Tis the Season… for Kittens!

Did you know… last year RSPCA NSW took in more than 13,000 homeless, sick, injured or surrendered cats? About 2 in 3 of these were kittens. That’s almost 9,000 kittens! If you lined these kittens up head to tail (and could get them to stay still) the queue would stretch for about two kilometres.

 

Cats are seasonal breeders

Kittens don’t come into our shelters all year round. Just like cherries and mangoes, kittens arrive when the weather gets warmer. That means the kittens are starting to arrive in our shelters now by the  hundreds.

Cats start breeding when the days start getting longer, usually around August here in the southern hemisphere, and they continue to breed throughout spring and summer. Cats are breeding machines. A queen (female cat) can start to breed from as young as 4 months of age and can produce up to two litters every season. That can quickly add up to a lot of cats – in just two years, a single pair of undesexed cats could result in up to 20,000 kittens!

Unlike cherries, kitten season  is long. As you can see in the graph below, kittens start arriving at our shelters in big numbers from mid-October and continue to arrive through spring, summer and most of autumn.

Kittens at RSPCA NSW

Having worked as a vet in the RSPCA Sydney veterinary hospital for many years, I have cared for thousands of these kittens. Litter after litter of kittens come through our RSPCA Sydney treatment room, often in cardboard boxes, often sick, cold, and hungry. Sometimes the kittens come in with their mums, but more often they are orphans – scared and skinny. It’s heart-breaking.

Thankfully, RSPCA NSW have an army of compassionate and dedicated volunteer foster-carers, ready to take these babies into their homes to rear them up and get them ready for their forever families.. At the height of kitten season, we often have as many as 500 kittens out in foster care at any one time!

Interested in becoming a volunteer foster carer?

 

Kitten Season and Your Cat

Kitten season can be a stressful time for your cat. A queen in season is a handful. They become agitated, roll on the ground, rub against everything and yowl repeatedly, and loudly! They also become desperate to get outside, especially at night. Your undesexed tomcat will also become agitated, might spray urine and will also be desperate to get outside and find the ladies. Toms will often get into fights and can sustain terrible injuries or contract diseases like feline immunodeficiency virus (Feline AIDS). They are also more likely to roam and be injured or killed on the road.

All this cat action in the neighbourhood can also be very unsettling for your desexed cat and can put them at risk of being injured, especially if they roam away from home. You can help to make this time less stressful for your cat by making the transition to living safely at home and by making sure you’ve got all their needs covered. Check out our series of handouts for more information:

What your cat needs at home

Transitioning to the safe-at-home lifestyle

How to keep your cat safe at home

Enrichment: help your cat live their best life at home

 

The Future of Kitten Season

Fortunately, at RSPCA NSW we are starting to work out how to prevent these kittens coming through our doors in the first place. We work with communities all over NSW to improve access to desexing so that fewer kittens find themselves without a home to go to. But everyone has a role to play:

  • Have you found a litter of kittens? Not all kittens need to come to us at RSPCA NSW.
  • Do you have a cat? You can help by making sure your cat is desexed.
  • Are there free-roaming cats around where you live? You can help by making sure these cats all have safe, permanent homes
  • Does your neighbour have an undesexed cat? You can help by talking to them about the benefits of desexing. You might even be able to help them out if the cost, or transport to the vet is a barrier for them.

Visit our webpage to learn more about what we are doing to help cats, the community and wildlife through our project Keeping Cats Safe at Home.