Most cat lovers automatically swoon at the sight of a little ball of baby kitten fluff when we see them. Baby “talk” flows uncontrollably out of our mouths and our hearts melt. However, when an experienced shelter worker or rescue group sees kittens, their initial reaction can be a bit different. Their hearts drop and an apprehensive sigh escapes their lips. Why a response such as this?! It’s because they have seen first hand the reality of what “kitten season” entails.
Kitten season is the time of year when cats give birth, flooding animal shelters and rescue groups across the nation with homeless litters because too many kittens are born when cats who aren’t spayed and neutered mate! It actually extends from early spring, through the summer months and into fall, peaking during late spring/early summer.
A female cat can become pregnant as early as 5 months of age and the domino effect from an un-spayed, healthy cat can have 3 to 5 litters each year, producing approximately 4-6 OR MORE kittens each time!
There is no way to confirm for certain, but it is estimated that the United States’ population of stray or feral cats reaches into the tens of millions and only up to 3% of them are spayed/neutered! Imagine the implications of these cats breeding uncontrollably and you’ll understand a bit more why the volunteer workers react the way they do when kitten season arrives.
There are many legitimate reasons for their reactions. Shelters are already lined with older or adult cats that are desperately waiting for their “fur-ever” homes. Space, money and resources are usually stretched as thin as can be and then kitten season hits. Now these affectionate adult cats who are not getting the love they deserve have to compete with desirable kittens for the attention of potential adopters. Unfortunately, there are not enough adopters/foster families out there to care for the adult and senior cats waiting patiently for their chance at a loving home. It is even more heartbreaking to hear that over a million cats are euthanized in US shelters each….year…. =(
Kittens stream into the shelters from feral colonies, an excess of newborns from unfixed house pets or are overflow taken in from other shelters that do not have the resources to care for them.
We were blessed enough to meet the volunteers at the San Diego Humane Society at their 24 hour kitten nursery, the first of it’s kind. These dedicated workers care for newborn kittens before they can be put up for adoption. Since they began the program in 2009, they have saved over 6000 kittens! Ideally this project wouldn’t be needed at all, but until then we can help them spread the word on how to slow down this breeding explosion.
Here are the top 5 ways to help your local shelters and community rescue groups:
SPAY & NEUTER YOUR PETS!!! – Legally a kitten can be fixed when it is 2 pounds in weight and at least 2 months old. There are so many benefits to having your cat fixed besides eliminating reproduction, such as reducing aggression and possible infections in life.
VOLUNTEER – Your local shelter not only needs hands on assistance and time from you, but supplies and donations. Remember this is something you can feel good about doing ALL YEAR, not just during kitten season.
HELP MANAGE FERAL/STRAY POPULATIONS – Your community may have colonies or cat communites of strays and ferals that all require spay/neutering or at the very least, help maintaining the truly feral cats that have been TNR’d (Trap/Neuter/Return) that are not adoptable. These cats need shelters, food and monitoring for any medical issues that may arise.
FOSTER – If you can help by opening your home and heart to fostering either adult cats or kittens, please consider doing so! Many groups will help with the costs of this and it can help animals that may not allow their truly loving purrsonalities show in a shelter enviornment.
ADOPT! – Whenever you find your life is in need of a loving, furever friend, please ADOPT, DON’T SHOP! Help clear out the shelters so they can focus on continuing their life saving efforts for the other millions of felines in need.
My first kitten rescue mission in Illinois!