If the 59 cats brought to American Legion Post 5 Tuesday for spaying or neutering had stayed home instead, they potentially could have produced up to 59,000 additional felines within only four years.

“It really is mind-boggling,” said Rome-Floyd Humane Society President Lynne Griffin during the two-day “Save a Life Cat Day” event her organization sponsored.

Griffin said the Humane Society spent $7,000 on the first-ever spaying and neutering clinic exclusively for cats in Floyd County. They were able to offer the surgeries for a $21 fee that included rabies vaccinations.

Most veterinarians in the area charge at least $150 for the same service, she said.

As the sounds of apprehensive mewing echoed throughout the legion hall, Griffin said there’s a common misconception female cats need to wait until after their first heat cycle or be at least six months old to be spayed.

“The cat can be as young as 2 months as long as it’s at least 2 pounds,” Griffin said. “The cat is actually healthier if they have their surgery before their first heat. They have much less chance of mammary gland cancer and pyometra — or inflammation of the uterus.”

People with male cats also sometimes think they don’t need to worry about getting their cats neutered unless they are spraying in the house.

But if those male cats are allowed to be outside, they will inevitably impregnate female cats in the area, Griffin said.

“It only takes one cat of each sex to begin the multiplying and produce 30 more cats within a year,” she said. “When it’s warm like this, if the cats aren’t in heat, they’re probably already pregnant.”

Cats can become pregnant as young as 3 months old, according to Dr. Robyn O’Kane of My Kids Have Paws mobile veterinary clinic, based in Dalton.

O’Kane expected to be performing nearly 130 surgeries by the end of Wednesday inside her mobile van parked outside the legion.

Among the first 10 cats on her operating table Tuesday morning was a female that already was about two weeks pregnant. She said at that point the offspring are merely “a ball of fluid and cells.”

“Some owners know their cats are already pregnant and other don’t know or don’t want to know,” she said as the heart-rate monitor beeped in her ear. “It’s kind of a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. It’s an unfortunate part of the job, but there are too many unwanted, sick or dying kittens out there already.”

Part of the RFHS event included offering dog owners a chance to get their pets vaccinated or checked out by O’Kane at a reduced cost.

Rome resident Harrison Dupree took advantage of the opportunity and brought in his rescued boxer Roxy. He said he has four cats at home that already had been spayed and neutered.

“The cats came from a stray mama cat that had babies and we didn’t want to add to the overpopulation problem, so we took care of them a while ago,” Dupree said. “Roxy used to belong to my wife’s aunt. When she died of breast cancer, Roxy ended up at a boarding house for three months and I just couldn’t handle that, so we finally brought her home. She gets along great with the cats.”

Griffin said RFHS always welcomes donations. They can be made through their website at www.romefloydhumanesociety.org.

“We couldn’t do any of this without the support of the community,” she said.

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