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5 Ways to Help Your Local Cat Rescue or Shelter During Kitten Season

A litter of 6 orange tabby kittens sitting on a beige surface

Summer has officially come knocking with its warm temperatures and beautiful sunshine. While many see this as a time of vacations, beach days and tanning, those in the world of animal rescue are in the thick of a time known as kitten season. What does this mean for your local shelters and rescue organizations?

To fully understand the reality of kitten season and the pressure that it puts on the world of animal rescue, we need to start at the beginning. Let’s look at what ‘kitten season’ is, how it impacts local organizations and what we can do to help…

What is Kitten Season?

The term ‘kitten season’ sounds like a happy time. Doesn’t it? After all, how can something referring to kittens be anything but joyful?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case…

Kitten season refers to the time of year when a larger than normal number of kittens are born, many of which are unwanted litters.

For most regions across Canada and the United States, this kicks off with the arrival of spring and can last all the way to October.

A female cat can have several kittens in a year, with approximately 4 to 6 kittens in each litter (or as many as 12 to 18 kittens each year)

The problem of overpopulation comes down to the large number of stray cats throughout both countries as well as many cat owners failing to fix their cats to prevent accidental pregnancies.  

Related: ‘ResQWalk App | Raise Funds for Your Favourite Rescue Organization!

How Does Kitten Season Put Pressure on Shelters and Rescue Organizations?

Many of the kittens that are born during this time are accidental litters.

They are either born to stray cats without a home to care for them or to cats whose owners were unprepared and uninterested in adding to their family.

When all is said and done, these kittens must go somewhere and that somewhere is often our local shelters and rescue organizations.

According to the 2019 Animal Shelter Statistics Report from Humane Canada, more than 78,000 cats and kittens entered Canadian shelters in a single year. The ASPCA, on the other hand, reports approximately 3.2 MILLION cats entering U.S. animal shelters!

It’s a staggering statistic and one that highlights the pressure that these organizations face.

With a large influx of kittens during kitten season, rescues not only have to find the space for the cats and kittens that are coming into their care but also the funding required to provide food and veterinary care.

These costs add up, and fast!

As shelters are faced with the increased demand, many find themselves struggling financially and, in some cases, even forced to close their doors to new intakes.

A litter of silver tabby kittens snuggled up together

What Can You Do to Help Your Local Cat Rescue or Shelter During Kitten Season?

If you are like 67% of pet owners (according to a Petco survey) and were unaware of the incredible stress and burden that this time brings, you may be wondering what you can do to help address such a widespread problem.

While there is no quick fix or simple solution, there are things that we can do to support the shelters and rescue organizations in our area.

#1 – Spay or Neuter Your Cats

Unless you are a professional breeder, focusing on the longevity and health of the breed, the best thing that you can do for your family pet is to get them fixed.

This prevents accidental pregnancies while also reducing the risk of certain cancers and other health complications.

Is your cat an indoor cat? Don’t assume that means that you are free of risk.

Even an indoor cat can slip out the door, accidents happen, and it only takes one time for you to be faced with an accidental pregnancy.

#2 – Adopt a Cat or Kitten

Have you been considering adding to your family?

While there are some very valid reasons for contacting a breeder, in most cases you can find the perfect companion through the rescue network.

Not only would you change that specific cat’s life, but you would also free up a spot for another cat or kitten to be saved.

NOTE: Adoption should NOT be taken lightly. If you aren’t ready to commit to the life of a cat or kitten, then it’s not the right time to take this step.

#3 – Become A Foster Home

If you aren’t ready for the long-term commitment that comes with adoption but you do have space in your home currently for a kitten or even a litter, this is your chance!

Fostering means providing love, care, and a safe home for a cat over a specified period of time.

This may include fostering until there is space in the main shelter/rescue until they can move to a longer-term foster home or until they find their forever home.

Most rescues will provide you with the basic supplies needed during this time including food, litter, and veterinary care.

