What the Heck is Kitten Season Anyway?
Dr. Ruth MacPete, DVMCat Checkups & Preventive Care
What is kitten season?
Kitten season refers to the time of year when many litters of kittens are born. The exact time of year depends on the region and the climate that given year. Most places in the United States experience “kitten season” between April and October. During this time of year, shelters throughout the country are flooded with cats and kittens.
So what causes kitten season?
Everyone knows that rabbits are prolific breeders. Did you know that cats are almost as prolific? A female cat can become pregnant at 5 months and can have several litters in one year. With each litter averaging 4 to 6 kittens per litter, that amounts to 12 to 18 kittens. That’s a lot of babies in one year! Unfortunately, all of this breeding is one of the main factors contributing to the overpopulation problem.
How can you help with kitten season?
The best way to help with kitten season is to ensure that your cats are spayed or neutered. This is true even for indoor-only cats. As we all know, cats can be sneaky. The door only has to be open for a moment for your cat to escape and come back pregnant.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), tens of millions of unowned cats live outdoors and contribute to breeding cycles. You can help prevent local strays in your neighborhood from contributing to the problem by contacting local trap-neuter-return (TNR) clinics. These groups will usually loan you a trap to catch local strays. After the strays are spayed or neutered, they are returned to your neighborhood where they help stabilize and ultimately reduce the feral cat population.
Adopting a new kitten
If you are thinking about getting another cat, consider adopting from your local shelter during kitten season. During this time of year, the shelter will be at maximum capacity. Adopting during kitten season is a win-win situation for everyone. It frees up much needed space for the shelter and gives you the best selection. You will find cats and kittens of all sizes, shapes, colors and breeds. Encourage your friends and neighbors to adopt from the shelter during kitten season as well.
I must remind everyone to be sure to take your new kitten to your veterinarian as soon as possible (ideally before bringing them home). Your veterinarian will do a complete physical examination and check for any underlying health issues. And if the shelter has not already done so, your veterinarian will do blood tests to make sure your kitten does not have a viral disease like feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). They’ll also look for external parasites and do fecal testing to ensure your kitten is free of internal parasites. Lastly, your veterinarian will discuss any parasite preventatives and vaccines that your new kitten needs to stay healthy. Remember checkups are the best way to get your new kitten off to a healthy start!
Fostering a new kitten
Not everyone may want to or be able to adopt a cat. Adopting an animal is a big responsibility. Maybe you’ve never had a pet on your own and you’re not sure if you’re ready for that level of commitment? Maybe you already have 6 cats and you don’t want to go overboard. Whatever the reason, fostering a kitten may be the perfect compromise and really helps shelters. Animal shelters often rely on foster parents to take care of young kittens until they are old enough to be adopted. Fosters also care for animals that need more time and attention than the shelter can provide during the peak of kitten season, such as cats with treatable medical problems. Besides helping kittens, fostering can also help you determine if you are prepared to make the commitment to be a pet parent. And finally, you might just find the perfect cat for your household. Two of my current three cats started off as fosters!
Click here to learn more about being a foster pet parent.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.