Feline pals seek homes

metro -- Gina the cat is up for adoption at the Charleston Animal Society. (Grace Beahm/Staff)

Free to good home: Cats, cats and more cats.

If you've ever thought you'd like the companionship of a furry feline, now's the time to act.

For the first time, the Charleston Animal Society is giving away adult cats this weekend.

"Of course, we're not giving them away because they aren't valuable," said Kay Hyman, the society's outreach coordinator. "They are wonderful animals who deserve loving homes."

Society Executive Director Jim Bush agreed.

"This event is meant to be a celebration of life," he said. "We at the shelter know that older cats make great companions and are easier to care for than rambunctious juveniles, and many of the cats have been languishing in the shelter for weeks. We want them to have the opportunity to find loving permanent homes."

The event includes only cats that are at least a year old because they are harder to adopt out.

"Kittens fly out the door," Hyman said. "Kittens are what make the cats sit there longer."

Hyman said no number defines "capacity" because sometimes two or more animals can share one of the 140 cat kennels, but the shelter is out of space and this is the time of year for a bump in the cat population plus the number of owner-surrenders has swelled.

"We started euthanizing based on space about two weeks ago," she said. "It's one thing when animals are euthanized because of having a horrible disease or injury beyond our scope, but when it's purely because of the lack of space, that's pretty sad."

Last year, 2,483 cats and 2,096 kittens were euthanized at the shelter, Hyman said. Another 360 cats and 688 kittens were adopted and 73 lost cats and four kittens were returned to their owners.

While the adoption fee is waived this weekend, the paperwork is not. Potential pet owners will still have to fill out an application and be evaluated before they will be allowed to adopt. Donations will be accepted.

Hyman said the giveaway can impact the lives of thousands of cats. "The bottom line is that if they aren't adopted, they'll either sit here for months or they'll be euthanized," she said.