Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's Kitten Season!

People who aren't involved in animal sheltering often laugh when I use that term. But it's a common phrase used by those of use who work or volunteer at an animal shelter -- especially in the northern climates where we actually have a winter.

While cats can have up to 3 litters a year -- up here in the great white north animal shelters get very few kittens in the winter. Part of it may be that un-spayed pet cats lucky enough to be kept in the house are less likely to go outside and get themselves in trouble. Part of it may be that the survival of outdoor kittens born in the wintertime is a long-shot.

Kitten season here in Wisconsin generally starts in March -- but don't stop in hoping to choose a kitten from several litters as we don't have many up for adoption. The kittens we're getting in right now are too young to be away from Mom. They're found by members of the community in sheds, under porches, and anywhere else that a mother kitten might think it's safe to raise a family. Most of the time they're brought in without their mother.

It might seem cruel for a baby animal to be taken away from Mom, but the reality is that it's better for the kitten. Most of the kittens being brought in are born to barn or feral cats -- felines that aren't used to interacting with humans and behave more like wild animals. If their kittens aren't handled at a young age they will become feral themselves.

We have a whole slew of human foster parents on stand-by waiting for kittens to come in. Our volunteers take them home along with kitten baby bottles, formula and heating pads to give them a chance at life. Foster parents get up for middle of the night feedings, worry about sick kitties, and occasionally cry over the ones who weren't strong enough to make it. But when the kittens reach 8 weeks and are old enough and strong enough to go up for adoption it makes it all worth it.

Stop in at HAWS in the middle of May -- that's when the kitten season for adopters begins!

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