Spring brings kitten season

We’re raising awareness and educating owners to avoid unnecessary kitten season injury, illness and deaths.

The change of seasons has brought forth one of the most challenging parts of the year for animal rescuers and animal lovers alike. As with every spring, mating season is fast approaching as animals begin their reproductive cycles with the warmer weather. Though this is usually a positive event for most animal species, it is not quite as joyous for cats. 

The cat breeding cycle has been coined “kitten season” for the overwhelming number of kittens that are born in only a short span of a few weeks. This can also extend further, with the highest birth rates happening from April to June. During this time, non-spayed cats will be looking for mates and will become more aggressive and territorial. This is especially more prevalent in female cats.

So, you might be wondering – why do I care about this? Or why should I be concerned? Isn’t pregnancy and birth a natural part of life? Well, of course. But circumstances are different for house cats. Because cats are domestic, they are not meant to live in the wild. Cats have been bred for centuries for domesticity, similar to most modern dog breeds. But cats are not endemic to any outside environment. Regardless of how much they might enjoy the outdoors, they directly affect nearby ecosystems when allowed to roam free. Cats regularly hunt for sport, which affects local flora and fauna. This has been single-handedly known to decrease certain bird populations, including near-extinct species.

The problems don’t just stop with the local ecosystems, they also directly affect cats. Free-roaming fertile cats can mate multiple times if left unattended and can give birth to litters of anywhere between 3 to 10 kittens. Female cats can also become pregnant immediately after giving birth. This accompanied by non-neutered strays and non-neutered free-roam cats creates an unprecedented number of births. This forces cats to give birth in unclean and sometimes unsafe areas, which can make both the mother and kittens sick. There is also a higher risk of contracting UTIs, upper respiratory and eye infections, which can be deadly if left untreated. 

In Tacoma, kittens are being rescued almost daily since March, a month earlier than usual. Single kittens accidentally left behind by mothers, entire orphaned litters and mothers only a few months of age with their kittens have been the most common cases. Let it be known that a great percentage of these rescued mothers and kittens suffer from URIs and eye infections. A particularly sad case involved The Humane Society of Tacoma, where a small kitten was found with his abdomen sliced open. Being born in an unsafe location, veterinarians thought a sharp metal fence could have caused the laceration. After extensive care and emergency surgery, the kitten (now named Patches) has made a slow recovery. He was also found to suffer from internal fractures and osteoarthritis, which could require additional surgery.

This is only one of the thousands of cases where newborn kittens are born into sickness and life-long health conditions. All of this could be avoided with the proper care of domestic and stray cats. If you have your own cats, keep them inside! Only allow them to be outside on a leash or under careful supervision. Second, if you have no plans on caring for a litter of kittens, spay your cats! It will not only prevent unwanted pregnancies during kitten season but also prevent UTIs for the duration of their lives. Third, rescue your local strays! Even if certain cats are too feral to be tamed, they will only be able to live healthy and full lives if they are spayed. So, make sure to contact your local pet rescue to ensure that they are treated for any potential illnesses and neutered. You might even help find them a loving home. 

Lastly, if you encounter orphaned kittens during this time, contact local rescuers right away. Unless you are experienced in caring for kittens, you should always let professionals care for them instead. Kittens require around-the-clock care for the first few weeks of their birth. Including being fed milk every two hours, simulated licks in order to help them go to the bathroom and help them bathe (a warm towel can be used for this), along with constant warmth until they are ready to open their eyes. Therefore, it’s also encouraged to seek professional care when rescuing an entire litter. 

The Humane Society of Tacoma & Pierce County has been extremely busy for the past few months rescuing and finding homes for over 200 kittens. If you are interested in this cause and would like to help, a donation page dedicated to gathering funds for the proper care of these rescued kittens will be linked below. They estimate a total of about $62,000 will be spent for the next few months in order to continue supplying the rehabilitation these kittens will need. Other than that, if you’re a cat owner, be conscious of how your cat can affect the outside world. 

Consider following the advice given above, and keep your eyes peeled for any stray kittens. Most importantly, spread the word, raise awareness & keep all kitties safe by practicing responsible fur-baby parenting! 

Kitten Shower – The Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County