Related: ‘6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying to Foster A Shelter Pet

#4 – Make A Donation

If you don’t have space in your home for another cat at this time, consider either donating much-needed supplies or supporting your local organizations financially.

Many shelters offer the opportunity to sponsor a cat in their care.

Some supplies that your shelter may be in need of during this time include cat and kitten food (both dry kibble and canned), litter (clumping and non-clumping), and cleaning supplies.

Another way that you can make a difference is to donate your time. This doesn’t cost a dime!

Shelters and rescue organizations everywhere are searching for responsible volunteers to help with the care of the pets in their care, cleaning, planning fundraisers, transportation, and more.

#5 – Support TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) Programs in Your Area

I would love to say that every stray cat could be brought indoors for a happy life as a family pet, however, this isn’t always the case.

One of the major issues contributing to overpopulation is the number of intact feral cats.

After identifying colonies in their community, TNR programs work to humanely trap the cats and bring them to a veterinarian.

Here they will be vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and provided with any necessary medical care.

After they recover, they will then be returned to their colony to live a happy and healthy life.

If they can be socialized, they may also be adopted out to a loving home.

For those who are unfamiliar with how the programs work, this may sound counterproductive. However, studies show that TNR programs work.

Volunteers work to improve the lives of the cats in the community, stabilize the colonies (preventing further growth) and address a problem that many believe has no viable solution.

Not only will this help to take the stress off your local rescues by reducing the number of litters that will be born in the area, but (over time) it will also help to slow the growth of these colonies, even reducing their numbers in time.  

These organizations are often in need of funding as well as volunteers to assist with the trapping process as well as transportation of the cats that they are caring for.

If you’re unfamiliar with what programs may exist in your community, contact your local shelter or rescue organization as they are often familiar with the resources available to help address their own area.

A litter of 6 orange tabby kittens sitting on a beige surface. Text asks: What is kitten season and how can you help?

Where you familiar with the pressure that kitten season brings for your local shelters and rescue organizations?

Feel free to share your tips, tricks, and ideas for ways to help in the comments below.

About Author

Britt is a digital/social media marketer and the owner of The Social Alternative. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending her time with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs Daviana and Indiana and their 2 cats Pippen and Jinx. A proud pet mom, she shares all her pet-related tips, tricks and funny pet antics on Shed Happens.

38 Comments

  • Lola The Rescued Cat
    July 16, 2021 at 10:31 am

    Great post! We recently wrote one about Kitten Season as well. It’s so important to educate people on what happens during this time.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 17, 2021 at 10:23 am

      So many cat lovers feel helpless in situations like this. I hope that understanding they can contribute to the solution without bringing all the kittens into their home will help.

      Reply
  • Michelle & The Paw Pack
    July 16, 2021 at 4:31 pm

    Great tips! Back when I lived in the city I remember how stressful kitten season could get. It was horrible seeing so many adorable kittens out in the streets. I did what I could to help, without being able to take any in/adopt myself. I think it’s especially important for people to know that there are ways you can help even if you’re not in a position to take in a cat yourself.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 17, 2021 at 10:21 am

      Yes! I would LOVE to just take them all in, but we also have to recognize our limitations. That being said, knowing that I can help even when I can’t take them in makes that easier. At least I know that I’m still contributing to the solution.

      Reply
  • Shyla
    July 17, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    Interesting post Britt. I have always heard the term kitten season when I’ve visited the local shelter. I honestly didn’t understand the gravity of it until I read you post. This definitely amplifies to me the importance of spaying or neutering pets. It is something preventable that we can help with as a whole. One lost pet could turn into tons of lost pets in a matter of time. Great read!

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 17, 2021 at 3:53 pm

      I don’t think most people understand just how big the strain is on our rescue organizations. Hopefully, by spreading the word, I can help to raise awareness and support for these shelters and rescues in their efforts to curb the overpopulation problem.

