Anna Frederickson, SICSA foster coordinator, said kittens need bottle fed until about three to four weeks and foster parents switch to giving them wet food around then.
They will be ready for adoption around six to eight weeks old.
“In the mean time, it’s just up to the foster to feed and love them,” she said.
“Kitten season,” or the feline breeding season is from spring into summer, when litters are typically born.
Cats breed at a fast pace, with a gestational period is around 60 days and the ability to be pregnant again almost immediately after giving birth.
Additionally, in early 2020, many “trap, neuter, release” programs were shut down under pandemic orders and later many remained on pause from ongoing pandemic disruptions.
That meant fewer cats were being vaccinated and sterilized in 2020, and there was a wave of more kittens in 2021 with more health problems.
“Kitten season is a community problem, not just like an animal welfare issue. These kittens are popping up everywhere. The animal welfare world needs the help of our communities to make sure that these kittens make it to adoption age, healthily,” Kaitlin Becraft, SICSA education and outreach manager, said.
Every year, well meaning bystanders accidentally “kitten nap” and mistake kittens for abandoned without properly checking to see if their mother might have been nearby.
Shelter staff offer a few tips for what to do if you see stray kittens in your alley:
- Leave them undisturbed and refrain from touching them. Stay far enough away from the litter that you can observe them but not frighten the mother cat from returning to her kittens. “She’s probably somewhere around,” Frederickson said. “She doesn’t stick around them all the time and leaves to feed and do the things cats do.
- It’s best to take a “wait and watch” approach and see if the mother returns. You can sprinkle a bag of flour on the ground nearby to see if the mother comes back later that day and leaves footprints in the flour, keeping that same safe radius so not to frighten the mother. If the mother doesn’t come back, you can safely remove the kittens.
- You can place water nearby for the mother (but not too close, so you don’t draw other stray cats to the kittens).
- You can consult your local veterinarian or shelter if you’re worried a cat seems distressed or sick. For more info about trap neuter release programs or other services, go to sicsa.org or call 937-294-6505.
SICSA and the Humane Society of Greater Dayton say foster volunteers make a big difference in the wellbeing of kittens.
Frederickson said people thinking about fostering should consider if they have the time to give them the attention and feeding that they need. People also need to think if they have space to quarantine a new animal.