METUCHEN — Animal rights group PETA has offered to discreetly pay for spaying and/or neutering any cats owned by an unknown woman who has repeatedly left kittens outside a local store. The organization also said it would not reveal the woman's identity if she gets in contact with them.

On Aug. 27, two kittens were taken to the Edison Animal Shelter after police said a woman had left them at the Whole Foods in two separate onion bags along with a handwritten note that read "Please take free baby cat to your home."

The now nine-week-old domestic short-hair kittens, named Bermuda and Vidalia by shelter staff, could go up for adoption this weekend. The shelter is expected to update their status on Friday.

Interim shelter manager Amy Ray previously told New Jersey 101.5 this was at least the fourth time the same woman had done the same thing in the past year, including once at a Petsmart store where she was captured on surveillance video.

"PETA is eager to offer essential, lifesaving spay-and-neuter services to help this woman end her cycle of animal abandonment and to prevent more kittens from being born into a world already bursting at the seams with unwanted ones," PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch said in a written release.

Anyone who can help PETA get in touch with the woman in question should call 757-622-PETA or e-mail CIDInfo@peta.org. The organization also said "anonymity is guaranteed."

While this is a case that's gotten public attention, the abandonment of kittens and puppies is something that happens everyday in nearly every community, PETA Animal Care and Control Issues Manager Teresa Chagrin said.

Chagrin said by turning away certain animals, charging surrender fees or requiring veterinary records, more shelters are making it "difficult or costly to do the right thing" — resulting in more animals being born on the streets or in the woods.

"The only effective, long-term solution to the homeless-animal overpopulation crisis is spaying and neutering," PETA also said in its release.

A female cat can produce three litters in one year and the average number of kittens in a litter is four to six, according to statistics from the National Kitten Coalition.

Chagrin added the issue can be addressed at the municipal level, as communities can adopt ordinances requiring animal guardians to spay and neuter pets, with the exception of those who obtain a "breeder's permit."

Such ordinances can include optional assistance for low income residents, either through a voucher system or a working agreement with local animal clinics.

Roughly 6 million to 8 million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters each year, according to The Humane Society of the United States.

The HSUS also offers specific data on "community cats," which it defines as "friendly stray or abandoned cats as well as feral (unsocialized) cats. These cats are unowned, but may be provided with food, water and/or shelter by caring individuals." There are between 30 million and 40 million community cats, only 2% of which are spayed or neutered, accounting for 80% of new kittens born each year.

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