Spring brings warm weather, longer daylight hours, and flowers and trees in full bloom. But there’s also a darker side to the arrival of spring, and it’s putting kittens and cats in danger.
Throughout the country, spring marks the beginning of “kitten season.” Cute as that sounds, “kitten season” is actually a bad thing, because it floods shelters and rescues with homeless kittens desperate for care. But many shelters just don’t have the space to cope with this deluge of animals, forcing some to resort to euthanasia. Read on for ways you can help shelters (and shelter pets) survive “kitten season” this year.
What is Kitten Season?
“Kitten season” is another way to describe cat mating season, which results in a seasonal tide of new kittens because cats – which reach sexual maturity at 5-6 months age and birth up to 5 litters a year – are prolific breeders. This makes it essential to neuter and spay your cats, which will otherwise contribute to this vicious cycle that keeps U.S. shelters dangerously full through the spring, summer, and (in especially warm places like Hawaii) early fall months.
What Do You Do If You Find A Stray Cat Or Kitten?
If you encounter a stray kitten outside, don’t touch it – because a newborn kitten’s best chance of survival is always with its mother. But watch the kittens from a safe distance to make sure the mama cat is coming back. If the mother cat hasn’t returned in 3 hours, it’s time for you to help.
“Every kitten needs to be fed every three hours at the max,” Eric Brown, cofounder and vice president of Arizona’s Homeless Animals Rescue Team (H.A.R.T.), told The Dodo. “Mom must return every three hours to feed her babies. Like clockwork, her body tells her to do so. If momma doesn’t return within that time frame something is wrong, and humans must intervene.”
How Can I Help Cats During Kitten Season?
1. Break the Cycle
Kitten season is compounded by people who don’t neuter or spay their cats, which contributes to shelter overcrowding. Make sure all of your pets are neutered or spayed and consider supporting trap-neuter-return (TNR) to help stray and feral cats.
2. Support Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)
TNR, or trap-neuter-return, is one of the best ways you can help community cats in your neighborhood. The basic idea is to set a humane trap for stray or feral cats, then take the animal to your humane society to be spayed or neutered – thus breaking the devastating cycle of “kitten season.”
Afterwards, the cat is released back into his colony, or – if he’s a relatively sociable stray – he could even be adopted. TNR (or Trap-neuter-adopt, in such cases) has been very successful in managing cat colony populations around the country. GreaterGood supports TNR efforts by providing the humane traps shelters and rescuers need to continue this important work. Please click here if you would like to help us support this project.
3. Become a Foster Parent
Rescuers are often desperate for foster parents during kitten season, when shelters and rescues struggle to accommodate the surge of animals in their care. If you’ve ever considered opening your home to a foster animal, kitten season is the perfect time to get started. Contact your local shelter or cat rescue to see how you can help.
4. Throw a “Kitten Shower”
Kitten showers are a great way to raise money and gifts for local shelters “expecting” an influx of kittens this summer and spring. Contact your local shelter for help creating a registry, then send party invitations to all your fellow animal-loving friends.
5. Help Us Bottle Feed Shelter Kittens
If you aren’t ready to throw an actual kitten shower but still want to help out, consider helping GreaterGood donate bottles and nutritious formula to newborn shelter kittens. These emergency care packages save lives by helping orphaned kittens survive their early days in the shelter without their mother’s milk.
Kitten season is a dangerous time for kittens and cats, but there are several things we can do to help needy animals. Spay and neuter your pets, donate to rescues and shelters, and considering opening your home to foster kittens. Following these easy steps will help make kitten season — and life in general — just a little bit safer for millions of homeless cats.
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