Kittens Born Under 100 Grams In Weight Are Killed At Shelter

A new policy of euthanizing (in this instance better described as killing) newborn kittens that weigh less than 100 grams has been implemented at Greenville County Care Services (GCACS). This page analyses the policy to see if it is accurate and decent.

Kitten weight gain is vital

Photo by {B E A U T I F U L} LEMONS”

I presume we are talking about newborn kittens who happen to be born while their mother is at the Greenville shelter.

The reason for this new policy is because the shelter’s veterinary surgeon decided that kittens with a birth weight of less than 100 gram will probably not survive because it is not…”a normal, healthy birth weight.”

The question that springs to mind immediately is whether they are correct in their assertion about newborn kitten birth weights.

I’ll quote a good book1 on the subject:

A healthy kitten weighs about 3 to 4 ounces at birth (110 to 125 g)…

In an interesting study, the summary of which which is published online at (PubMed) records the birth weight and postnatal growth of purebred kittens. Purebred kittens are exactly the same as random road kittens in general in terms, although there is a great variety of weights and purebred cats.

The results were as follows:

Maine Coon 115 grams, Norwegian Forest Cat 106 grams, Birman 97 grams, Siamese 92 grams. Persian 82 grams.


ASPCA says that:

“an average birth weight for kittens is about 3 1/2 depending on breed and litter size”. 3.5 ounces is 99.22 grams.

I won’t quote any more weights from websites because they can to copy each other. Another well-respected book, The Cat, Its Behaviour, Nutrition and Health, states as follows:

At birth, kittens weigh between 100 and 110 grams (3.5 to 4 ounces).

The Kitten Rescue website states that:

  A full-term newborn kitten weighs 3.3-3.7 ounces (91-105 grams).

Conclusion On Newborn Kitten Weight

The policy of the Greenville shelter is simply inaccurate and also far too strict as can be seen from my research. A newborn kitten that weighs 100 grams might be said to be slightly underweight by some people but not much, if at all. I would have thought that it was certainly within reasonable limits in terms of prospects for survival.

As for kitten survival, a well-respected book states that:

Kittens with a birth weight of 3 ounces (90 g) or less have a higher risk of early death.

Once again this supports my conclusion that the Greenville policy is incorrect because the cut-off point is 90 g not 100 g.  Even then were talking about a higher risk of early death.  Risk does not always translate to actual fact.

Without wishing to be overcritical, it appears that the Greenville policy with respect to the weight of kittens is biased towards euthanasia or reducing the burden on the shelter of caring for newborn kittens.

If I’m correct, it would not be a surprise because Elisa Black-Taylor describes GCACS as a high kill shelter.

There is one last point to make: how are these tiny kittens killed?  Elisa speculates that they use a method called heart stick. How to euthanise a cat.

Note: 1. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.

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Kittens Born Under 100 Grams In Weight Are Killed At Shelter — 17 Comments

  1. I agree with your conclusion. Raising such a tiny kitten would take time, desire, patience and a person who can make it, which probably that shelter does not have. We have a wonderful kitten rescue group in Australia that helps with newborns. Looking at amazing work they do, it is possible to save kittens. It’s all time, money and hands. By the way, in Australia there is also a “temperament test” – widely used for “assessing” dogs in shelters. Another thing that I consider an excuse to “free up the space”, sadly. xx

    • I have heard about this temperament test which as you say is wide open to misinterpretation in order to find reasons to remove an animal from the shelter. This test is wide open to abuse quite obviously because it is extremely difficult to test a cat’s temperament at the best of times but in a shelter where he or she is frightened and not himself how you test temperament?

      • And any kittens while mama is being spayed most likely doesn’t count toward their euthanasia numbers. Greenville has a tough job because animals found as strays in nearby Spartanburg also go to Greenville because Greenville is paid to take them in. A lot of residents dump cats with newborns at the shelter so it’s not just those born there. A few of the rescues brought up heartstick because it would be next to impossible to find a vein. Greenville needs a 24 hour kitten room witth rescues and fosters being able to pull newborns at their convenience. Many of those in rescue also have full time jobs.

