Dear Doctor August 2022


Helping at a shelter — virtually

Q: I would love to be able to volunteer at my local cat shelter, but my schedule makes it really hard to get over there when they need me. Is there anything else I can do to help that doesn’t involve physically being on site?

Johnna Owens
Taos, New Mexico

Dear Ms. Owens,

A: Absolutely. Do you have a knack for attracting new followers on social media? Shelters always need assistance publicizing their cause, not only to raise funds but also to find homes for cats in their care. If you can take good pictures, so much the better. Open-admission shelters in particular, which might have to put down some cats if they get too full, need people to take alluring photos and explain the plight of animals who await a forever home in a way that tugs on the heartstrings.

Some shelters also need people who are facile with using various computer programs, including Excel spreadsheets. Spreadsheets make it easy to track the comings and goings of various animals along with their particular health and emotional requirements so that the right cat is matched with the right household.

Those who are good at event planning can help a shelter, too. Maybe you can raise funds by planning a local road race or other activity that can attract both people who would pay an entry fee as well as local sponsors who would be happy to advertise. If you’ve never planned a large-scale event before but are detail-minded, such an activity might be for you.

Finally, if you have a knack for writing, you can offer to put out a monthly e-newsletter or even help write the shelter’s annual appeal. You don’t have to be on site at particular times to help shelter cats in any of these ways.

The length of a feline pregnancy

Q: How long does a cat’s pregnancy last?

Honey Blampeid
Arlington, Texas

Dear Ms. Blampeid,

A: A cat pregnancy lasts about 9 weeks. The average litter size is four, and there’s roughly an hour between the birth of each kitten.

After each kitten comes into the world, the mother will pass her newborn’s fetal membranes, including the placenta, which is a dark greenish-black. She will also clear the baby’s nose and mouth. And she will bite off the umbilical cord and eat the placenta. That is, she is mother, obstetrician, and midwife all in one.


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