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It’s Kitten Season! Here’s How You Can Help Our Feline Friends

Late spring to early summer is known as kitten season, meaning shelters are bursting with newborn kittens (often without a mother). Sounds cute, right? Unfortunately, wrong.

Newborn kittens need around-the-clock care that they would normally get from their attentive mama cat. Because most shelters do not have the resources and personnel to keep these kittens healthy and alive, neonatal kittens are among the most euthanized shelter populations. This prevents the kittens from suffering and the shelter from depriving care to preexisting animals.

If you’re a cat lover itching to help, here are some ways to help stop neonatal euthanasia.

1. Fostering

Fostering a kitten or kittens entails providing that personalized, around-the-clock care that shelters can’t. But this commitment is only temporary and usually funded by the shelter or foster program. You would be the caretaker of kittens anywhere from days old to around 8 weeks old. Once the babies are big enough to get spayed or neutered, they’ll be adopted to their furrr-ever home!

I know, some of you are saying “I couldn’t do that. I’d get too attached.” I thought this, too. But saving a life, multiple lives, makes letting them go a not a sad moment, but a proud and happy one. (Plus, cats that young don’t really remember us. They just want love and food from someone!)

Fostering also means your house will have adorable kittens all the time. You get them at their youngest, watch them grow through their cutest phases, send them to a loving home, then start the process over again! The cuteness never ends and your loves touches so many more little lives.

If you or a friend are interested in fostering kittens, please reach out to a local shelter to ask about their program. I am particularly fond of the Orphan Kitten Project run through the UC Davis Vet Med School, and they are always looking for dedicated fosters! Contact them here.

2. TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return)

I’m sure you’ve seen cats all around your town or community. Some are friendly and others aren’t socialized to humans (AKA feral). Either way, these cats are the source of kitten season. People don’t realize that these cats need to be spayed and neutered just like domesticated cats.

When these cats’ reproductive systems are left intact, they are biologically inclined to add to the most vulnerable population: newborn kittens. This leaves mother cats to give birth in harsh conditions, often exposing the babies to insurmountable elements. Male cats are often prone to uncontrollable mental states, endangering their lives to chase down a female cat in heat — sometimes leading to injury.

So, in order to prevent the suffering of adult cats and tiny kittens, many shelters have TNR programs! These programs are composed of volunteers that go out into the community and humanely trap community cats. They then bring them to a vet or shelter to be spayed or neutered and given an ear tip (i.e., a small piece of the cat’s ear — that they don’t need — is cut to signify they have already been S/N). The cats are then released back into their community!

Now, I’m sure there are some of you asking “Why don’t they adopt those cats out to a home? Why would a cat want to be outside?” Well, the answer is simple: those cats don’t want to be in our house because they have created a full and happy life outside. A lot of people feed local cats and offer small shelters for them, but a lot of these cats do not want to be around humans AT ALL.

It’s also important to realize that spaying and neutering cats cuts down on the never-ending stream of newborn kittens. This prevents the need to euthanize kittens and makes sure no baby is born in harsh conditions or left to suffer from disease on the street.

Here, you may say “Well, I like kittens. I don’t want to end the kitten and cat population.” But, no matter how many cats we TNR, we will never stop cats from reproducing; the population grows far too quickly. Our goal is to simply decrease the number of deaths and the amount of pain our feline friends experience.

Most shelters also have a TNR program, so reach out to the shelter nearest you to see how you can easily stop cats from suffering, even if you don’t have room in your home for a fur baby!

One last tip: if you ever find a litter of kittens outside, WAIT a few hours to see if a mother is still taking care of them. The mamas will leave to feed themselves for a bit, but this doesn’t mean they are abandoning the kittens. If a mother is still present, contact a local shelter ASAP so they can work on trapping the mom and collecting the kittens. No one is better at taking care of kittens than a cat mama. Because of this, foster programs try to keep the mom with the babies in a foster home until the kittens wean. In short, be patient and try to keep babies and mom together!

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