Every spring, summer and fall animal shelters across the country host an influx of kittens. Far too many of those cute little balls of fluff are born, and sadly, many of them are euthanized.
During the “kitten season” that stretches from the ides of March to the autumnal equinox, hundreds even thousands, of kittens flood shelters, taxing all resources—foster families, veterinarian care, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, food and more.
According to the Animal Shelter Assistance Program, the feline reproductive cycle is influenced by longer daylight hours and warmer weather. The gestation period (the length of time for kittens to be born) is about 60 days. Kittens need care—and having kittens with their mother is the best. However, to properly socialize kittens born into a feral situation, they must be trapped and moved into foster care.
The biggest reason for the influx of kittens into shelters, of course, is cats that haven’t been spayed or neutered.
The Healdsburg Animal Shelter (HAS) received the first kitten on April 1—a single kitten which was adopted by a nursing mother. Since that time 46 more kittens have arrived, needing foster care, vet visits with the attendant spay/neuter, vaccinations and microchips. The costs are tremendous and put a strain on already-stretched finances.
“We work with property owners to get the adult cats trapped and brought in,” said office manager Caroline Marker. “We work with Forgotten Felines and other animal shelters, particularly Rohnert Park, who help us with our spay and neuters.
“Rohnert Park Animal Shelter does most of our spays and neuters, saving us a lot of money,” she continued.
As a no-kill shelter, HAS doesn't euthanize the kittens but finds foster homes for them. There are 13 active foster homes in and around Healdsburg and nine of them are fostering kittens right now.
Feral cat colonies offer their own challenges apart from owner-surrendered pets. There are several feral cat populations in Healdsburg.
HAS subscribes to the TNR (trap-neuter-release) method for feral cats.
“The TNR program works very well for us,” said long-time HAS volunteer Ginni Lomax.
According to the ASPCA website, TNR involves, “humanely trapping feral cats, having them spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies, and then returning them to their colony to live out their lives.”
The site goes on, “TNR has been shown to be the least costly, as well as the most efficient and humane way of stabilizing feral cat populations.”
“They get the full program,” said vet tech Darryl Roberts of the feral cats. “They get spayed or neutered, vaccinated and chipped.”
Then the feral cats are released back to their colony to live out their lives, though kittens trapped receive extensive socialization and often become adoptable.
One of the biggest threats to kittens is disease. They have immature immune systems, so have no immunity built up against typical cat diseases, and they have not yet had their vaccinations.
“I started here a year ago,” said HAS volunteer Sharon Graham. “At that time the kittens still came into the shelter.
“Now they are adopted right from the foster home,” she said. “It’s positive both from a health and social perspective.
The Healdsburg Animal Shelter is having a “Kitten Fair” at the shelter on Saturday, June 23 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Kittens will be $75 for one and just $100 for two. All kittens have been spayed or neutered, microchipped and have their current vaccinations. 570 Westside Rd., Healdsburg.
To learn more about how to help stray cats click here.