Kitten Season: How to Help

Kitten season occurs when cats go into heat and start birthing litters. Although it can happen year-round, it intensifies during the hotter months. In the warm weather of Fresno, kitten season starts as early as March. Continue reading on to learn more about kitten season and the role you can play to help shelters and rescues near you.

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WAYS YOU CAN HELP:

During kitten season, shelters and rescues almost always find themselves at max capacity simply due to the sheer volume of kittens that are birthed. However, you don’t need to wait until kitten season to help out your local shelters/rescues. Here are three ways you can help out right now:

TNR (Trap, Neuter, and Return)

Did you know that a female cat can birth as much as five litters in one year, and each litter can be as little as one kitten to as many as 12 kittens! Cats can also go into heat as young as 4 months old and they can continue giving birth (or impregnating other cats) as long as they are unspayed/unneutered. That’s a lot of kittens!

If you live in communities where you see stray cats, even if it’s just one, consider TNR. What this means is that you trap the cats, get them spayed/neutered, and then return them back to their original place. In this way, you are ensuring that these cats don’t repopulate even more kittens in the future! You may not think that trapping that one cat you always see roaming around might not make a difference, but it really does!

By doing TNR, you also help alleviate space in shelters/rescues. Most adult cats that are strays/ferals will already be past the age of socialization, and being placed in a shelter environment may actually do them more harm than good. If you TNR, the cats are spayed/neutered and then returned to their original cat life where they know best how to thrive.

If you don’t have the tools to TNR, or don’t know how, check with local resources as there may all ready be a community group near you who will help TNR strays/feral cats. If you’re worried about the cost it might take to spay/neuter a cat, always check with local vets or vet hospitals near you as they may have spay/neuter specials just for TNR’d cats. Of course, Valley Animal Center’s low-cost clinic also performs spay/neuters for ferals for as little as $40.

Learn more about TNR HERE from the Kitten Lady!

FOSTER

Sign up to foster at your local shelter/rescue. By fostering, you help shelters and rescues take on the care of kittens (or other animals in need) and alleviate facility space. You don’t need to wait until kitten season to sign up to be a foster! At Valley Animal Center, we are always striving to build our foster parent list and our need for foster can change on a day-to-day basis, even outside of kitten season. Sign up to be a foster with us HERE.

Although you can foster year-round, fostering is especially vital during kitten season as there is often an influx of orphan kittens. These are kittens who either have been separated or no longer have a momma cat to care for them, leaving these kittens very vulnerable. These kittens can be newborn kittens to a few weeks old. Newborn kittens especially require care and feeding every 2-3 hours, which is something a momma cat would normally provide. Shelters and rescues are often not well-equipped, or do not have enough staff, to care for tiny kittens like these that need constant care. It is through the help of foster parents that these vulnerable lives are given a chance to be saved.

DONATE

Shelters/Rescues appreciate donations year-round, but kitten season may be a time when donations are very much needed. Whether you donate time, money, or in-kind items, it is always appreciated!

Did you know that Valley Animal Center has an Amazon Foster Wishlist? You can shop HERE to donate in-kind items! We appreciate items such as pop-up tents, miracle nipples, wet kitten/puppy food, and even items like baby Gerber food (pumpkin puree) to help us with our fosters.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND KITTENS:

As the name kitten season suggests, expect to see more kittens! Because cats mate and produce kittens when the weather is warm, you might find yourself in a situation where you chance upon a litter of kittens! Do you:

a. Scoop up the kittens?
b. Call animal control?
c. Leave them alone?
d. Wait and watch?

The answer is, it depends.

Our gut instincts may be to help move or pick up these kittens, but STOP! We know such instincts come from a good place and good intentions but you might be doing more harm than good when you pick up kittens you find.

When you see a litter of kittens, you always want to stop and assess their conditions. If the kittens look clean and alert, chunky and well-fed, and they aren’t in distress, it’s most likely that momma cat is nearby. Mom cats will leave their litter at times to hunt/search for their own food, or she’s looking for a new place to bring her kittens. So, if the kittens look well-off and they aren’t in immediate danger, resist the urge to move them. The last thing you’d want is momma cat to come back and not find her kittens!

Additionally, when you separate a momma cat from her kittens, you drastically decrease the kittens’ survival chances. This is especially true for unweaned kittens who still need to rely on the nutrients from their mother’s milk. Nutrients from kitten formula, or any milk replacement, are far less inferior than what kittens would get from momma cat. Kittens who are fed with formula are often half the size of a kitten the same age who was fed by a mom cat. Such kittens are also more susceptible to health complications such as diarrhea and even certain illnesses. It’s important to always keep momma cat with her kittens whenever possible.

If you find a litter of kittens that look healthy and are not in distress, but you are still worried, you can always keep an eye out. We highly suggest you wait at least six to eight hours before making any decision to move the kittens.

