Spring is here and we are slowly rolling into summer. Among the many things that are special to spring and summer, here is one more. Spring’s long days bring in many kittens – lots and lots of them!
Animal shelters from the Carolinas to California brace themselves for what can be only thought of as a downpour of kittens. The season is fondly known as “kitten season.” So, why the sudden increase in kitten population in April every year?
This is the time of the year – it starts in early spring and drags on to early fall – when litter after litter of homeless kittens and pregnant cats come pouring in to the shelters, and shelters scramble to accommodate them all.
We all love the cute purrs and even more awesome cuddles they give us, but the consequence of over-population is anything but cute. The sad truth is that many of these poor kittens are born on the streets – in dirty alleys, behind dumpsters, etc. Some of these ill-fated kittens start life in rural areas, where they have the least chance of being rescued.
These homeless kittens have a low chance of survival if not rescued, and most of them suffer and die at the hands of cruel people, being struck down by cars, succumbing to extremes in weather, or contracting deadly diseases.
“According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 75 percent of free-roaming kittens disappear or die before they are 6 months old. The 25 percent who manage to survive to this age will likely have litters of their own, creating even more kittens with nowhere to go.”
A dark truth is that, even when some kittens do get an accommodation, the older cats that have been at the shelter for a while must be euthanized to make space. However, shelters with limited-admission avoid this situation completely by turning animals away when they reach capacity, leaving the situation up to open-admission shelters to accommodate the overwhelming numbers.
Neonatal kittens add an additional strain by requiring round-the-clock care and have to be bottle-fed frequently, as they come in without their mothers. This cannot be accomplished without the help of volunteers, and often times the volunteers are in short supply. Some shelters even go about organizing training sessions for foster families who take kittens home to care for, until they can be adopted.
We can all help alleviate kitten season by spreading awareness. Preventing the birth of more kittens is the best way. We know about the importance of spaying or neutering our own cats, and can can spread the word to our friends, relatives and neighbors.
Putting off spaying can result in “oops” litters. Did you know that kittens can become mothers themselves, and as early as 4 months! A cat that is not spayed can lead to a staggering 370,000 kittens in just seven years! Males are not that far behind either. Guardians of male cats must be aware that males can father kittens as early as 5 months of age. And one male can impregnate countless females!
Many communities offer low-cost or free spay-neuter clinics that further aid the cause, and participate in TNR programs. The import thing is to take the step to help stem the kitty population. Curbing the numbers of stray kittens being born will not only help the overcrowded shelters, it also puts an end to what could be a miserable life for those countless unborn kitties. One less defenseless kitten on the road equals a better life for a helpless kitten that is already in a shelter.
We hope that this spring, we are able to come together as a community, and do what we can to help snip “kitten season” in the bud.