It’s that time of year again: kitten season.
Every year from May to early fall, shelters and rescues across the country receive hundreds of kittens looking for homes. Most are from unwanted and unexpected litters, Loudoun County Animal Services Community Relations Manager Nicole Falceto said.
Cats reach sexual maturity as early as four months of age. They can give birth up to three times a year with an average of four to six kittens in each litter. LCAS receives the most kittens between May and September.
In 2016, LCAS received 432 kittens under six months of age. Over 300 of those kittens were cared for by LCAS fosters until they were old enough to be adopted at two months of age.
To date, LCAS has received 186 kittens this year which is consistent with previous years, Falceto said. Over 100 of those kittens needed specialized care and are staying with fosters for socialization until they are old enough for adoption.
“Personally, I think fostering is amazing,” Falceto said. “Who doesn’t love playing with kittens? Fostering underage kittens helps take the pressure off shelters and rescue and ensures kittens receive critical socialization at an early age.”
Although this phenomenon is seen all over the country, Falceto said the numbers in Loudoun aren’t nearly as high as other jurisdictions.
“We’re very thankful to be in a community that’s dedicated to spaying and neutering, “Falceto said.
LCAS and other area rescues like the Humane Society of Loudoun County and Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA) do not adopt animals until they’ve been spayed or neutered or an appointment has been made.
Falceto said LCAS continues to work with organizations such as Loudoun County Community Cat Coalition (LC3) to help spay and neuter stray/community cats.
“That’s the greatest area of need right now,” Falceto said.
Community cats are free-roaming cats that are often born feral but share qualities of pet cats because they’re essentially owned by the farmers or ranchers working the land on which they live, according to PetSmart Charities. In some cases, people tend to feed and care for cats and allow them into their homes, but wouldn’t say they own the cats or take the cats with them when they move.
These cats can help with pest control and are often seen as members of the community. Instead of trapping the cats and taking them to shelters that may not have room, organizations like LC3 have formed and launched “Trap, Neuter, Release” programs to help control the population of community cats while letting them live in their preferred environment.
LCAS takes in these cats and adopts them out through its Barn Cat program for outdoor, working cats that may not be socialized like pet cats.
As kitten season continues, shelters and rescues are looking for more volunteers to help foster cats. FOHA in particular has said it’s in desperate need for more foster homes. Earlier in May, the Humane Society of Loudoun also said it was expecting to be overwhelmed with requests from other shelters. Neither FOHA nor the Humane Society euthanize animals and often take in overflow from other shelters.
Falceto said county residents can also help out by donating supplies. Shelters and rescues are always in need of digital scales, heating pads, kitten milk replacement formula, and canned kitten food, non clumping litter, kitten bottles and soft toys. And of course, the greatest help of all: spaying and neutering your cats.