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Here Kitty, Kitty

Animal Shelter pairs up with rescue groups, local non-profit to find dozens of cats a loving home in July.

The Fairfax County Animal Shelter hopes to entice potential animal owners into adopting cats and kittens this month, since the largely independent animals offer workaholics a less demanding role as a pet owner.

The "ExtravaCATza" adoption event comes at the peak of what's known as kitten season, a time beginning around February when cats are outdoors more, thus mating and becoming pregnant more. The increase in the population starts to show up in the shelter around June, said Michelle Hankins, the community outreach program manager at the shelter.

"The shelter fills up quite quickly with all these cats and kittens," said Hankins. "We wanted to throw an event that would give a little extra attention to them."

The event is the shelter’s attempt to help expedite the process of finding homes for hundreds of kittens and cats. As part of ExtravaCATza, the shelter will open its doors every Sunday in July, from noon to 4 p.m., in addition to its regular business hours throughout the week. Each Sunday, two or three different animal rescue groups will bring in kittens and cats that will be available for adoption, adding to the shelter's already large cat population. DC Metro No More Homeless Pets (NMHP), a non-profit animal welfare organization, is co-sponsoring the event and will be present to help ensure the cats are placed in loving homes.

The shelter is also offering free spay and neuter procedures for the first 100 cats adopted, valued at more than $100. All of the pets at the shelter are required to be spayed or neutered upon their adoption. Some of the older cats at the shelter have come in spayed or neutered already, so they offer a cheaper alternative to adopting kittens, since the $20 adoption fee does not increase for these cats.

"The cat room has full cages. We have quite a few cats right now," said Hankins. "There are more [kittens] in our foster care program that will become available throughout the month as they become old enough."

Under Virginia law, kittens must be at least seven weeks old before they are eligible for adoption. The shelter holds most of its kittens until about eight or nine weeks, to ensure they are healthy and mature enough for adoption. Plenty of affectionate, older cats are also available, said Hankins. No matter their age, she said the animals make great pets for all types of people.

"There's going to be a ton of variety of cats," said Gina Lynch, of NMHP. Teri and Jack Schuler became some of the first parents of a new kitten during ExtravaCATza month. They came to the shelter, July 1, looking for a male kitten. Their 14-year-old cat recently died and they needed a new companion for their second cat. The Schulers looked at many kittens in the shelter, and were having some difficulty making a decision.

"There's too many," said Teri Schuler. "They're all adorable."

EVERY BREED of cat seemed to be represented at the shelter, and that was without the extra population of rescue cats that will be brought in on Sundays. This is a sign, said Hankins, that people will more than likely be able to find whatever kind of cat they desire, be it old, young, dark, frisky or lazy. Either way, she said the animals are just as loving, exciting and loyal as dogs.

"Who needs television when you can sit and watch these adorable kittens play," said Hankins.

Since cats bathe themselves and don’t need to go outside in order to make a bathroom trip, Hankins said they make the perfect pet. In the Washington metropolitan region, where many workers are away from home or stuck in traffic for long hours, cats are pets that can live with their owners’ busy schedules, said Hankins. They still provide companionship and love, but in a more independent way than dogs, she said.

“It’s a great fit for a lot of people in our area who are extremely busy,” said Hankins. “Cats can be easier for people who are away for long work days.”