning a pet is a lifetime commitment."