It’s kitten season again
Warm spring weather has returned, and soon kittens born to stray and feral cats will be coming out to play in the sun. Many people mistakenly think that such kittens are lost or abandoned, but that is usually not the case. Most of the time the kittens are not in need of rescue; their mother is around and taking good care of them. In fact, trying to rescue “stray” kittens may not be the best thing for them. The best course is to go slow, and try to do no harm.
When you see a kitten, the first thing you need to do is determine the kitten’s age. Alley Cat Allies has useful charts that will help you determine a kitten’s age at alleycatallies.org. A kitten taken from its mother too early will need to be bottle fed, and rescue organizations are overwhelmed. They will not be able to help you with that. Watch the kittens but do not interfere unless you are certain that they are orphaned or abandoned, and unless you are prepared to take responsibility for caring for them yourself. Your veterinarian will be able to help you obtain the necessary supplies and show you what to do. Even with the best care, a kitten separated from its mother too soon may not survive, so do not take this course unless it is absolutely necessary.
Feral cats are just domestic cats that have not been socialized to people and live on their own outdoors. Feral kittens can be socialized and turned into fine domestic pets, but there is a narrow window of time when this is possible. The kitten can be taken from its mother when it is six to eight weeks old, and it can often be socialized until it is about twelve weeks old. However, socializing a feral cat is very time consuming and not always successful. Alley Cat Allies warns that socializing a feral kitten generally takes several hours of one-on-one contact daily for a month or more.
Furthermore, socializing the kitten is just the first step; that kitten must have a permanent home. Most no-kill shelters will not have room for it, and most people who want a house cat already have one. Unless you want to keep the kitten for your own pet, or know someone who wants the kitten as a pet, the kitten is better off living with its mom outdoors.
Most likely the cat family is doing fine, but it could use some help. First, feed the cats. That will also keep them around so you can monitor them and determine what intervention may be appropriate. And consider TNR (trap, neuter, release). The Cleveland APL offers Cuyahoga County residents a reduced price of $10 to neuter and vaccinate outdoor cats. Thanks to sophisticated surgery techniques, the cats and kittens can then be safely returned to their outdoor home the day after their surgery.
Kittens can be neutered once they weigh two pounds, which usually occurs by the time they are eight weeks old. Friends of the Bay Village Kennel has traps which can be borrowed for TNR. TNR improves the cats’ health and benefits the community by reducing the number of stray and feral cats. For more information, contact Cleveland APL or Friends of the Bay Village Kennel.
historian, legal historian, former tax lawyer, author of Bankruptcy in an Industrial Society: The History of the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Akron University Press, 2014)