Do you know what kitten season is? If not, you’re about to find out! If you’ve ever been involved in rescuing or fostering kittens, you’ll know that there’s a particular time of year that kittens are suddenly everywhere. Let’s find out more about why and how you can help.
When Is Kitten Season?
In America, kitten season tends to be from March through to October, but it varies depending on climate. Female cats are “seasonally polyestrous,” which means they come into heat only at particular times of the year, and that time is from January to late fall in the Northern Hemisphere.
In warmer areas of the country, like California, kitten season can be longer, while in some parts of the world, it can last all year long. At this time, each female cat is capable of having multiple pregnancies. Feral colonies or even a female domestic cat that’s allowed to wander and hasn’t been spayed can have multiple litters of kittens during kitten season.
After the end of fall, a female cat usually stops coming into heat for the rest of the year, a process known as “anestrus.” She will rarely have any kittens during this time.
When Can Cats Come into Heat?
Unspayed female kittens can come into heat when they’re as young as 5 to 9 months old.
After this point, they will come into heat around every 2 weeks from January until October, depending on climate and temperature. Female cats will often do whatever they can to go out and find a male tomcat during their heat cycle. And males will do their best to locate the females based on the pheromones the females excrete in their urine. Female cats are “induced ovulators,” meaning her eggs are released from the ovaries after she’s mated with a male cat. This gives a high chance of her becoming pregnant.
The gestation period for cats is around 65 days, so before you know it, there will be a litter of kittens being born! Each litter usually averages between four and six kittens.
After a female cat has given birth to her kittens, she will come back into heat quickly, usually before her kittens are even weaned. If she meets and mates with a tomcat during this time, the cycle begins again, and another litter of kittens will soon be born.
How Can You Help During Kitten Season?
If you have a female cat, make sure she’s spayed. Female kittens can be spayed from 4 to 6 months onward, so speak to your vet about the best time to book your kitten in for her operation.
If you’re tempted to leave your female cat unspayed but don’t have any real intention of breeding her, be aware that female cats in heat can become absolutely intent on finding a male cat. If she’s kept as an indoor cat, you may find that she attempts to escape and yowls loudly, which is her way of attracting any male cats that happen to be in the neighborhood. If you do allow her outside, she may disappear for a few days as she finds a mate, only to come home already pregnant. If you didn’t intend for her to become pregnant, then you need to consider how you’ll find the kittens loving and responsible homes.
Not to mention, your kitty may get injured while roaming, get into a road traffic accident, fights with other cats, or contract serious viral infectious disease during mating. All of this is easily preventable with spaying. It is the responsible thing to do not only for your cat but also for the growing cat population worldwide. Every little bit helps.
Animal shelters are full to bursting with kittens during kitten season, so consider offering to volunteer your time to care for the kittens. There may be kittens that need more intensive fostering at home too. Unfortunately, every year, there are around 3.2 million cats entering shelters across the country, and 860,000 end up being euthanized.
Kitten season might sound like fun, but it’s hard work for the shelters that care for the multitude of kittens coming through their doors at this time of year. If you’re ready to welcome a cat into your home, consider adopting a pair of kittens from a shelter, and know that you’re making a huge difference in the lives of those cats.
We can all agree that kittens are adorable, but instead of breeding your cat and contributing to the devastatingly high numbers of unwanted, abandoned, and euthanized cats each year, make a difference by getting your cat neutered or spayed and by adopting kittens or cats.
Felines are very efficient breeders, which contributes to this overwhelming problem, and their breeding season lasts from January to late fall, meaning the kitten season usually starts in March. This can vary depending on the climate. Speak to your vet about the neutering procedure and all the benefits your cat will gain from it, and inquire with the local shelter about how you can contribute to helping and managing the growing feral and stray cat population.
Featured Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock