Although the sign has spurred anxiety among visitors worried about the fate of these small creatures, Managing Director of Animal Control Lt. Cheryl Shepard said the notice was placed there to prompt the public to ask questions.
Shepard said the survivability rate of a cat decreases the smaller the animal is, and “two pounds gives them the best chance” for their system to regulate sugar levels and body temperature and build immunity.
The sign is a strong message to encourage owners to keep kittens just long enough to “plump them up,” Shepard said.
But if the kitten is a stray, the shelter — part of Cobb’s Department of Public Safety located off County Services Parkway — will care for the animal in hopes of finding a foster home.
The temporary housing is needed until the kitten reaches around eight weeks and can be spayed or neutered and turned over for adoption.
By law, Shepard said, the shelter cannot allow an animal to be adopted without being spayed or neutered. The majority of young kittens housed at the shelter waiting to be fixed will become ill.
“The longer you keep a kitten in a shelter environment, the greater the chance of becoming sick,” Shepard said.
One-third of animals at the shelter are turned in by their owners, Shepard said, which is why its staff assists families with access to animal food pantries, obedience training and referrals for medical issues.
“We want to help people keep their pets,” Shepard said.
It costs $115 to adopt a cat or dog, which includes microchipping, vaccinations and spaying or neutering. The spaying and neutering is performed at the Cobb shelter.
Employees take information from a potential adopter’s driver’s license, which is used to track whether the person has turned in animals to the shelter before.
“We are really unable to do a screening process,” Shepard said. It is the discretion of the shelter’s management if a person is denied adoption.
Cats and dogs shipped to colder northern states
Shepard calls cats “warm weather breeders,” which for Georgia means they can reproduce practically year-round.
With the summer season approaching, Shepard said Cobb is about to have a “wave” of kittens born.
“Every shelter is going to be inundated by the box load,” she said.
To combat this wave, the shelter partners with rescue organizations in the county to ship animals to states in the Northeast, where the cold makes for a shorter breeding season and spaying or neutering is practiced more often.
“They are finding a shortage of family pets,” said Billy Mayfield, Cobb’s operations manager at the animal shelter.
A van can be loaded with as many as 50 dogs and between 20 to 35 cats for each journey, but in order for the transport to occur, the animals must be quarantined out of the shelter for two weeks.
This is why Shepard said the Cobb animal shelter relies so heavily on foster families.
“It is usually only a two- or three-week commitment,” she said.
In 2013, Shepard said 10,215 animals were brought to the shelter. The majority were reclaimed by owners or adopted out, but 3,704 were euthanized.
Mayfield has been trained and certified to perform euthanizations.
Adult dogs and cats are injected intravenously with a drug to stop the animal’s heart, Mayfield said.
But for kittens, the veins are too small and require the shot straight to the heart. In both cases, the animal is sedated for the procedure.
“We want to be transparent. This is the county’s shelter,” Shepard said. “We need the county’s involvement and help.”
Shepard said the shelter does not have an exact limit on the amount of time an animal can be housed at the shelter before being euthanized.
Factors leading to the need for euthanizations include the animal’s health and aggression level, as well as the availability of space.
“There is a finite number of cages,” Shepard said about the 277 cages at the shelter, some which can hold multiple kittens or puppies.
The Cobb Animal Shelter’s annual Spring Adopt-A-Thon will be May 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Shelter at 1060 Al Bishop Drive in Marietta.