        • Also, the person doing the assessment has to be a very intelligent and knowledgeable person because if they’re not, their presence alone may affect the cat’s behaviour and therefore the results of the assessment. I am convinced that assessing a cat’s temperament requires a very skilled person. A skilled person should be able to see through a reactive response which is due to the environment in which the cat finds himself.

  2. This is the article I sent Michael to base his story on.. It goes much deeper and tells how pregnant female cats are disrespected. There’s a link in the first paragraph that is brillant as to bringing this topic into the open. I chose this one for Examiner because it was better suited there and for Michael to use that article as a base. It’s very long and complicated and I know the readers here prefer short pieces. I do more than 100 stories a month and cover lost and stolen pets and helping raise donations for sick or injured pets. PoC is still my home:)

    • It is good to go into things in depth but on this occasion I wanted to keep the article focused on one thing and analyse that one aspect of the policy in some detail. That is the purpose of the article but I agree that there are other issues such as taking newborns away from their mother and how that impacts upon the mother.

        • There is definitely a place on the Internet for a long article and I wrote many very long articles in the past but the modern trend is for shorter articles as people skim the Internet more rapidly. I believe that the best articles, today, make one point and stick to that point.

          • I write an article as long as it needs to be. Thankfully mine are mostly short these days. People skim more than read these days.

            • Google says that an article should be succinct and they hint that it should not be too long. If you read the Google blogs you can see the kind of length they mean and a guy call Matt Cutts, a senior Google executive who has his own blog, gives This you an idea about the kind of length of article that Google likes.

  3. Being the realist that I am…
    Why would anyone kill a kitten just because they are at high risk of not surviving?
    It doesn’t make sense to me. If they may die anyway, why push that button?
    There’s more to this, I feel, and I’ll try to read Elisa’s whole article.
    I really feel that what this kill shelter wants is very healthy, thriving kittens to adopt out (that’s what is highest in demand and will keep their stats up) and the mother will be killed. County shelters aren’t in the “business” of nurturing and healing.

    • County shelters aren’t in the “business” of nurturing and healing.

      This is very similar to, in some ways, to your comment about quarantine rooms at shelters. It seems that the shelters you describe don’t have the motivation or the time to look after cats that come to them, in a proper way. They are more like processing plants with cats coming in and going out either to a new home or to a rendering plant.

      I suppose, that this is a reflection on the difficult circumstances under which animal shelters work, meaning that there are too many unwanted cats.

      • There are county leaders making 6 figure incomes who either deny the problem or don’t think its important enough to fix. My article isn’t the important one. The one linked in by an advocate named Shirley is the best article I’ve ever read. She really tells it like it is.

        • I loved your article, Elisa.
          And, I read Shiley’s too. OMG! It was orgasmic (can I say that?)
          Thank you so much for showing me this.
          These are the sparks that keep my fires burning to make changes in kill shelters.

          • I’ve already been warned by the shelter I’d better have hard proof before writing anything like this. I had the emails from Susan and had planned to study it when I got out of bed yesterday but Shirley did it much better than I ever could have. I’m thankful I could bounce off her article without hanging myself and then I sent it all to Michael so he could take a poke at it. I can say poke, can’t I 🙂

            This isn’t an attack on the volunteers but on the shelter director, who is so much like the one in San Bernadino who likes to have police beat on 100 lb animal advocates. She may have bitten off more than she can chew with this one. I don’t think it’s going to go away.

            • I believe and I hope that my article proves that this 100 gram policy is incorrect. I tried to make it as black and white as possible and as straightforward as possible. You can forget, for the time being, any ethical questions about it because it is simply, factually incorrect. It cannot be justified therefore.

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