This article was featured in WYDaily on 5/20/22.
Sweet little meows, wide eyes, and soft fur, spring is here, which means it is kitten season! Here in coastal Virginia, kitten season generally lasts March through October. Whether you’re looking to add some cuddly companionship to your home or you come across seemingly orphaned kittens, here is everything to know.
Warmer weather means many unaltered (not spayed) female cats go into heat. Many shelters including Heritage Humane Society receive an influx of orphaned kittens, pregnant cats, and nursing cats with kittens during this time. On average, more than 84% of the kittens taken in annually at the Heritage Humane Society arrive during kitten season. The influx means staff are stretched, room is tight, and volunteers in great need.
If you come across kittens
If you come across seemingly orphaned kittens, the first step is to stop and observe. The mother cat may not have abandoned them, rather she may be out hunting for her own food, taking a break, or hiding from you. The exception is if the kittens are in danger or poor health and then it is ok to step in immediately. Otherwise, she’s likely around as they need her milk.
Wait and return in a few hours to see if the mother has returned before attempting to rescue them. They have a better chance of survival with their mom. If she returns, trap her and then the kittens will be easier to scoop up. If the mother doesn’t return to the nest, you may choose to remove the kittens. Please do not attempt to bottle feed them unless you have correct bottle-feeding training. Click here to view our hours of operation and contact information for Animal Control and local veterinarian hospitals (some open 24 hours a day). Caring for kittens is a huge commitment and animal professionals are available to help.
When you see those precious kittens playing in shelter kennels and cat rooms, have you ever wondered if they had spent their whole lives, short as they may be, there? The answer is almost always, no. That’s where foster families play a vital role within Heritage Humane Society as a community resource for greater Williamsburg.
One of the most at-risk cat populations is kittens less than eight weeks old. Shelters are limited with staff and resources, busy with the general shelter pet population, and are not the ideal setting for neonatal and developing kittens with susceptible immune systems. These tiny fur babies are totally dependent upon their mother for protection, warmth and nutrition. Sometimes the mother cat is brought to the shelter along with the kittens, and other times kittens come alone, orphaned for any reason such as abandoned by the mother or accidently separated with no hope of reuniting with the mother.
Kittens are very fragile during these first weeks and require specialized care. This is where wonderful fosters critically needed and relied on to step in. Heritage Humane Society heavily depends on foster caregivers to provide necessary care, support and socialization to kittens for as little as days old until they are old enough to be spay/neutered when they reach two pounds, and placed for adoption.