Animal shelters are seeing one of the worst kitten seasons in recent years with many more cats coming in than can be found homes for. One reason is ignorance on the age a kitten has to be to become pregnant. Uninformed cat owners may be surprised at the age a kitten can give birth to her first litter.
While most cats reach sexual maturity between five and six months of age, some kittens can and do get pregnant at only four months old. Take into consideration a cat may have at least two litters per year and there’s a very big (but totally preventable) problem.
Cabarrus County Animal Control in Concord, North Carolina has been hit especially hard this kitten season. Over the past few years, their euthanasia rate had dropped from 35 percent for cats down to 11 percent between June 2016 and June 2017. Last June the shelter housed 101 cats. This June the facility had 201 cats.
Combine this with an outbreak of panleuk where 11 cats out of 70 died or were so ill they had to be euthanized (the illness has a 90 percent fatality rate in kittens) and you have a mess on your hands. Especially when some of the rescues decided not to take cats from this shelter for fear of exposing their other cats to the highly contagious illness.
In an unprecedented move, the shelter did allow between 35 and 40 cats to leave for a two-week quarantine with a rescue willing to take them on.
All of the shelters I’ve checked with on Facebook are facing the same issues. Some people claim it’s an animal problem. It’s not. It’s a people problem. Kitten owners let time get away from them and all of a sudden the adorable little kitten they adopted at Christmas is about to become a mom. No problem. Just drop off the kittens to the local shelter then get back on the computer and complain when you read there was a mass killing to make space for even more unwanted kittens (yes, people really do this).
There are programs out there to help those who can’t afford spay/neuter. Any shelter or cat rescue group can point you in the right direction. Mandatory laws to ‘fix’ a cat before it reaches sexual maturity is key and then only if the law is considered important enough to enforce.
More on the Cabarrus County situation can be found here.
The best thing you can do to help, besides having your cats spayed or neutered, is to offer to foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks until a rescue has space for it and can find a good forever home. It’s not too late to help your local shelter since kitten season runs until late September or early October.