      Reply
  • Ruth Epstein
    July 17, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Fantastic post and we need to keep speaking out about this as it is so sad that the cats/kittens suffer in the long run and the humans do nothing. I am watching how shelters are over flowing, rescues are desperate and the situation is just so so sad. Thank you for speaking out for them

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 17, 2021 at 3:53 pm

      It is so sad! Both of our cats are rescues but I honestly wish that I could take in so many more and give them the life they deserve.

      Reply
  • Marjorie at Dash Kitten
    July 17, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    I despair at the stupidity and ignrance (and arrogance) of people. They wont spay or neuter their pets then surprise surprise a litter of kittens or pups comes along. Cue dumping, feral and community cat issues and all of a sudden its ‘Tut tut look at all those stray cats”.

    It’s not sad it’s damned infuriating. Desex your pets people and save rescues years worth of time chasing around trapping terrified kittens and finding kittens so far gone theiy have to be put to sleep. If I ever met someone who had dumped a cat I would wack them with a baseball bat they have no right to adopt an animal.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 21, 2021 at 9:04 am

      We lived for a while on a farm and I was always infuriated with the cats that were dumped on our property on a fairly busy road into town with no care as to whether they would survive. We caught many and connected with rescues to help find them homes where they could feel the love that they deserved.

      Reply
  • Jana Rade
    July 18, 2021 at 3:39 pm

    Wow, I didn’t realize there was such a thing as a “kitten season.” Makes sense, though. My brother-in-law allowed a couple of cats to stay at his shop and fed them–now he has cats coming out of his ears.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 21, 2021 at 9:01 am

      I don’t think most people realize how quickly a couple of stray cats can become a much larger problem.

      Reply
  • Kamira Gayle
    July 18, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    These are all fantastic ways to help during kitten season. I’m glad I gave fostering a try a couple of years ago. It’s a great way to pay it forward without the lifetime commitment if you are not sure you are ready to adopt. Fostering cats has brought a great amount of joy in our lives.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 21, 2021 at 9:01 am

      I agree, we loved fostering in the past. At this point, it’s not something that we’re able to do but we’ve found other ways to support our local rescues. That being said, I would definitely consider doing it again in the future.

      Reply
  • Tiffany
    July 18, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    Such important information! Too many people complain about the problem of stray cats but aren’t willing to help address the problem. Love our local rescues!

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 21, 2021 at 8:31 am

      Yes! It’s easy to complain about the problem but what these cats really need is for us to step up and help be part of the solution.

      Reply
  • Sophie Harriet
    July 18, 2021 at 5:01 pm

    I knew that cat overpopulation is a problem in general, but I didn’t know there was a ‘kitten season’, I had assumed they were born all year round but it makes sense that they would mostly be born in the Spring! My cat is a rescue, so rescue centres have a special place in my heart. I would love to help out at one someday if my circumstances allow x

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 21, 2021 at 8:22 am

      They are born year-round but there is definitely a huge jump when kitten season is upon us. Both of our cats are rescues and I can’t imagine having it any other way. They are such incredible cats with so much love to give.

      Reply
  • Sweet Purrfections
    July 19, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    Great tips! I used to have several feral/community cats in my neighborhood. They lived in the drains on the streets. I rarely see cats outside anymore. I know there is a TNR in my community, so hopefully that is helping.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 21, 2021 at 8:20 am

      They have been focusing on their TNR efforts in our small town over the last few years. It’s too early to know for sure if it’s making a large difference, but I have noticed that I don’t tend to see new cats around as much, just the same cats which is a good sign as the colony isn’t growing.

      Reply
  • Rosie Ireland
    July 21, 2021 at 7:10 am

    I’d love to adopt a kitten but my fiance would never let me! I’m sharing this on socials so that we can all do our bit to help!
    Rosie

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 21, 2021 at 7:57 am

      Thank you for sharing! It may seem like a problem that’s so big that it’s impossible, but we can make a difference if we each take steps towards a solution.

