Spring showers don’t just rain cats and dogs – it also rains kittens! Lots of kittens. March marks the start of kitten season. As the warmer months approach, unaltered female cats go into heat, and the mating season begins.
Cats can become pregnant several times a year and on average have a litter of 3-5 kittens at a time. Multiply that by the number of unaltered cats in the community, and you’ve got a lot of kittens! Shelters around the nation are inundated with kittens around this time every year and it can become critical.
The Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County cared for over 2,000 kittens in 2021. Many of which were newborns in need of around-the-clock care, pregnant cats in critical condition, and kittens who had a rough start to life. This work is rigorous and can be draining on resources. That’s why our community’s help is so important during this time!
Things to know
If you find a litter of kittens
Watch and wait! A kitten’s best chance of thriving is with its mother. The mother cat may be off finding food for herself, or she may be in the process of actively moving her litter to another location. Wait to determine if the mother is coming back for them. Stand far away from the kittens — 35 feet or more. If you stand too close, the mother will not approach her kittens. Sometimes, leaving the area and coming back another time can help so that she no longer senses the presence of humans hovering near her litter.
Please contact the shelter for further guidance if it appears the mother cat is not returning and the kittens are indeed orphaned.
If you find a litter of kittens with their mother
If the mother cat returns and the area is relatively safe, leave the kittens alone with their mother until they are weaned (no longer drinking milk). You can offer shelter and regular food to the mother, but keep the food at a distance from the shelter. Food too close to the shelter can force the mother to find a new spot. Food attracts other cats, which could then pose a threat to her nest.
Six weeks is the optimal age to intervene with additional care, such as socialization, vaccination, and deworming. Any time after eight weeks of age is after a kitten’s socialization period – at that age or older, please contact the shelter for additional resources.
If you find a stray cat
First, make sure the cat is not a community cat. These cats are undersocialized and prefer their own space. Community cats are spayed/neutered, ear-tipped, and are generally cared for by the community. If the cat is indeed a stray, you can bring it to the shelter seven days a week, from 11:00 am – 5:30 pm. If you need assistance, please contact your local animal control to pick up the cat. Animal control will bring strays without licenses to us for sheltering.
How you can help
- Participate in our Kitten Shower
To help prepare for kitten season, the shelter is hosting its 3rd Annual Virtual Kitten Shower! You can donate funds to kittens in need and donate items through the shelter’s Amazon Wishlist Kitten Registry for much-needed supplies.
- Foster a litter of kittens or pregnant cat
We need fosters now more than ever! The shelter is often inundated with kittens and pregnant mother cats around this time of year that need a temporary home.
- Volunteer time to help a cat or kitten in need
The shelter has many volunteer opportunities, including cat care and cat enrichment.
- Spay and neuter your pet(s)
Make sure your cat(s) are spayed and neutered, especially if they spend time outside. This makes a significant impact to decrease the number of litters in the community!