Summer Is Coming Up — And So Is "Kitten Season"

Cat lovers, especially those who do kitty rescue, dread summertime. Learn what you can do to help with overpopulation in shelters.

By: metaphoricalplatypus
Kittens are abundant this time of year. By: metaphoricalplatypus

Even though I’m a dog person, I love kittens.

Warm, wiggly bellies, tiny little (razor-sharp) teeth, kitten breath, kitten mouth (rawr rawr rawr), piles of sleeping kittens, kittens playing with toys, kittens who see themselves in a reflective surface for the first time, puff up and jump sideways … kittens are so cute!

But from May to October, I don’t like seeing kittens at all.

Kitten Season

Summer is known as “kitten season” because the warm weather acts as a catalyst for bringing intact female cats into heat, usually every 3 weeks. One female cat can squeeze out at least 2 litters during these months, many of whom will be euthanized because of lack of space in the shelters.

Wait, what? Perfectly adorable little bundles of happiness are killed? For such a ridiculous reason as limited space? That’s not possible! They’re so cute that they get adopted right away, right?

Wrong. If you’ve never visited an animal shelter in June, you might not be able to imagine the hordes of kittens up for adoption. It’s cute, but it’s sad at the same time, knowing that not all the kitties will get homes.

Mama Cats at Risk

What about the mother cats? Once their litters have been placed, the momma cats need homes, too.

But who wants a adult cat when they can adopt a fluffy little wee kitten instead? The same is true for the other adult cats in the shelter — the euthanasia rate for this population jumps considerably during warmer months.

And forget about feral litters that good Samaritans bring to the shelter. If the kittens are young enough and still healthy, they will probably find homes, but the mama cats will almost certainly be euthanized.

Most feral litters aren’t healthy. It’s common for kittens to have conjunctivitis and upper respiratory infections, especially ferals. Although both illnesses are easily treatable with a course of wide-spectrum antibiotics, infected kittens are usually euthanized immediately unless a rescue takes them. Shelters simply don’t have the budgets to treat all those sick kittens.

By: gcd
Some kittens get separated from their mother and need to be bottle-fed. By: gcd

How You Can Help

If you’d like to take a stand against the animal overpopulation problem, especially during kitten season, here’s how you can help:

  • Spay and neuter your cats, even if they never go outdoors. As soon as a kitten is 2 months old and weighs 2 pounds, he or she can safely be altered.
  • Donate funds, supplies and time to your local cat rescue or animal shelter.
  • Volunteer to bottle-feed homeless kittens for your local rescue or shelter. Although it’s a lot of work, the sight of a tiny kitten sucking milk out of a baby bottle is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.
  • Volunteer for an animal rescue. If possible, take an entire litter. Better yet, foster hard-to-place adult cats, who seldom get adopted during kitten season.
  • Practice TNR (trap, neuter, return) with feral cat colonies, which means trapping them, having them spayed or neutered and vaccinated, and then returning them to their habitats. The life of a feral cat is pretty dismal, but at least she won’t create more feral cats.
  • Adopt your own cat, especially an adult one. If you opt for kittens, keep in mind that 2 are better than 1. Not only will they keep each other company, but they will delight you with their antics. Try Petful’s adoption search engine — you can search by ZIP code.

One of the best ways to help is to spread the word about the importance of spaying or neutering cats. The best argument I’ve found is this: You might think having “just 1 litter” isn’t that much of a problem, but if even 1 female cat is left intact, she and her offspring can produce thousands of cats. Yikes!

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