Kitten season: What you need to know and how you can help

Kitten at the Jacksonville Humane Society only a few days/weeks old. (The Jacksonville Humane Society)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three animal advocacy groups in Jacksonville are asking the community for help as the annual “kitten season” approaches. They’re sharing information about what you should do -- and what to avoid -- to best help out.

The Jacksonville Humane Society and the city’s Animal Care & Protective Service combined took in 5,352 kittens under the age of five months last year.

First Coast No More Homeless Pets is joining those agencies in asking for the community’s support to help save lives this year during “kitten season.”

Kitten season is the time of year when unfixed cats procreate and give birth to kittens.

As the weather warms, cats go into heat. According to Best Friends Animal Society, “In most places across America, animals mate and give birth in spring. This phenomenon can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as longer days, better weather and more access to food, which means higher survival rates for the offspring of many species. Unlike other animals, though, cats can keep on reproducing, having litter after litter right up until the weather turns cold again. In many regions, kitten season can last from spring until early winter.”

On top of the rescued kittens last year, JHS served an additional 726 kittens via its Kitten Krusaders program. Kitten Krusaders encourages community members who find kittens to foster and keep them out of the shelter by connecting finders with no-cost veterinary care.

Kitten at the Jacksonville Humane Society only a few days/weeks old. (The Jacksonville Humane Society)

JHS, ACPS and FCNMHP want you to save and share this information about what to do when you find a litter of kittens during kitten season.

They said it is often instinctual to jump right into “savior mode” and “rescue” the tiny cats. This notion has been given the moniker “kitnapping,” and all three agencies ask the public to NOT act on that instinct. Instead:

  • Watch and wait: The mother cat is likely nearby. A kitten’s best chance at survival is to stay with its mother. It may take a few hours for her to return. (Check the age guide provided to determine the best option for the kittens.)
  • If mom returns: Provide support (food, water, shelter) as needed and when the kittens are 8 weeks old, get mom and kittens spayed/neutered and find them homes.
  • If mom does not return: A home is a better option than the shelter. JHS can provide coaching on care instructions and help support your efforts to find the kittens new homes once they are ready.
  • If kittens are experiencing a true medical emergency, such a struggling to breathe, open wounds, or visible ribs/spine, ACPS can be reached via 904-630-2489, or the MyJax app.

Kitnapping is not the best option for kittens, mother cats, or shelters, the agencies urged.

Underage kittens are the most fragile population in shelters and require extra time, labor and resources that are not always available. When underage kittens arrive at the shelter, they most often have to go into a foster home the very same day, putting an extra strain on staff and volunteers.

Also, when no one looks for the mother cat, she is left alone to continue reproducing in the community.

Kitten at the Jacksonville Humane Society only a few days/weeks old. (The Jacksonville Humane Society)

“If we can share the ‘Don’t Kitnap Kittens’ message throughout our community, we can collectively do what is best for these little ones and keep them with their mother cat,” said Denise Deisler, JHS CEO. “Together, we can conquer kitten season in Jacksonville!”

Community members who want to help with the “Don’t Kitnap” initiative can share this messaging on social media, sign-up at JHS or ACPS to foster kittens in their home, and/or donate items via the kitten wish lists on shelter websites. Volunteers are also needed for all three organizations.

Community members can also contribute by participating in Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return programs offered at First Coast No More Homeless pets, which provide free and low-cost spay or neuter surgeries for outdoor community cats.

This year’s “Don’t Kitnap” campaign is generously sponsored by Jaguar Moving.

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About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.