Spring is in the air and unfortunately, this means kitten season is in full swing. Female cats can get pregnant up to FIVE times a year. Each litter can range from one to 12, with the average litter size being four kittens. This means a single female cat can produce an average of 20 kittens in a single year. What does this mean for you? If you have an un-spayed or un-neutered cat, please keep them inside. A female cat that slips out for even a few hours while in heat, can become impregnated. We absolutely encourage you to spay or neuter your pet, but we understand that certain illnesses can prevent this from being a safe option.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you do happen to come across a litter of kittens. If they are in a box or container, it is highly likely that they were left there by a human. We plead with you to take these kittens to a shelter as soon as possible. Many people abandon young kittens to avoid the hassle of raising them or finding them decent, safe homes. Without knowing how long they have been abandoned for, they may be dehydrated or starving. If the kittens are in a natural setting – typically under a shed or hidden in bushes, it is more likely that their mother is a feral cat. These mothers return to their kittens every 3 hours and usually remain in the vicinity to keep an eye on their litter, but far enough away so as not to draw the attention of predators. The best approach in this situation is to keep an eye out for the mother to ensure she is returning to feed and care for her kittens. If the mother does not return, please reach out to a local shelter. It is unlikely that the mother abandoned her kittens, but she could be injured and unable to return. Young kittens will need to be bottle fed as frequently as every two hours, so it is essential to get them help as soon as you can. If the mother is returning, we encourage you to go ahead and reach out to a shelter to see if they offer any services to help keep the mother and kittens safe. Some shelters have foster programs, so that they can get these animals out of the wild and into loving homes.
Even if the mother does return, many shelters provide a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) service. With the assistance of local residents, they will use live traps to capture the animals, spay or neuter them, and then return them to their habitat. This helps them from reproducing and can help reduce the spread of feline diseases. It is important to remember that shelters are overrun every year with kittens and puppies from unwanted litters, so prevention is key in saving lives.