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Kittens will begin to inundate shelters as early as March, ushering in what shelter workers have labeled "Kitten Season." Shelter volunteers dread this time of year, particularly in high-kill shelters where the presence of a cute kitten often sounds the death knell for adult cats who are invariably passed over as people opt for the cuddly "baby package" instead.
|Photo via Creative Commons 2.0, courtesy Or Hiltch |
This is a battle volunteers and rescue workers fight year after year - and the battle cry is "Spay! Spay! Spay!"
The first time a cat will go into heat is somewhere around the age of 5 to 12 months. Until they are spayed - or become pregnant - the cycle will repeat every 4 to 6 weeks thereafter.
A single unspayed female cat over the course of 12 years can generate over 3,000 offspring.
The folks over at the Cat Fanciers' Association did the math for you:
"The average stray female will have 5.25 litters in her lifetime, encompassing 22.3 kittens. At age two months there should be 12.9 survivors, roughly six females and seven males (at maturity, roughly 2/3 of the stray cat population is male,(6) due to the high mortality of females during first pregnancy and birth), which will decrease to four females over time. These six females will go on to have their 22 surviving kittens each.
Realistically, over 12 years one unspayed female with all her unspayed female offspring can reasonably be expected to be responsible for over 3200 kittens if there is no human intervention."
|Photo courtesy em...ily via Creative Commons 2.0|
Because of this, organizations nationwide are beginning to organize events such as "Beat the Heat" spay clinics.
Thanks to PetSmart Charities, 65 clinics in 31 states received funding to offer spay/neuter surgeries at discounted prices.
Specifically this February, these clinics spayed hundreds of female cats for only $20 each.
As a result, they were able to keep over 17,000 kitties from ever going into heat again, preventing many of the unplanned litters that populate so many shelters across the U.S. each spring.
What you can do
- Encourage your local shelters to participate in next year's "Beat the Heat" campaign and actively work with local TNR communities to rally the community behind it. A successful "Beat the Heat" campaign can help keep feral cat colony populations under control as well.
- Invest in TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) in your community. TNR works - it's as simple as that. For more information on TNR, please visit Alley Cat Allies' website.
And if you want to experience how TNR works through the eyes of a first-time participant, please go to Okey's Promise blog and read along as artist BZ TAT experiences firsthand the rewards of helping to trap, vaccinate, "fix" and release a feral cat colony near Canton, Ohio.