GUEST POST BY katie pemberton, community engagement specialist for Memphis Animal Services.
what is Kitten Season?
Kitten season is the time of year—usually spring and summer—that orphaned kittens pop
up everywhere. Last month, we talked about Community Cats and how we can help control their population by participating in Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
Breeding season for the cats that haven’t yet been TNRd typically starts around February, and before you know it, two months have passed, and poof! Kittens!
In an ideal situation, the mother cat’s instincts kick in, and she has the good fortune to find a safe spotto deliver, raise, and nurse her babies.
But it’s hard out here for a momma cat on her own. She might get injured while she’s out hunting, she might get sick—or she might not have the right kitten-to-milk ratio, and have to make a hard decision to save the ones she can.
The kittens might have wandered too far and gotten lost. Some very young mother cats (and they can get pregnant as young as 4 months) simply don’t have the instincts yet to care for young.
Even for moms that luck out and everything goes right, there is no maternity leave for an outdoor cat. There’s no daycare where Mom can drop off her babies when she needs to work.
Sometimes she must leave the babies alone while she hunts for food for herself. If you, a well-meaning human, happen upon her tiny kittens all alone, you may think they need to be saved. But…
If you see (or hear!) very young kittens on their own, don’t assume they’ve been abandoned.
Mom may be out hunting and plan to return. If they appear healthy, well-fed, and go back to sleep after crying for a few minutes, they’re probably still being cared for by Mom.
If you can, keep an eye on them from a safe distance for a few hours to make sure she comes back.
You can also sprinkle flour around the nest and check periodically for Mom’s paw prints. If she doesn’t come back after a few hours, she may have been injured or otherwise unable to return.
In this case, these kittens need your help.
Become a found foster for a local kitten
One of our favorite ways at Memphis Animal Services for the community to get involved in lifesaving is through our Found Foster program.
If you find a pet, can you foster it in your home if we give you all the supplies you need and help you get them adopted?
There are several reasons why community
participation in this program is important:
- Newborn orphaned kittens HAVE to have a foster, or they’ll die. They have to be fed every 2-3 hours.
- If we’re talking about a different type of pet, like a dog that you’ve found, the dog is much more likely to make it back home if they stay near the area they were found. Once they are impounded at the shelter, there’s less than a 10% chance they’ll make it back to their original family.
- MAS hasn’t had to euthanize a pet for space in two years. You can help make sure we never have to go back to that by helping us keep as many kennels open as possible and ready for incoming pets.
If you’ve found a pet and you want to register them as a Found Foster, request an appointment here. But you certainly don’t have to wait until you happen to find a pet in order to foster for Memphis Animal Services!
become a on-call bottle baby foster
When newborn orphaned kittens come to MAS, we must find a foster home for them immediately! They cannot stay at the shelter overnight because they need to be fed every 2-3 hours.
What do “bottle fosters” do?
It’s a lot like taking care of a human newborn.
- Feeding every 2-3 hours (which can be stretched out as they get older), which is done using a teeny little kitten bottle and special kitten formula.
- Diaper changes, which involves stimulating their bottom as their mother would (but with a cloth), to make sure they’re eliminating waste.
other ways to foster kittens:
Foster “toddler” kittens
These weaned kittens have graduated from bottle-feeding and are eating and going to the bathroom on their own, but they’re not big enough yet for spay/neuter so they can’t have a finalized adoption.
They just need a safe spot to play, socialize, and learn to cat.
Foster a nursing mom and her babies
These are the luckiest kittens because they still have their mom. As wonderful as our foster parents are, they’re no replacement for Mom.
Momma cats really need a quiet, calm place to raise their babies without stress. A foster home is the ideal scenario! Mom does all the work for the babies—all you have to do is make sure she has food, water, and a clean litter box.
Join team cat!
The first step is to simply fill out our Cat Foster Application.
Be sure to indicate all types of felines you’re able to foster: nursing mother cat and litter, bottle kittens, weaned kittens, etc.
If you sign up to be on-call, an optional second step is to start doing research!
Kitten Lady is an amazing online resource of All Things Kitten, with videos on everything from how to bottle feed to how to care for a momma cat with babies. She even has a free webinar series on Kitten Care.
p.s. you can help without fostering!
Our kitten foster program would not be possible without donated supplies.
Donation needs include:
- Pet nursing kits
- Miracle Nipples
- Microwavable warming discs
- Kitchen scales
- Wet and dry kitten food.
All of these items can be purchased from our Amazon wish list. Some can be purchased through Cuddly (and count as tax-deductible donations) and some are available locally through Hollywood Feed, Superlo, or other retailers.
OR if you want to do something big for the kittens, host a Kitten Season supply drive!