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August 16, 2022
Happy summer, Bivvy fam! While we’re enjoying warm weather, leisure, road trips, and blooming flowers, thousands of kittens are being born out in the wild. What can you do to help? Found a kitten or two in your yard or neighborhood or local park this time of year, and wondering what to do? We’ll tell ya! Here’s your kitten season primer.
What is Kitten Season—and Why is it Now?
Kitten season is the time of year when birth rates for cats are higher and as a result, shelters are overrun with kittens. It roughly correlates to the warm season(s) of any geographical area. Animals mate and give birth in the spring and summer in many places across the US. This is when days are longer, weather is better, and there’s more access to food.
It’s roughly April to October; if there are stray or feral cats in your area, expect kittens in these months. Many unaltered female cats are in heat around this time.
Unlike other animals, cats can have litter upon litter. They can keep reproducing right up until cold season. They can get pregnant at as young as four months old, and they can produce several litters in a single year. There are usually 4-6 kittens in a litter. And a cat’s gestation period is only nine weeks, or around 65 days, so that can add up to a lot of litters in a little time.
And here’s a wild fact--cats can also have multiple pregnancies at once! While in heat, if a female has encounters with multiple males, she can be impregnated by more than one of them and give birth to different litters all at once.
Many shelters will have a couple of litters come in in the early spring, then start getting swamped over the summer. In 2021, two million cats entered shelters, and unfortunately, a large percentage of them didn’t make it out alive. So…what’s the right choice to make with tiny felines you may come across in your yard or neighborhood this kitten season?
Don’t Dash Off to the Shelter
Well-meaning people, when they encounter a litter of kittens in the wild, often scoop them up and think taking them to a shelter is the best thing they can do. But that can put them at greater risk of being killed because shelters become so overrun this time of year.
These kittens are often unweaned, and therefore need shelter workers to bottle feed them every two to four hours which is very labor intensive. Many, especially municipal shelters, just don’t have the resources or hands to care for all these needy little ones.
If you find kittens, see this helpful flowchart for what to do. Generally, if the kittens appear to be under eight weeks old (here’s a handy page that can help you determine how old a kitten might be), you shouldn’t jump in and help. They still very much need mama at this point, and even if you don’t see her, there’s a good chance she’s close by or will be back soon. If they’re older, you can proceed.
No matter how much your bleeding heart is activated when you see seemingly needy kittens, the best thing to do when they’re tiny is often actually to leave them where they are and keep an eye out for mom to return and see if she cares for them. Then when they’re old enough, you can be a dear and catch them humanely for spay and neuter, so they don’t perpetuate the cycle of having litters in the wild and having to survive in our concrete jungles.
Fostering makes a *huge* difference. It helps clear up shelter space, socializes the kittens in a home so they’re more ready to adapt to the home they may be adopted into, makes sure they are taken care of until they’re even old enough to be adopted, and keeps them in a much happier and healthier environment than a shelter. Their fragile immune systems are very vulnerable in shelters.
If you’re up for it, you can be a huge help (and probably a literal lifesaver!) by getting in touch with your local shelter or cat rescue org and offering to foster a litter. Otherwise, donations of towels, blankets, litter boxes, bottles, and miracle nipples to shelters are helpful during kitten season. Some shelters and rescue organizations will have Amazon wish lists where you can buy them the supplies they need. You can also donate money specified to be used for kitten care.
Next time you’re in the market for a little feline friend, adopting from a shelter clears up a shelter spot for another needy animal.
And having your own cats spayed or neutered is almost always a good call. Kittens can be fixed when they weigh two pounds, which generally is around eight weeks old.
While Bivvy pet insurance does not cover spay and neuter procedures, it does help cover diagnostic treatment, x-rays, blood tests, surgery, prescription meds, hospitalization, and emergency care for your pet cat’s covered unexpected accidents and illnesses. And Bivvy Wellness Care is an add-on to Bivvy’s affordable cat insurance that helps cover vaccinations. Bivvy’s cat insurance cost is less than $1 a day. Check out what cat and dog parents alike are saying about Bivvy pet insurance in the reviews here or on our Google review page.
If you adopt a kitten or two this season, pet insurance is a great thing to have on hand in case of emergency, so you get some financial assistance with veterinary bills. Just keep in mind that each pet needs his or her own policy. You can also gift Bivvy pet insurance! If you and someone you know adopt kittens from a litter and you want to make sure they’re covered, you can pay for another pet parent’s Bivvy insurance; just make sure they’re listed as the policyholder and their address is listed in all other areas of the sign-up process.
Keep an eye on the cute little furballs that may be born in your area this season, but only intervene if they’re a little older or you haven’t seen their mother around for an extended period. Reach out to your vet if you have questions, and to us if you have questions we can answer about cat insurance coverage!