Monday, February 2, 2015

KITTEN SEASON

“Kitten Season” fills those involved with rescue or at the shelter with dread.  While we adore the cute faces and the awkward, tumbling gait of kittens, we are truly anxious, knowing that they will pour in all at once and resources will quickly become overwhelmed.  Typically, this season occurs March through October.  Unfortunately, it appears it has started earlier this year. Although these little bundles of fur are adorable, many are still weeks away from being old enough to be weaned, spayed, neutered or adopted. 

Many organizations simply do not have the space or available resources to care for such a volume of kittens/cats.  Pregnant cats necessitate close observation and monitoring.  Many kittens will arrive without mothers and need to be bottle-fed every few hours, which is more than the shelter can handle.  A vast number come in with either severe injuries or illnesses.  In addition, even if they do not have special needs, kittens do not have developed immune systems, and a continuous flow of other cats places them, at any organization, at severe risk.  Last, but not least, feral cats, never having had human contact, are often considered unadoptable and, unless there is a rescue available that is willing to take them, chances are that they will be euthanized.

The best thing anyone can do to help curb this problem is to spay and neuter, even if the cat never goes outdoors.  Cats, as young as five months, can get pregnant.  Because cats have an average of 4-6 kittens per pregnancy, and can be pregnant several times a year, it is no wonder that these litters become overwhelming, especially if the resultant litters, themselves, have kittens within a few months.  Therefore, it is important to spay or neuter before a first litter is ever born.  The average age at which pets are spayed or neutered is four months. 

If there is feral cat colony in the area, practice TNR (trap, neuter, return).  TNR means trapping the cats, having them spayed or neutered and vaccinated, and then returning them to back to their habitat.  The reason TNR is successful is that resident cats are not permanently eradicated from the colony.  After temporarily removing and fixing the animals, they return to safeguard their habitat, but no longer contribute additions to the existing group.  If they are destroyed, another colony of fertile cats will quickly inhabit their niche.  A feral cat’s life is not wonderful, but at least they will not create a larger population if sterilized. 

In Tehama County, Mill Creek Veterinary Clinic in Los Molinos (530- 384-1700) offers feral cat S/N services on the last Friday of every month.  The Red Bluff Veterinary Clinic in Red Bluff (530- 527-1886) offers feral cat S/N services on the first Wednesday of every month.  Haven Humane Society in Anderson (530- 241-1568) offers feral cat S/N services Monday thru Thursday.  In addition, national organizations such as Spay/USA (800-248-SPAY) and Friends of Animals (800-321-7387) can provide information about available assistance.  Alley Cat Allies (www.alleycat.org) (240-482-1980) also provides an array of information regarding feral cats.

In addition to spaying or neutering your own cats and practicing or assisting with TNR of feral colonies, there are numerous other ways to help, all of which are extremely beneficial during this critical time.

One way is to adopt from the shelter or one of the local rescue organizations.  Please, when adopting, do not overlook any of the mom cats since they often remain behind long after their babies have found homes.  If you are not ready or able to adopt, then consider fostering.  Fostering not only assists the shelter immeasurably by freeing space and resources, but also provides the care and socialization these little ones need prior to adoption.  If interested and would like to learn more about the foster program, please call the Tehama County Animal Care Center (530-527-3439).  If you are allergic or have other reasons that you cannot work with the cats/kittens directly, you can help gather needed supplies such as kitten formula, bottles, etc.  No matter what you decide to do, please talk with family and friends about the causes and issues of cat overpopulation.  Education is a great first step in solving any problem. 


These animals’ lives depend on the actions we take and perhaps, one day, “Kitten Season” will not be as dreadful as it is now.


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