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Kitten Season in Henderson

2024.2.17

by:  Diane Soukup

Spring is about to, well, spring upon us. Kids will get a break from school, pools will open, and warm weather will make its welcome return. Spring is known as a time of birth and rebirth; coyotes and rabbits will bear their young, birds of all kinds will build nests and lay eggs, and trees will turn green with new leaves. But those aren’t the only new things will make their presence known.
While unfixed cats can reproduce year-round, spring brings the beginning of what is referred to by many in rescue as Kitten Season. While this sounds like the most adorable season one could ever imagine, for animal rescues, it can be hectic at best, heartbreaking at worst.

The six-month Kitten Season cycle begins in March with warmer weather and female cats going into heat. Heat can recur every 2-3 weeks until the female mates successfully with a male. Nine weeks later, a litter of four to six kittens is born. 

The female can repeat this pattern multiple times in a year, resulting in more than a dozen kittens solely because of her pregnancies – not including any litters produced by female kittens she gives birth to.

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During Kitten Season, places like the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), Henderson Animal Shelter, Community Cat Coalition of Clark County (C5), and The Kitty Mafia Rescue, among others, may work to take in and care for hundreds, possibly thousands of kittens across the Vegas Valley, including Henderson. Many of these are brought in by well-meaning people who find them in their yards, garages, or hiding in bushes. But is this always the right thing to do?


A quick Google search of “What to do if you find kittens in your yard” reveals a consistent message from multiple sources, including the Humane Society of America: Leave them be. Mother cats will leave their babies sometimes for hours at a time to hunt; they need nutrition to keep feeding the kittens. If the babies appear healthy and warm, are responsive to light touch, with rounded bellies and clean coats, it is very likely mom is caring for them and will come back soon.

In this case, if you want to help Momma Cat out, leave some high-protein food or at least fresh water out in a spot is convenient for her to get to, but not too close to her family’s hiding spot. Keep your resident dogs and cats away from Momma as best you can, especially if the kittens aren’t maneuvering on their own yet.
However, if the kittens appear cold, thin, sick (such as eye or nose discharge or matting), slow to respond or nonresponsive, then human intervention is appropriate. Warmth and food are keys here: Soft bedding, such as sherpa or flannel blankets, or a heating pad on low (with a towel or similar item between the heat source and the kitten to prevent burns) will be helpful.
Food can be more challenging: Kittens under approximately four weeks old will need kitten replacer milk. Cow’s milk, oat milk, or human baby formula will not work. Up until about three weeks of age, kittens will need to be bottle-fed about every two to three hours around the clock – including overnight. At around four weeks old, wet kitten food can be mixed with kitten formula or water into a concoction known as “kitten gruel” can be introduced first in a bottle, then served on a flat or very shallow plate once it’s thicker in consistency.

And since what goes in must come out, the tiniest kittens (up to about three or four weeks of age) will need their bottoms rubbed gently with a warm washcloth or towel to help them go to the bathroom. This will need to be done after every feeding; Momma Cat would accomplish this by licking their bottoms; the washcloth or towel will have a similar texture to Momma’s rough tongue.
If you do bring the babies into your home, it’s important to keep them in a secure area (such as a bathroom or laundry room) separated from other animals in the home for their health and the health of your pets. Wearing gloves and washing your hands before and after handling the kittens will be crucial to keep any illnesses from spreading. It is important to understand sick kittens can worsen and die, even with the best efforts from experienced caretakers; this is the heartbreak of Kitten Season.
It is readily apparent Kitten Season creates many challenges for Henderson-area shelters, cat rescues, and the fosters volunteer with them. Knowing what to do when kittens are found is important, but so is having a plan for them once they can be separated from Momma Cat. Many healthy kittens are removed from their mothers can be socialized in foster homes and adopted out once they have been vetted and spayed or neutered.

Stopping the cycle of endless litters is crucial. Contacting a group like C5 to trap the mother and have her spayed is a great start. Making sure the kittens end up with a rescue or shelter, such as the Henderson Animal Shelter or NSPCA, it will spay or neuter them prior to their being adopted out isn’t just the right thing, it’s the law: It is illegal in the City of Henderson, without a Breeder Permit, to have a cat, dog, or ferret over the age of three months isn’t fixed.
While Kitten Season sounds like an adorable time of year, it is a massive challenge in Henderson and the rest of the Vegas Valley. If you’re interested in helping, please contact your local rescue and apply to be a kitten foster or provide financial support with a tax-deductible donation.

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