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October 26, 2014
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community living

Kitten season

The author rescued this old tomcat many years ago from a local animal shelter where he had been waiting for adoption for almost a year. He is still with her today, enjoying life in the country.
Photo by Sue Frisch

By Sue Frisch

What is “kitten season” you ask? It is the time of year when the warmer weather and longer days send un-spayed female cats into their heat cycle. Once the heat cycle begins, a female cat will become very affectionate and vocal in an effort to attract a mate. This behavior will bring the male cats a runnin’ from near and far to answer her call. A female cat can go into her first heat as young as five months of age and from early spring until fall she can go into heat every three weeks if she is not bred. A single female cat can have up to three litters of kittens during just one kitten season, and can become pregnant while she is still nursing a litter.

Feral and free roaming cats are an issue in all of our river communities. These are the cats that you see hanging around and that don’t really belong to anyone in particular. You may see them at local dumpsters and other places where there is shelter and a food source, such as a house where someone has been kind enough to feed them. Unfortunately, left un-altered, these cats will breed and multiply into an overwhelming number very quickly.

While kittens are cute, there is a significant lack of available homes for those that will be born this year. Most of these resulting litters of kittens will not enjoy a “happily ever after” ending to their life story. Some will remain on the streets to fend for themselves, others will be abandoned by their caretakers on a back road somewhere, and hundreds will flow into our local animal shelters.

Once the unwanted kittens and cats end up in the shelter/rescue system, they quickly tap the organization’s resources for the most basic care necessary to maintain them till they are adopted. Crowded shelter conditions will cause an increased risk of illness among all of the cats and kittens, which in turn causes an added burden on shelter staff and budgets. Most of our local animal shelters have already started getting calls regarding pregnant cats and litters of kittens and it’s only the first week in April! During the height of summer it is not unusual for organizations to field calls that amount to upwards of 50 cats/kittens needing our help each week! That’s a lot of felines, and it is impossible for shelters to be able to help each and every one of them, no less find them all a home.

This is a battle the shelters cannot win alone. Those organizations that are “no-kill” will stop accepting cats/kittens when their capacity is reached, and often those poor creatures are then dumped and left to fend for themselves, or worse. “Full-service” shelters must resort to euthanizing those that arrive on days when the “inn is full,” and there are no more available foster families. Either way, the cats are on the losing end of the deal, and it makes the community members frustrated with the sheltering organizations, who are very often doing the best they can with their limited resources.

The solution to this problem is simple: it’s spay and neuter. We are lucky enough at this time to have several organizations in our community who realize this and have developed low cost spay/neuter options, and if we all work together we can end the cat overpopulation problem.

Dessin Animal Shelter (570/253-4037) in Honesdale has a voucher program for Wayne County residents. Call for details.

Eastern PA Animal Alliance (570/994-5846) has a mobile van that sets up at various locations throughout northeastern PA. They charge $60 to alter a cat and often offer even better rates for feral and free-roaming cats. Contact them at for dates and locations. If you have a location that could host the van for a day, let them know as well.

TARA (The Animal Rights Alliance) (845/754-7100 or toll free 855/754-7100) has a mobile van serving the New York communities. Their fee is $70 and includes a rabies vaccination.