The sound of caterwauling drifts eerily through my neighborhood these days, carried on the same spring breezes that scatter pollen and flower petals on the sidewalks.
In March, caterwauling means cats on the streets, heeding the call of an instinct they do not question. The urge to mate is primal, and overpowering, pulling tomcats from their homes, across busy roadways and into fights.
In May, caterwauling gives way to gentle mewing, as the kittens burst into this world, soft, blind and helpless. Their arrival is witnessed by people who whisper reverently about the "miracle of life," and use the lovely sight of a mother cat with her babes to teach lessons to their own.
In June, the kittens hit the shelters, and shortly after, the euthanasia rooms.
Such is the true nature of even the loveliest spring.
What's so confounding, so disturbing about this black drama played out in towns and cities throughout the land is that it is preventable. Not one kitten or cat, or puppy or dog, needs to meet death in the euthanasia room for the crime of being "surplus."
If you shudder when you think of animals being euthanized at shelters, and especially if you've ever dumped an animal on a country lane, convincing yourself that a kind farmer will give it a good home, it's time for a little self-evaluation.
Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?
Are your pets spayed or neutered? By that, I mean all of them. If you're the kind-hearted type who puts out food for the neighborhood strays, take it a step further and spring for neutering. You may be able to sweet-talk the vet into a discount rate to fix an extra pet or two a year.
When you choose your own pets, pick shelter animals or purebreds from a rescue network. Buying purebred kittens or puppies -- especially from a retail store that serves as a "puppy-mill" outlet -- encourages the continued production of animals for sale.
Do what you can for animals, as often as you can, and maybe, someday, we animal-lovers can spend the springtime sneezing instead of grieving as the tragedy unfolds.
Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278