This time of year, when the kids get out for summer, the kittens are also out - in droves. Animal rescue organizations refer to the summer months as “kitten season” – when shelters are overrun with orphaned and abandoned kittens. June is the ASPCA’s National Adopt a Shelter Cat month and rescue groups and animal shelters across the country are encouraging the public to adopt cats and kittens rather than purchase them from a private party or breeder.
While kids may have numerous summertime activities planned, orphaned kittens only have 3 places to go: to a loving home, to a humane society shelter where they will likely be euthanized in a week, or out in the wild, where their chances of surviving more than two years is, on average, very slim, and where their quality of life will likely be poor.
This month I encourage you to do what you can to help by considering adopting a kitten or adult cat from an animal rescue group or shelter. Of course, because cats are such prolific reproducers, having that kitten spayed or neutered is paramount if you are to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
A cat’s normal gestation period (i.e. the length of time pregnancy lasts) is about 2 months. After being born it only takes about 6 months for those kittens to reach the age where they can reproduce a third generation of kittens, and then in 6 more months those grand-kittens are reproducing - and so on. The geometric proliferation of cats is one reason that spaying or neutering even a single cat is so important. Preventing just one cat from reproducing can prevent the birth of thousands of kittens in just a few years.
Consider the following: although estimates vary on the exact number, somewhere between 3 million and 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year in animal shelters because there are not enough homes willing to take them in.
That is a tragic number. And while adopting a single cat or kitten won’t make a noticeable dent in these statistics, that single adoption will make a noticeable difference for that kitten, and will add a completely new dimension to your life.
What if you already have a cat? Well, as I tell my clients, the best toy for a kitten is another kitten. If you already own a cat (or a dog), you’re probably wondering how easy it is to add a cat to the family. The good news is that cats can get along with other cats as well as dogs.
When adding a new cat or kitten to a home that already has a cat, it’s a good idea to keep the new one away from the current “residents” for a few days. Be patient. After several days, supervise interactions between the animals for periods of increasing length. Most cats will soon learn to accept each other, and some may quite possibly become the best of friends.
Remember that you’re making a commitment to love and care for your new pet for his or her lifetime, which could mean 10, 15, even 20 years. So choose your new best friend carefully and be a responsible pet owner. In no time at all you’ll know how wonderful sharing your home with a cat or kitten can be.
Like the old Italian proverb says: “Happy is the home with at least one cat.”