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Ask A Vet: Kitten Season, Explained

You could have a kitten pal all your own! Photo via _sikander on Flickr

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments!

Q: What exactly is "kitten season"?
 
A: As the weather gets warmer, cats go on the prowl. Instead of curling up somewhere cozy, they're roaming the neighborhood and meeting other cats. And when those cats aren't spayed or neutered, about two months later we find ourselves with many litters of kittens.

Kitten season is weather dependent, and here in San Francisco it usually happens twice a year. We tend to start seeing more kittens around late March, and the season reaches its boiling point around Mother's Day.
The moms that gave birth during the first kitten season can get pregnant a couple of months later, so we usually see a second wave of litters at the end of summer.

Cats tend of have about five kittens in each litter, so a bit of simple math is all it takes to realize what a huge problem two unfixed cats can create. If you're interested in the number details, you can find them here. The short answer is that, not accounting for early mortality, two unfixed cats can result in more than 33,000 kittens after five years. That's a pretty good argument for feline birth control!

So, what happens when the shelter gets flooded with kittens? We turn to our volunteer foster parents. We're lucky to have a great network of volunteers who open their hearts and homes to many of these kittens, as well as the nursing moms, until they're old enough to be adopted (about eight weeks). With every kitten that's placed into a foster home there's room for one more at the shelter, so it directly impacts the number of lives that we can save.
And our foster program is growing by leaps and bounds. So far this year, approximately 400 kittens and moms have been fostered, which is more than double the number that were fostered by this time last year.

Jump on the bandwagon and help us! Kitten season is still going strong right now, and we need all the help we can get. If you're interested in becoming a foster parent, visit sfspca.org/foster