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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Spring is here, and once again animal rescue workers are preparing for the inevitable: kitten season. Shelters from coast to coast will soon be inundated with pregnant cats, mother cats with kittens and unwanted litters. I am writing to remind people about the importance of spaying or neutering their cats.

Too often we hear about parents wanting to give their children an opportunity to witness the "miracle of birth," so they allow their cat to have one litter. What most people don't know is that they can reduce the feline population by having their own cat spayed or neutered and still participate in the miracle. All they need to do is contact any private or public animal shelter and offer to become foster parents to a pregnant cat. Their offer will be greatly appreciated.

The shortage of foster homes at this time of year is immense. Most shelters, like our own, provide the foster families with support that includes: education about pregnant cats, testing of cats for feline AIDS and leukemia, medical attention when needed, help with supplies if the foster family is unable to pay, spaying or neutering of the mother cats and kittens, and finally -- finding good permanent homes.

Thank you for getting the word out, Abby, and for all your support. -- JACQUELINE WOOD, MEOW CAT RESCUE IN KIRKLAND, WASH.

DEAR JACQUELINE: You have made a terrific suggestion, one I'm sure many people haven't considered.

Parents who want their children to witness the "miracle of birth" and plan to get rid of the cat and her litter should first ask themselves what kind of message they are sending. By adopting your idea, the lesson would be conveyed that pets are more than expendable commodities -- their lives have value.

DEAR ABBY: I need help dealing with my alcoholic husband, "Tom." He drinks from morning till night. Now my children say he's bribing them not to tell me.

What bothers me most is that he drinks and drives when he has our 10-year-old son, "Tommy," in the car with him. Tommy described several places where his dad bought vodka and 7UP. Another time Tommy told me his father bought him candy at the movies so he wouldn't tell me about the drinking.

My mother-in-law has advised me to approach the matter "positively." She thinks that if I tell Tom I can no longer trust him with the children, he will try to corrupt them to spite me.

I don't want my children to grow up to be liars and substance abusers. What can I do to fight this? -- TOM'S WIFE

DEAR WIFE: I agree with your mother-in-law on one point. You should "positively" tell your husband that he will either get help for his drinking immediately or he is out the door. Driving a child while under the influence is child endangerment! That he would bribe his son and encourage him to lie to you is an indication of how much his addiction to alcohol has impaired his judgment.

You cannot "fix" your husband; only he can do that. But at all costs you must protect your children. The worst thing you can do under these circumstances is nothing.

I recommend that you attend some Al-Anon meetings. You will benefit from it. Al-Anon is a 12-step fellowship of men, women, adult children, and children whose lives have been affected by the compulsive drinking of a family member or friend. The toll-free number is (888) 425-2666.

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