LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The spring and summer months are known as “kitten season” because of the many cats that are born during this time of the year. Kittens can’t go into shelters right after they are born, so they may need foster families to help care for them.
Kitten season starts around April or May and runs through the summer, explains Lindsay High, community relations and site director for the Pennsylvania SPCA Lancaster Center. “The spring brings about new life — new plants and new kittens,” High said.
Shelters like the Pennsylvania SPCA cannot take in newborn kittens because the animals’ immune systems aren’t fully developed and they need constant care, like bottle feeding, High explains. At her shelter, kittens need to be at least 8 weeks old and weigh at least 2 pounds to come to the shelter.
Until they are ready to go to a shelter, kittens may need foster parents to care for them. High says, “Right now, there is a pretty significant need [for foster homes]. We have a waitlist of kittens that are looking to come into the shelter.”
Foster families help care for newborn kittens, and they continue to care for them until space becomes available in the shelter as other cats are adopted.
Not all newborn kittens should be taken in by people, though. Kittens who are still with their mothers should be left as they are so that their moms can take care of them. “Mom’s got this. She knows how to mom,” High said.
Individuals who find a litter of kittens with their mother cat can provide the matriarch with food and water and keep an eye on the family to make sure they are doing well, says High, but other than that, people shouldn’t intervene too much while the kittens are still young.
Once the kittens have grown a bit, and if they are able to be handled by people, individuals can contact a shelter like the Pennsylvania SPCA Lancaster Center to see if there is space for the cats to be taken in.
However, foster families are needed for kittens who have been separated from their moms. People can apply to foster kittens for the Pennsylvania SPCA Lancaster Center at pspca.org.
Kitten foster families feed and socialize the animals. For kittens that have not been weaned yet, the care involves bottle feeding. Foster families also socialize kittens who were born to feral cats, helping the animals get used to human contact so they can be adopted by loving families.
The Pennsylvania SPCA Lancaster Center provides its foster families with the supplies they need to care for the young cats, High says.
Kittens and cats are adorable, “but the problem is, especially in Lancaster County, we have a really large feral cat population,” High said. Programs like the Pennsylvania SPCA’s Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program help limit the feral cat population.
Through the Pennsylvania SPCA’s TNR program, feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, given age-appropriate vaccines, and then released back into their colonies. Cats who have received TNR services have tipped ears so people know which animals have already been treated.
“Releasing the cat back into that community with that cat now being spayed or neutered helps cut down on the production of kittens in the spring, but then also, you want to release the cat back into the area which it came from because if you remove that cat, it will only create space for a new cat to come in,” and that new cat may not be spayed or neutered, High explains.
More information on adopting cats from the Pennsylvania SPCA can be found online here.