In the case that momma cat isn’t around, or the kittens you find are dirty, visibly underweight, and/or they are in distress or medical crisis, it can be safe to assume the kittens are orphaned and need intervention!

If intervention is needed, you have some options. If you are able to, you can foster these kittens and care for them before finding them a home. There are also many animal lovers online who you can seek help and support from. You can also contact animal control or animal shelters/rescues who are licensed to take in the kittens. Please understand, however, that during kitten season, shelters/rescues may be at max capacity and may not be able to immediately help. If that is the case, consider temporarily fostering the kittens, and checking again a few days later to see if space has freed up.

IMPACTS OF FOSTERING:

When we say fostering saves lives, we mean it! Whether it’s fostering with us or a shelter/rescue near you, please know that you ARE making a difference, especially during kitten season.

At Valley Animal Center, our day-to-day shelter capacity can comfortably accommodate 100 dogs and 300 cats, and our emergency capacity can accommodate 200 dogs and 500 cats. However, our capacity can max out quickly once kitten season starts.

When we are at max capacity, it is only through the help of our foster families that we are able to free up space and rescue more animals. By fostering with us, you not only give immediate help to the animals you care for, but you alleviate space in our shelter so that we are able to rescue another animal that may need us. Without our foster families, we would not be able to rescue as many animals as we have.

During kitten season, we also see an increase in orphaned kittens. These are kittens who, due to a variety of possible circumstances, no longer have their momma cat to care for them. Kittens, especially newborn kittens (referred to as bottle babies), are at a vulnerable age and cannot fend for themselves. These kittens would need to be fed and stimulated to potty every 2-3 hours. Normally, it is momma cat who would provide for their needs. Without mom around, a kitten’s survival rate is drastically reduced.

Shelters/rescues are often not equipped, or may just not have enough staff, to take on the care of young kittens who need 24 hour constant assistance. This is truly where foster families make a vital difference. When you foster bottle baby kittens or puppies, you essentially help give them a second chance at life.

EMOTIONAL SIDE OF FOSTERING:

Saying goodbye to your fosters can also be bittersweet, especially if you’ve been with your fosters since they were itty bitty babies. Feeling heartache, or sadness, at the end of your fostering term is normal, and being attached to your fosters is completely understandable! If anything, it’s a sign that you’ve fully loved and cared for your fosters.

However, just know that your role as a foster is part of a bigger picture: finding your fosters a furever home! Without you fostering, the animals in your care may have not been able to get their second chance at being adopted into a loving, furever home. We can tell you that all of our foster kittens and puppies that came back to us were all adopted! As a foster, you might not be the furever home, but your temporary love and care is vital to their survival.

As much as fostering is a rewarding experience, it can be emotionally (and physically) draining. Although we love our foster families, we also encourage you to take breaks from fostering when you need them. It’s important you take care of yourself. Our animals thrive best when you are at your best!

VALLEY ANIMAL CENTER’S FOSTER CARE PROGRAM:

At Valley Animal Center, we are always in need of fosters, especially fosters for our bottle babies who need care around the clock. Fostering periods last anywhere from 2-10 weeks depending on which animals you foster. Whether you have years of fostering experience, just a little, or none at all, we welcome you to foster with us! We provide all the basic necessities such as food, kitty litter, and even blankets. If you’re ever low on supplies during your fostering period (or even if you need the blankets washed), you can always come to us to restock.

When you foster with us, you will also receive the direct contact information of our staff who will be easily accessible to you should you have any concerns or if something occurs during your fostering period that you need advice on. You are never alone during your fostering period with Valley Animal Center. Our staff is here for you!

Even if you currently own pets of your own, you can foster! Worried how your pets will adjust? When you foster with us, we always have you keep your fosters quarantined from your pets for 2 weeks, just to be safe. During that time frame, if you notice your pets are stressed or feeling any type of way, you can always reach back out to us and we can make other arrangements. The last thing we would want is to stress your pets!

If you’re worried about not having the time, please don’t automatically reject yourself! There are so many types of foster animals that need your help. We will only ever give you fosters that will match your lifestyle and the time you know you can care for them! You can also choose to foster animals in specific categories such as fostering only kittens/puppies who have been weaned as opposed to bottle babies.

Becoming a foster parent doesn’t require you to have a lot of space. If you’re fostering bottle babies or even just young puppies/kittens, all you may really need is a tiny corner of a room for them to sleep, eat, and play! All we really need from you is your time and love for our animals who need your help.

If you have any questions or concerns, or just want more information, please don’t hesitate to contact our Animal Care Operations Supervisor, Maritza, at maritza.lopez@valleyanimal.org.

 


 

Valley Animal Center is dedicated to serving animal companions in the Central Valley and beyond. Our mission is to unite dogs and cats with loving people. We believe every animal deserves a loving family and furever home. Through our membership-based dog park and our low-cost clinic, we also provide local and accessible resources and services to the animal lovers and pet communities while rescuing animals in need from local animal control agencies.