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A Cat Lovers Guide to Kitten Season

Unless you have worked for an animal shelter, you have likely not heard the term “kitten season.” As the name implies, this bit of jargon refers to the period between April and October when animal shelters are inundated with stray and unwanted kittens. Sadly, many of these kittens never reach an animal shelter, but instead perish from the elements. Those who survive too often become feral as they reach maturity. These feral cats then reproduce, thereby re-initiating the cycle of suffering.  Read on to learn how you can help homeless kittens this season:

This kitten was separated from his mother far too soon, and required around-the-clock care by NHES' flagship facility, The Briggs Animal Adoption Center, in order to survive.

This kitten was separated from his mother far too soon, and required around-the-clock care by NHES’ flagship facility, The Briggs Animal Adoption Center.

  • Spay and neuter your own pets. Cats can reproduce as early as 4 months of age, and can become pregnant every 4 months thereafter. If you have felines four months of age or older on your property, make sure they are spayed or neutered as soon as possible and that they do not have any exposure to other cats of the opposite sex prior to the animal’s spay or neuter surgery –the same goes for dogs.
  • Look out for kittens on the road. Spring through fall, you are more likely to see small kittens living along roadsides and highways. If you find a stray kitten on a roadside or elsewhere, and can safely transport the kitten to a local animal shelter, do so. Bear in mind that where there is one young kitten, there are likely more. If you can do so safely, search the vicinity of where the kitten was found for any siblings. You are very likely find more. If you cannot search the area safely, note the exact location where you saw the kitten (mile-marker, landmark, etc.) and contact your local animal rescues.
  • Leave newborn kittens with their mothers. Survival rates for newborn kittens without their mothers – even in a shelter environment –  top out at about 50%. If you cannot capture the mother along with the kittens, wait until the kittens are at least 5 weeks of age before bringing them inside or to an animal shelter.
  • Get involved with Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) in your area. TNR is a program that involves the capture of stray and feral cats. After being spayed or neutered and vaccinated, the captured cat is released back to where he or she was found. The cats may also be released or into a managed feral cat colony where the cat will be provided food and rudimentary shelter by a human caretaker. TNR is not legal everywhere. Check your local and state animal laws before begging trapping. Also, be aware that you must have express permission from the owner of the property where TNR is taking place. TNR is an effective way to reduce feral and stray cat populations over time, without housing cats in shelters or resorting to euthanasia. Learn more about TNR here.
  • Know about “upper respiratory” infections. Upper respiratory infections (typically bacterial) affect many stray kittens. The most obvious symptom involves swollen, inflamed eyes. Often pus and discharge can be observed in the eyes and nose. When treated early, these infections can usually be cured with a prescription topical medicine. However, if left to fester, upper respiratory infections can result in permanent blindness, or even loss of one or both eyes. If you recover a kitten who appears ill, transport the kitten to the nearest animal hospital or rescue as soon as you can.
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