Here’s How You Can Help Shelters This Spring

Spring is undoubtedly the most delightful season for many of us. The blistering cold is finally over, flowers are in bloom, and we can now spend more time outside. (At least in our gardens, anyway!) But for animal shelters and animal rescuers, spring can be the most challenging season of the year. The reason for this is that spring marks the start of the kitten season.

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What is kitten season?

Kitten season is typically when most un-spayed cats go into heat. For most countries, the season starts from March and goes on until October. For warmer countries, this season can go on until the end of the year. It’s during this season that male cats can impregnate un-spayed female cats as young as four months. These cats then give birth to a litter of kittens after about 66 days. 

Feline litters can vary from one to more than 10, but according to experts, factors such as the mother’s age and health, as well as both parents’ genetic histories, influence the size of the litter. 

  • Young or first-time cats typically produce a smaller litter of up to three kittens
  • Siamese-type cat breeds often have larger litters
  • Persian-type cat breeds often have smaller litters
  • Cats can give birth to more than one litter of kittens at once if they had mated with different male cats in one week

Cats are also prolific breeders, so the un-spayed cat will continue reproducing until the cold weather sets in. By the end of the spring season, some cats will have birthed 12 to 18 kittens. According to Guinness World Records, the world’s largest litter of domestic cats was 19 born to a Burmese/Siamese queen in Oxfordshire in the UK.

What does this mean for animal shelters?

For cat lovers, having a few little paws in your home may be wonderful. After all, kittens are cute, furry, and adorable. However, cats cost money. It’s reported that you can care for a cat for as low as $162 per year, though many pet parents end up spending about $800 annually. For this reason, many pet owners end up giving some or the majority of their litter to rescues. For animal rescue centers and shelters, the kitten season can therefore be a real strain on resources. 

L.A. County and city shelters receive hundreds of kittens a day in the spring. In Los Angeles, 90% of the almost 34,000 kittens that enter shelters each year, arrive during this time period. 

At Tri-Valley Animal Rescue we are a humane animal rescue, and work voluntarily to care for and end suffering for stray or neglected animals. It is a sad statistic to read therefore that each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals in the U.S. are euthanized.   In L.A. alone, hundreds, possibly thousands, of kittens in the spring and summer are euthanized during the cat mating season. This is because it is impossible for animal shelters to deal with so many intakes in the already overpopulated spaces.

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What can you do to help?

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 40 million stray cats on the streets in the U.S.   Shockingly, only 2% of these felines are spayed or neutered.  Annually about 80% of all US kittens are born to these unaltered stray cats and finding a good home for all of them is difficult. This spring, you can help control the cat overpopulation cycle by:

  1. Ensuring your cat is neutered or spayed

If you have a furry pet, make sure they are neutered or spayed.  Cats can be neutered when they are as young as four months. This also includes your indoor cat since it takes just a few minutes for a cat on heat to sneak out and mate.

  1. Leave orphaned kittens where you find them

Most people think when they find kittens in the outdoors they should rush them to shelters.  This however couldn’t be further from the truth, as this often results in separating the kitten from their mother. Kittens that are taken to shelters when they’re too young have to be fed manually. They also need assistance in urinating and defecating. The kittens with their fragile immune systems need round the clock attention, which is a major challenge to understaffed shelters. 

Stray kittens are better left where they are. What you can do is to keep watch and wait for the mother to come back. You can also contact your local trap-neuter-return (TNR) clinic. The clinic will loan you a trap that you can use to catch stray cats. These trapped cats are then taken to be spayed or neutered then returned where you found them.

  1. Foster a cat

When you foster a cat, you get to take care of the pet until they are old enough to be adopted. Fostering a kitten helps reduce the number of cats in an animal shelter.  It also helps open some space for cats that need to be rescued. Fostering also helps save lives as the shelter now has more time to take care of felines that require extra attention, such as those with medical conditions. 

  1. Donate to a shelter or rescue

If you can’t foster a cat, maybe you could consider donating to your local shelter or rescue. Some of the donations that most shelters would appreciate include:

  • Money
  • Blankets
  • Old newspapers
  • Feeding and water bowls
  • Towels
  • Cat food

Your local shelter or rescue may have an Amazon wish list, which you can use to purchase supplies that they need.

  1. Adopt a kitten

Another way of helping this kitten season is by adopting a kitten. The spring season is probably the best time to adopt a cat, as local shelters are most likely overwhelmed by the high number of cats coming through their doors.  Adopting helps free up space at the shelter while you get a bundle of fur for a lifetime friend. 

Cats are adorable creatures. Unfortunately, during the kitten season, the increase in feline’s population can become a challenge, especially to animal shelters. This spring, you can stop the cat overpopulation cycle by following the advice given above. If you are interested in adopting one of our beautiful animals please submit an application or chat to us at contact@tvar.org. We will get back to you on a case by case basis.

East County Animal Shelter (ECAS) is closed to the public but you can call (925) 803-7040 regarding lost pets.  Thank you for your interest and support for the animals during this difficult time.

Author – Kristin Woodbury: Covering the pet world for more than 10 years, Kristin has been an editor/writer for a wide variety of pet magazines and websites from the rabbits to parrots to cats and dogs. Her advisory team of Southern Cross Vet — help keep her on top of the latest and greatest pet health research, training and products.