COEUR d'ALENE - Dori Peck says there are two words to describe the cat and kitten epidemic in Kootenai County.
One is crazy.
The other is overwhelming.
And it's getting worse, said the executive director of the Kootenai Humane Society. Whether ferals or strays, they're everywhere.
"We have to do something," Peck said Monday. "We have literally litters of kittens coming in."
She said the KHS shelter at the end of Ramsey Road is at capacity, with around 100 cats and kittens. There's a 45-day waiting list to drop off a feline. Around 15 calls a day come in from folks desperate to get rid of one, two or an entire litter.
Told there's no room, some are just leaving cats outside the shelter gates. Or, they're dumping them in neighborhoods, in the wild, in parks. Wherever.
It is the worst Peck has seen this situation.
"We need to get this under control," Peck said. "This is going to keep getting worse if we didn't do something. They're breeding constantly, everywhere."
Lynne Doria, resident and cat activist, agreed feral and strays are more than abundant in Kootenai County. One woman, she said, needed help with more than 10 kittens and eight adults cats. Another has been trying to catch cats and take them to KHS, but she uses a walker. She said the solution is spay and neutering, but many cat owners don't do that.
The local Second Chance pet rescue recently paid to fix 38 cats, she said, but like KHS, is running out of money to continue with the program.
Doria herself feeds strays - including a colony of about 20 just off Government Way - and has spent more than $1,000 to have cats fixed.
"There are cats roaming everywhere," she said. "It's the worst I've seen in the three years I've been feeding them."
Some believe difficult economic times are partially to blame. Folks can't afford vet care, so cats don't get fixed. Kittens are given away and the problem multiplies.
"It's a never-ending thing and it's expensive," Doria said.
Ideally, people would spay or neuter a cat before offering it to anyone who wants it, but that doesn't happen.
Part of the problem, too, is that most cats aren't licensed in Kootenai County, and animal control doesn't pick them up.
They're what she called "free roaming," whereas in Spokane they are required to be licensed and microchipped.
"There's not checks and balance on them here," she said.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, only 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered.
ASPCA also estimated there may be more than 50 million homeless cats in the U.S.
KHS has a no-kill policy, but others don't.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, four million cats and dogs - about one every eight seconds - are put down in U.S. shelters each year.
Doria said people can help locally by trapping cats, paying to have them fixed, then releasing them.
But that can be difficult, time consuming and expensive.
"It's not just 'Grab that cat and go get it fixed,'" she said.
KHS offers the spay or neuter procedure for about $35 to $40, and vaccines are another $20. Feral cats will be fixed for $10, but ferals can be dangerous, so be careful when trying to trap them.
For those who have cats but can't afford to have them fixed, Peck said they'll work out something. KHS offers traps to folks for free, with a $50 deposit.
"We don't want to turn people away," she said. "We try to help as much as we can."