Animal welfare organizations across the country are bracing for what is likely to be one of the most challenging “Kitten Seasons” to date. While many of us saw firsthand the impact of COVID-19 on the human population, many may have forgotten some of the pandemic’s tiniest victims: quarantine kittens. With many spay and neuter surgeries postponed or canceled in 2020, an increased number of stray or community cats were left fertile. As a result, many of them are now either expecting or have given birth, all while remaining homeless. Each year as the weather warms, shelters anticipate a wave of kitten births, known as “Kitten Season”. However, given the previous year’s lack of spays, they now find themselves preparing for a tsunami. The only hope for these kittens to grow into healthy adult cats is the combined effort of the entire community.
The first line of defense in the fight for kitten safety will be their mothers. These moms have an incredible instinct that, in most cases, allows them to provide the exact care their babies need. They leave their young in what they believe are safe, sheltered spaces, nurse them, and teach them how to survive. With such skilled caretakers, human intervention is often unnecessary if the mother is present. While you may find what appears to be a motherless litter, more often than not, the mother will return. She may be out looking for food for herself and her babies. The best thing you can do if you believe you have found an orphaned litter is what is often referred to as the “watch and wait” method.
To “watch and wait”, you can observe the litter from a safe distance to see if the mother comes back, or you can sprinkle some flour or cornstarch around where the litter is located and check for the mother’s paw prints over time. It is critical to remember that kittens should only be moved if they are truly abandoned or in immediate danger. The mother cat provides the best source of nutrition and care for growing kittens.
If the litter has indeed been orphaned, the finder of the litter becomes the next line of defense. SICSA does take kittens into the adoption program during kitten season, but like many shelters, we do become overwhelmed with the number of requests. Finders who are willing to become fosters are an invaluable resource in helping us rescue more kittens. Resources for caring for abandoned kittens can be found on our website. SICSA also offers over the phone and in person coaching on kitten care, as well as “Kitten Kit” supplies to help with their care. While donations are always accepted and appreciated, these services and supplies are generally provided at no cost to the community.
SICSA encourages spay/neuter of owned pets and TNRM (Trap, Neuter, Return, Monitor) of community cats as the most effective and humane method of population control. You can find more information about our TNRM program on our website. Female cats can become pregnant as early as 4 months of age, and again shortly after delivering kittens so this step is truly critical in reducing multiple litters of kittens each season.
If you would like to donate supplies for our “Kitten Kits”, please visit our Amazon Foster Wish List.