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5 Ways to Help Stray Kittens This Spring
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Springtime is usually when cats have litters of kittens, and stray animal overpopulation is a very real problem. Should you find a kitten in your neighborhood, here are a few ways you can help them out.
When you come across a kitten on the street, you may instinctively believe that taking it home is the best course of action. If it’s with you at home, it’s safe and won’t get hurt, right? While this is a kind gesture driven by good intentions, you may be doing more harm than good. Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy organization dedicated to the humane treatment of cats, offers these five easy ways anyone can help should they come across a cat or kitten this spring.
1. If Mom is Around, Leave Kittens Alone
Kittens who are four weeks or younger are called “neonatal kittens” and when they are this young, they rely on their mother for 100 percent of their care. Should you find a kitten that looks four weeks old or younger, don’t pick it up. Alley Cat Allies recommends watching the kitten for 2-4 hours to see if the mother returns to claim it. If it doesn’t, the kitten may be abandoned. If that happens, only then is the best course of action to take the kitten into your own home.
However, should you decide to care for the kitten, understand that neonatal kittens need around the clock care until they are 5-8 weeks old, which is when they begin to eat wet food.
2. Don’t Bring Neonatal Kittens to Shelters
If you’ve found an abandoned neonatal kitten, the worst thing you could possibly do is bring it to an animal shelter, as they are not equipped to provide the kitten with the care it needs in order to survive. If a kitten can’t eat on its own, they will more than likely be destroyed. Over 70 percent of cats who are surrendered to shelters are destroyed, regardless of their age and level of socialization. When it comes to abandoned neonatal kittens, it’s best to bring them into your own home or give them to someone who you know is equipped to take care of them.
Related: The Stages of Kitten Development
3. Volunteer as a Kitten Foster Parent
Kitten foster parent programs exist across the country, and although it involves plenty of time, patience and training, the end result is a kitten who is well-mannered and socialized, meaning they are well on their way to find their forever home!
4. Practice Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)
This practice is perhaps one of the most efficient forms of stabilizing and reducing stray cat populations. Cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated before being returned to their outdoor homes. In order to see which cats have been spayed or neutered, they are also ear-tipped – the tip of their ear is nicked off (a painless procedure when they are under anesthesia). This is the universal symbol that a cat has been sterilized so they won’t be re-submitted to have the procedure performed again.
Any kitten who is two months of age and weighs at least two pounds is able to be spayed/neutered. Once they are released back into their outdoor homes, they can no longer produce litters of kittens. This means there will be progressively less and less cats on the streets, therefore reducing the overpopulation problem.
5. Become An Advocate for Cat-Friendly Programs
Contact your local shelter and find out ways to raise awareness about TNR and how you can support other lifesaving policies for cats. The more people are educated about the problem and how they can solve it, the more hands there are on deck who can help solve the overpopulation problem.