As we wave goodbye to chilly, winter days, we say ‘hello’ to ‘Kitten Season.’ ‘Kitten Season’ probably sounds like the best time of year, but for those involved in shelter work it’s a time of high-intakes, round-the-clock care and much-needed support. It refers to the warmer days ahead when cats (and dogs) go into heat, giving birth to nearly 20 million kittens in the United States alone, meaning overcrowded and overwhelmed shelters.
‘Kitten Season’ usually takes place from March to October, as this is the time when unaltered cats are in heat, in line with the warmer weather. Cats can become pregnant several times throughout the year with each pregnancy yielding 4-8 kittens, meaning the cat population grows quicker than the dog population. According to SpayUSA, “an unsprayed female cat, her mate and all of their offspring, producing two litters per year, with 2.8 surviving kittens per litter, can total 11,801 cats in just five years” if left unaltered. That number just continues to multiple drastically as each year passes and more cats are added to the population.
This statistic leaves shelters faced with a big challenge, a challenge they can’t face alone. During the year, shelters across the country are in need of their community’s support, but this time of year produces the greatest need. From fosters to donations to volunteers to simply ‘sharing’ Facebook posts, every bit of community support is lifesaving.
How can you help with cat overpopulation this season? Spay and neuter your pets! This is the best solution to pet overpopulation. By spaying and neutering your pets, you are helping decrease the number of unwanted litters that end up in shelters, while helping your pets live a longer and healthier life.
The SPCA Albrecht Center has an affordable, full-service Veterinary Care Center that offers spay and neuter surgeries for low prices. We also participate in a voucher program for qualifying families, which makes the cost $40 and includes the surgery, rabies shot and microchip. The schedule a surgery appointment for your pet, call us at (803) 648-6864. Or, visit SPCAVetCare.org for a full list of services.
You can also participate in a Trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. TNR is a program through which free-roaming, community cats (not belonging to particular humans) are humanely trapped; sterilized, medically treated, ear-tipped and returned to the outdoor locations where they were found. Endorsed by both the American Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), TNR has been described as "the most humane, effective and financially sustainable strategy for controlling free-roaming cat populations."
Free-roaming, community cats are the biggest contributor during Kitten Season as they are not usually fixed and are at will to roam and mate. It takes the efforts of the community to make sure these cats are sterilized and cannot reproduce. To read more about the SPCA Albrecht Center’s TNR program, visit SPCAVetCare.org/TNR.
Fostering is another great way to lift the burden off of your local shelter during periods of high-intake. Shelters often have to turn away litters due to lack of space, or because newborn kittens need bottle-feeding. By donating your time, you can help save lives and help prepare these new kittens for adoption. We have the supplies if you have the time and space. Visit LetLoveLive.org/foster to learn more about how you can become a foster parent.
Every shelter feels the impact of this season, and last season many in South Carolina struggled to catch up from the flood of homeless animals. Monetary or supply donations give these shelters the resources to ensure every animal brought in receives the best possible care that they deserve. This season, we are hoping to raise $5,000 for not only supplies, but also to cover the vast amount of veterinary care it will take to prepare these cats for their new life in a loving home. Each cat taken in will cost between $400 and $500 to care for, including: veterinary exams, microchip, routine vaccinations, rabies shot, spay or neuter surgery, FIV/Felv test, flea and tick medication, food, toys, litter and other supplies.
To donate to this campaign, visit: fundly.com/kitten-season-fundraiser. If you would like to donate supplies for our kittens, visit our Amazon Wish List for much-needed items: http://a.co/eaOhnUS. By donating kitten supplies, you will be entered for a chance to win our purr-fect door prize at our ‘Purrs & Paws’ Kitten Season Event on April 6 from 11 am to 5 pm. The event will include kitten cuddles, giveaways, free refreshments and adoption specials. We hope you will join us as we welcome new kitties into the world and give them the love we hope they will have the rest of their lives.
Claire Grimes is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Development Director. She is an Aiken native, but spent some college years in Charleston, interning with Charleston Animal Society. She is excited to be working in animal welfare in her hometown and is proud of the community efforts to better the lives of Aiken’s animals. Her family includes her husband, Logan, a SPCA adopted black lab, Ozzy, a SPCA adopted Siamese mix, Luna, and Claire’s first love, Anakin, a 17-pound rescued Maine Coon mix.