By Gina Hardter
As the weather grows warmer, we will be entering “kitten season,” and the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria anticipates an increase in the number of kittens seen across the community. But how can residents best help these young cats?
If a kitten appears healthy, leave it alone. This is the recommendation of veterinarians and animal welfare professionals across the country, and it is the recommendation of the AWLA.
Kittens thrive best in the care of their mothers, and even if you do not see a mother with the kitten, the fact that it appears to be in good health demonstrates that it is being cared for and likely has not been abandoned. Kittens should only be brought to the AWLA in cases of emergency, i.e. if the kittens are visibly sick or injured, trapped or otherwise in danger or appear to have been abandoned by their mother.
If you have any questions about the welfare of a kitten found in the City of Alexandria, you should not handle it. Instead, contact AWLA at 703-746-6525. The shelter can provide guidance or send an animal services officer to determine if the kitten is in need of help. But if a kitten is healthy and being cared for, it is safest staying with its mother until it reaches eight to 10 weeks of age, at which time it will be able to survive on its own.
By allowing kittens to remain where you find them, you also limit the person-to-person contact that can spread COVID-19, by avoiding the need to interact with shelter staff, foster families caring for the kittens and veterinarians providing regular-care and spay or neuter surgeries. At this time, it is more important than ever to leave healthy kittens alone, both for their own sake, as well as that of your neighbors and friends.
For more information about kitten season or how to help found kittens in your community, please contact the AWLA at [email protected] For more information about caring for animals during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the University of Wisconsin’s UWShelterMedicine.com.
The writer is director of marketing and communications for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.