      Reply
  • Stephanie Renee
    July 21, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    Britt, this is a great article! We have been seeing an increase in stray cats in, and around our neighborhood. I recently had to contact a cat rescue organization because there was an injured cat on the street, and they came out to help this injured cat. I am glad to see that there are many organizations, and many different ways to help during this time.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 22, 2021 at 7:56 am

      There are so many GREAT organizations working hard to address the need. That’s why it’s so important to support them in whatever way that we can.

      Reply
  • Kristy Bullard
    July 21, 2021 at 9:25 pm

    We recently fostered a pregnant cat (during kitten season) and took care of her. It was a very nice learning experience for my kids to help with the delivery and caring for the kittens. We ended up adopting two of the babies and they are the sweetest. There is always a need for help at the local animal adoption center.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 22, 2021 at 7:55 am

      That is such a beautiful opportunity for them, and a great way to teach them to be part of the solution as well!

      Reply
  • Nkem
    July 22, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    Wow, I had no idea about kitten season. Why are there so many stray animals all over the place!

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 23, 2021 at 9:03 am

      Largely due to the neglect of humans over the years. It doesn’t take long for a couple of cats dumped as strays to become a larger colony when they aren’t fixed.

      Reply
  • Lisa
    July 23, 2021 at 5:46 am

    I don’t understand why cat owners don’t get their cats spayed or neutered, especially when many charities will help with the costs in the UK. So sad for all those poor kittens and their queens who get no respite 😢 Good tips, Britt, thank you.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 23, 2021 at 9:02 am

      There are great resources here in Canada as well. Most SPCAs (shelters) offer low-cost spay/neuter clinics to encourage people to take that step. Unfortunately, too many take the approach of ‘my cat is an indoor cat, so it’s not like there’s a risk’ (and other similar arguments) without acknowledging that accidents happen and sometimes those indoor cats get outside.

      Reply
  • Lyosha
    July 23, 2021 at 7:45 am

    great list! i make donations, often not with money but with products they need and from time offer ,y own help (not as often as I would want to, it is emotionally too hard for me)

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 23, 2021 at 9:01 am

      That’s a great way to make a difference! There are so many rescues in need of that kind of support (money, products, time). It all works together to help these organizations make a difference for animals in need.

      Reply
  • Seriah Sargenton
    July 23, 2021 at 8:19 am

    Such a great article! I remember when my dad brought in our cat during this season a few years ago and we love him. I’m so happy someone is writing about this!

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 23, 2021 at 9:00 am

      They really do bring so much joy and happiness into our lives, don’t they?

      Reply
  • Trish Veltman
    July 26, 2021 at 12:54 am

    Great post, Britt – highlights such a big and sad problem.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 26, 2021 at 3:20 pm

      It is a HUGE problem, one that we can’t continue to ignore or remain ignorant about. That’s why it’s so important to share this information for those who may not be aware.

      Reply
  • Erica (The Prepping Wife)
    August 3, 2021 at 7:55 am

    I had no clue that “kitten season” was a thing. But it makes sense. We have a neighbor who has several, and lets them loose to run around the neighborhood and are definitely not fixed. It is so frustrating, because they are nothing but a pain in the booty. Recently, another neighbor has turned into the stereotypical crazy cat lady and feeds them all every morning. Insert eye roll here, because that’s just a bad idea. But I can’t control the bad decisions of others. Just wish they would get a handle on their pets. I can only imagine how stressful this is on shelters too, as the cats just keep multiplying. I need to donate some food to our local shelter that my cat will not eat. I’ve been meaning to do that, and you’ve reminded me it is time to make that call!

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 3, 2021 at 9:02 am

      Hopefully a TNR organization can step in there. While there’s nothing wrong with feeding the cats (they need to eat too), they should all be fixed to avoid the whole situation getting out of hand. Otherwise, that’s how large wild cat colonies get started!

      Reply

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