Another kitten season is upon us! What does that mean, exactly? And what should you do when you run across a litter of these adorable little screaming balls of fluff?
Though we call it a season, cats can get pregnant and give birth year round. However the most frequent time that cats give birth is ‘kitten season’ which runs from early spring all the way through the fall. If a cat is not spayed or neutered, this is the time you may notice them acting strange. Males tend to wander farther from home, looking for any opportunity to mate. Female cats have a very peculiar way of squirming and rolling around while making some unearthly sounding yowls. This is when she is ‘in heat’ and letting anyone within earshot hear about it. Ferals, outdoor/indoor cats, and even indoor only owned cats that are not fixed will exhibit these behaviors and are likely to find a way to breed. That’s why TNR programs (trap, neuter/spay, return) programs are invaluable to our community!
Once a litter is born, that’s when us humans start running across them. A momma cat, even if totally feral and scared of humans, may give birth under your house or deck. You may hear tiny kitten mews in the bushes near your office, or the path you jog on the weekends. So what should you do if you find a litter? If you find a litter that is in a safe location, do not move them! Watch from afar and see if the momma comes back. Nursing makes a mother cat very hungry, and she will have to leave the nest to find food. Most of the time she will return, but there are is a chance she may be injured or killed, leaving the kittens orphaned. It’s best for the kittens to stay with the mom if possible, and there are people who can trap and transport the entire family to keep them together. In Travis and Williamson counties, the litter and mom will need to be transported to the shelter of the county in which they were found. Both organizations work with rescues and fosters that ensure many cat and kitten lives can be saved.
In the instance that the mother cannot be located or caught by an experienced trapper, even the smallest kittens have a wonderful chance of survival here in ATX. APA! has an entire nursery dedicated to what we call ‘bottle babies’. Kittens who are too young to wean and eat on their own are bottle fed by hand in the nursery by volunteers who work shifts round the clock! Once they are old enough, they can be fostered or adopted. Each year the nursery hosts a baby shower, where the public can donate cash or much needed items and tour the nursery. We have attended for several years, and it is always fun and educational.
If you find a litter and need help, please call/text/email us! For the last few years, we have become more involved with the cat rescue community in the Austin area. We trap ferals for TNR, transport cats to shelters or rescues, foster overnight in our home, foster-to-adopt single kittens, and volunteer with a feral colony that we feed every Monday. Our suv is outfitted with essential cat rescue tools (towels, carrier, sardines) and we keep KMR on-hand for kittens who need a mother’s milk replacement. We are happy to help answer any questions you may have, or assist in making sure trapping/rescuing is done safely for kittens and moms. Please don’t hesitate to reach out! More info about the nursery can be found here.