Kitten Season Is Coming—Here’s How You Can Help

Spring and summer are hectic times for animal shelters and cat rescue groups.
Animal shelters are about to be overloaded with stray kittens.
Animal shelters are about to be overloaded with stray kittens. / Roy Morsch/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Kitten season may sound like a cat lover’s dream, a time full of cute, fluffy babies. But it’s actually an incredibly difficult time of year for animal shelters and rescue groups. 

The season’s name comes from the influx of kittens born between April and late October, with numbers usually peaking during May and June. Cats have an average gestation period of 65 days—meaning one female feline can have multiple litters a year. But because they’re typically “seasonally polyestrous,” they’re more likely to go into heat during the warmer months. 

Kitten season is tough for animal shelters, rescue organizations, and vet clinics, which are already stressed beyond their budgets and their capacities thanks to a widespread animal welfare crisis. Some kittens born early need 24-7 care and special veterinary services, or equipment like incubators, formula, bottles, syringes, and medications. It also takes a toll on the employees and volunteers who work tirelessly to help as many animals as possible. 

According to Shelter Animals Count, 3.3 million cats entered rescues and shelters in 2023; approximately 1.6 million of them were under 5 months old. Kittens remain one of the most vulnerable animals in shelters, as they are weak and highly susceptible to illness. Many of the cat and kitten intakes do get adopted or fostered, but 13 percent of the kittens were either euthanized, lost, or died during their time at the shelter. 

With kitten season ramping up, here are some ways you can help. 

Spay and Neuter Your Pets

photo of a bengal cat wearing a cone around its head
Sterilize your cat to stop population growth at the source. / Richard Bailey/Photodisc/Getty Images

Spaying or neutering your pets is considered the first line of defense, as it will help keep cat populations down. Aim to have your pet fixed by the time it’s 5 months old. 

Keep Your Cat Indoors

photo of a tabby kitten on a couch
Inside is good. / Westend61/Getty Images

According to a 2021 study, approximately 63 percent of cat owners in the U.S. keep their felines strictly indoors. Not letting your kitty freely roam outdoors will also help protect wildlife—in the U.S. alone, domestic cats are estimated to kill 2.4 billion birds a year.

Adopt a Cat From a Shelter

photo of a mother and daughter carrying a kitten in a pet carrier
Adopt don't shop! / Yasser Chalid/Moment/Getty Images

If you’re considering welcoming a pet cat into your home, head to your local shelter or rescue. Typically, adoptable pets are already spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and sometimes even microchipped. 

Foster a Kitten

photo of a gray kitten with blue eyes
Who wouldn't want to share their home with this precious face? / Images

If you can’t keep a cat long-term, you can look for a kitten fostering program at your local shelter or rescue. Most fostered kittens aren’t bottle babies—meaning you won’t have to worry about feeding them around-the-clock—they just need basic care and socialization until they’re old enough to be fixed, vaccinated, and placed up for adoption. Many shelters offer kitten-rearing guidance and support, and may even provide some basic supplies.

Support Community Cat Care

photo of a gray feral cat with green eyes
This cat's "tipped" ear is a sign it was part of a TNR program. / kolderal/Moment/Getty Images

Many of the kittens brought into shelters come from feral cats. Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs focus on catching feral cats and taking them to a vet to be sterilized and vaccinated. The cats are then “ear-tipped” and released them back into the community. 

TNR is the most effective way to control community cat populations. Research from the ASPCA found that sterilizing at least 75 percent of community cat colonies help make a difference in their overall wellbeing. 

Donate to Your Local Shelter or Rescue

photo of a blonde woman holding a black and white cat at an animal shelter
Any little bit helps. / Camille Tokerud/Stone/Getty Images

All shelters and rescue groups need money. You can make an outright donation, or grab some stuff off their wishlists. Many organizations have online request lists for items they need like cleaning supplies, bottles, warmers, and kitten formula. 

Money isn’t the only thing you can donate. Time is valuable, too: Volunteers play a vital role at shelters and rescue organizations, especially during kitten season. 

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