It’s kitten season! When you see a litter of kittens outside, your heart tells you to “rescue” them. But Friends of Strays actually suggests to leave them alone.
“Kitten season is the time of year when outdoor cats that aren’t fixed are out doing what they do: procreating,” Friends of Strays’ Communication & Marketing Manager Jessica Salmond said.
According to the animal shelter, female cats will average three to four litters a year, which leads to the name “kitten season.”
From early March to late September, Friends of Strays recommends people to not kit-nap kittens. Kitten litters pop up, but it is best to leave them with their mothers.
Salmond said the shelter receives the most calls about stray kittens in late spring through the summer.
“People will come across these kittens by themselves and go into panic mode,” Salmond said. “They’re worried that the kittens are starving, they’re alone, and they aren’t being cared for. But, what often ends up happening is the mom is out getting food at the moment.”
Without education on kitten season, people with good intentions often immediately take the kittens. However, Salmond said this lowers their survival rates significantly. It’s critical for them to stay in the mom’s care.
Overall, if you see kittens alone, come back in three-six hours to make sure the mom returned.
When people take the kittens to Friends of Strays, they end up in the foster program. Foster Program Manager Kelly Kraemer said they receive hundreds of kittens in their foster program every kitten season.
“These shelter environments are not safe for these kittens,” Kraemer said. “Their immune systems are more compromised and they’re more exposed to diseases. We try to keep these underage kittens out of the shelter as much as possible. So, we reach out to our foster network.”
The caregivers host kittens for about eight weeks, depending on the age and weight of the kitten. Kraemer said the kittens must be two months old or weigh two pounds before they can get neutered.
This is where Friends of Strays’ Kitten Heroes program comes in.
Friends of Strays’ medical team neuters the fostered kittens for free. According to the shelter’s website, this program intends “to ease the burden on shelters and rescues,” and asks caregivers “to seek adoptive homes for kittens through word-of-mouth or other social networks.”
If they are injured, that’s when you should call Friends of Strays or other municipal shelters.
“We are fortunate enough to take on some medical cases,” Kraemer said. “If we have a kitten that comes to us with a leg injury or eye injury, our veterinarian will provide eye enucleations, eye removals, or amputations. We want to do what is best for the animals.”
Friends of Strays provides medical care for adult, outdoor cats through their Pinellas Cats Alive program. This TNVR program is “designed for an individual who may have one or two free-roaming cats around their neighborhood that they would like to have spayed or neutered.”