With springtime just around the corner, those of us involved in animal rescue start to worry about the annual phenomenon known as “kitten season.” Kitten season, starting in early spring, peaking in late spring or early summer, and lasting into October, is the time of year when cats give birth, flooding animal shelters with homeless cats and kittens.
With high numbers of free-roaming un-spayed and un-neutered cats in our region, shelters can soon expect to see a deluge of kittens, which puts a tremendous strain on already limited resources — staff, food, money for veterinary care and space. As shelters struggle to house as many cats as possible, the risk of disease increases dramatically, especially among highly vulnerable newborn kitten populations.
The influx of kittens also means that difficult decisions must be made about which kittens and cats can be saved. The number of kittens The Humane Society of Port Jervis/Deerpark takes in during kitten season almost always outweighs the number of people ready to adopt them. Those kittens that don’t get adopted right away often grow up within the shelter. Our shelter has friendly young adult cats in the shelter right now that arrived during last year’s kitten season. Chances are good that they will be overlooked for adoption as kittens start arriving soon.
How can you help? It’s simple; spay and neuter your own cat and encourage others to do the same. Hormone-driven unaltered cats tend to sneak outdoors in search of mates. Mating just once can start a domino effect that can result in hundreds of unwanted animals. Cats reach reproductive maturity between 4 and 6 months. With an average gestation period of just 64 days, female cats can easily have several litters of kittens per year. Spaying and neutering is the only way to stop this cycle, whether the cats are owned pets, free-roaming strays, or feral cats.
If you find a litter of kittens, leave them where you found them! Female cats often hide their kittens in safe places while they go off hunting for food — sometimes for hours. If you find only one or two kittens, chances are good that mom is in the process of moving the litter. In the very rare event that the mother cat doesn’t return, consider taking the kittens in and caring for them yourself until they are at least 8 weeks of age. The mortality rate for younger kittens is extremely high, especially in a shelter environment. Information about caring for kittens and moms with kittens can be found online at: http://www.2chance.info/felinelabor.htm, www.2chance.info/orphankitten.htm, http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/newborn-kitten-care. You can also call the Humane Society of Port Jervis at 845-856-3677 for advice and assistance. Our goal is to keep young kittens out of the shelter until about 8 weeks of age to allow us to provide the best possible opportunity for these animals. We hope that the community will partner with us to help make that happen. And of course, donations for the care of kittens are always needed and welcome at 202 Route 209, Port Jervis, NY 12771.