By Victoria Elliott
With each day in the spring, daylight hours get longer, flowers begin to blossom and kitten season comes into full swing. While kitten season sounds like the most snuggly, adorable time of the year, it is a real challenge for local shelters and rescues.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals describes kitten season as ranging from March through October – making most of the year kitten season. During these months, the steady influx of kittens into shelter and rescue systems strains already tight resources: funds, fosters’ and volunteers’ energy and valuable cage space.
If not adopted while still cute kittens, in the best cases, they end up as adult cats stuck in the rescue system – in the worst cases, shelters without resources and no-kill missions resort to euthanasia.
Due to the social media popularity of kitten-specific rescuers like Kitten Lady, Hannah Shaw and her organization Orphan Kitten Club, neonate kittens (kittens under 4 weeks of age) and kitten care are getting increasing attention – and the message being shared by kitten rescuers is one of urgency.
Because neonate, orphaned, sick and special needs kittens require around-the-clock care and many shelters are not staffed to meet the needs of the most-vulnerable little ones, these kittens are at risk of euthanasia. Local no-kill rescues and independent fosters bridge the gap to provide education, care and a chance at life for these kittens, but they need help to meet those needs.
What you can do to help
Because intact females can become pregnant with multiple litters during a single season, trap-neuter-release efforts are one of the best ways to prevent kitten season population booms. Rescues and local TNR-specific organizations can provide the necessary services of stabilizing feral cat populations and preventing new litters from occurring.
You can help by volunteering with a shelter. Rescues need administrative assistance, social media, photography, cage cleaners, educational outreach and event organizers – to name a few of the ways that your specific skills can help.
Many rescues provide more specialized training to volunteers in fostering, vaccinations and providing medical care.
If you’re up for a more serious commitment, you could foster. However, neonate, sick or disabled kittens may require around-the-clock care. The reward of saving the lives of litters of kittens in need makes the work worthwhile to those who choose to provide this care.
Local rescues provide training and support to new fosters. Providing care does not have to be a long-term commitment – just a few weeks of foster care can help kittens avoid illness in shelters and have a safe, warm environment to begin their lives thriving.
All the above ways to help require resources, and the number one resource is funds. Your local shelter or rescue will be grateful for any donation you can make.
A one-time way to help
You can also plan a “kitten shower,” which is a relatively simple fundraiser to help your local kitten care facility. To do so:
Contact your local shelter or rescue to find out what their needs are for kitten season, such as kitten nursing bottles, beds or toys.
Use photos from the rescue or take your own of the season’s “crop” of kittens to show the attendees the kittens who will be benefitting from the event.
Be specific in saying what the rescue needs, and provide details as to when and where donations can be dropped off.
Use social media and local media to promote your event.
If you find kittens
Before doing anything else, observe the kittens for a few hours to find out if the mother cat is just away hunting. If possible, kittens should be kept with their mothers, the mother trapped and spayed, and mother and kittens brought into foster care.
If, after observation, you believe the kittens have been abandoned by their mother or are in danger or injured, bring them inside for care and contact your local shelter or rescue.
The writer is a volunteer with King Street Cats. For more information about King Street Cats, go to www.kingstreetcats.org