Do you know what kitten season is? If not, you’re about to find out! If you’ve ever been involved in rescuing or fostering kittens, you’ll know that there’s a particular time of year that kittens are suddenly everywhere. Let’s find out more about why and how you can help.
When is kitten season?
In America, kitten season tends to be February through to June. Female cats are “seasonally polyestrous,” which means they come into heat only at particular times of the year, and that time is from February to June.
In warmer areas of the country, like California, kitten season can actually occur twice a year.
At this time, each female cat is capable of having multiple pregnancies. Feral colonies or even a female domestic cat that’s allowed to wander and hasn’t been spayed can have multiple litters of kittens during kitten season.
After June, a female cat usually stops coming into heat for the rest of the year, a process known as “anestrus.” She will rarely have any kittens during this time.
When can cats come into heat?
Unspayed female kittens can come into heat when they’re as young as 5 to 9 months old.
After this point, they will come into heat around every 2 weeks from February until June. Female cats will often do whatever they can to go out and find a male tomcat during their heat cycle. Female cats are “induced ovulators,” meaning her eggs are released from the ovaries after she’s mated with a male cat. This gives a high chance of her becoming pregnant.
The gestation period for cats is just 60 days, so before you know it, there will be a litter of kittens being born! Each litter usually averages between 4 to 8 kittens.
After a female cat has given birth to her kittens, she will come back into heat quickly, usually before her kittens are even weaned. If she meets and mates with a tomcat during this time, the cycle begins again, and another litter of kittens will soon be born.
- Related Read: Cat Pregnancy Stages: Week-by-Week Guide (With Pictures)
How can you help during kitten season?
If you have a female cat, make sure she’s spayed unless you’re a professional breeder and she’s part of a controlled breeding program. Female kittens can be spayed from 4 months onward, so speak to your vet about the best time to book your kitten in for her operation.
If you’re tempted to leave your female cat unspayed but don’t have any real intention of breeding her, be aware that female cats in heat can become absolutely intent on finding a male cat when they’re in heat. If she’s kept as an indoor cat, you may find that she attempts to escape and yowls loudly, which is her way of attracting any male cats that happen to be in the neighborhood. If you do allow her outside, she may disappear for a few days as she finds a mate, only to come home already pregnant. If you didn’t intend for her to become pregnant, then you need to consider how you’ll find the kittens loving and responsible homes.
Animal shelters can often become full to bursting with kittens during kitten season, so consider offering to volunteer your time to care for the kittens. There may be kittens that need more intensive fostering at home too.
Kitten season might sound like fun, but it’s hard work for the shelters that care for the multitude of kittens coming through their doors at this time of year. If you’re ready to welcome a cat into your home, consider adopting a pair of kittens from a shelter, and know that you’re making a huge difference to the lives of those cats.
Featured Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock