Kitten season is here: meet some of the early arrivals
Every year, spring hails the arrival of kitten season. With too many stray cats roaming un-desexed in our communities, this time of year starts to see huge numbers of kittens being born unwanted, with this sure to rise in the coming months. SPCA has already started seeing vulnerable litters come through our doors. Meet some of the season’s early arrivals.
September is always a time of nervous anticipation in our SPCA Centres. As our animal care teams prepare for the arrival of kitten season, many refer to this period as “the calm before the storm." Each year, alongside the enjoyment of having kittens around and watching them grow, there is a very real sense of trepidation as we know that numbers will likely become overwhelming in a very short time.
We never know if the coming kitten season is going to be busier than our last, but 2023 has been one for the books already. Throughout September in 2023, SPCA saw roughly 47% more kittens in our care than the same month last year. Numbers are skyrocketing, and this is set to be one of our busiest kitten seasons yet.
While the numbers tell one story, they also represent hundreds of individual stories too. Every single feline that comes through our doors during kitten season has their own story to tell. Today, we want to share just a tiny fraction of these individual stories and introduce some of the early arrivals into our Centres so far this kitten season.
AUCKLAND: Stray mum Stormi was struggling to care for her sickly kittens
Due to a lack of desexing, there are so many unowned breeding cats out in our communities. Unlike feral cats who live totally removed from human civilisation, stray cats rely on humans – directly or indirectly – for their survival. When we talk about social strays, those are usually cats who are friendly around humans, happy to interact and will make themselves known in order to be fed.
Stormi was one of these countless social strays. Despite living amongst an Auckland suburban community for a number of months, she had no owner, meaning she had no one looking after her needs – including getting her desexed. Before long, someone living in the area spotted her, only this time she wasn’t alone... she had four kittens with her.
At a glance, it was clear to see the kittens were sick, and this caring member of the public arranged for them to come into the Māngere centre for care. The kittens were estimated to be three weeks old when we met them and all of them were suffering from cat flu, which can be deadly at this age.
Stormi had done her best to look after them, but kittens born on the streets often succumb to infectious cat flu without the safety of a home environment to grow up in.
Stormi and all of her kittens went into a foster home so they could receive just what they needed – a safe, dedicated and stress-free environment. With some medication and under their foster mum’s care, the kittens’ symptoms started to fade, and their personalities started to shine through.
The kittens, now eight weeks’ old, have now all been lovingly named, and are staying in foster care with mum just a little longer until they are ready to come back to our Centre for desexing, and being made available for adoption. As well as all her kittens, Stormi will be desexed to ensure she is never forced to have another litter again.
WELLINGTON: Four kittens, just born, were in dire need of care
Like so many others, this litter of four was born out on the streets. Or, more specifically, under the outside stairs of someone’s house. Cats often try to find a quiet and sheltered space to give birth, so we hear of a lot of stray litters being found under stairs or decks, in roof cavities, and other enclosed spaces.
This litter’s mum was part of a known cat colony, and highly unsocial around humans. When the kittens’ tiny mews were heard by the homeowner and he went to investigate, mum took flight. Their umbilical cords still attached, it was evident these kittens were extremely new to the world, meaning they wouldn’t last long without mum, who didn’t make a return. SPCA was called, and we rushed straight out to collect these highly vulnerable kittens, and set a trap for mum, with no luck.
With kittens this young, fostering can be full on. They require bottle feeding every few hours, and are so helpless at this stage that they even need help with basic things like toileting. Luckily, there are some truly caring people out there who take this responsibility on, and they truly save lives with their choice to do so. SPCA is endlessly grateful to those who put their hand up for fostering the youngest kittens without their mum.
These four, named after four beloved Wellington streets, are doing so well in foster care. After one initial wobble in just one of the kittens, they are all drinking well and growing steadily. Now almost three weeks old, their eyes have only just opened and their ears are starting to pop up. Still no sign of mum back at the birth site, but whatever happens, these four will be OK thanks to fast action from their finder and having a dedicated bottle-feed foster available!
CHRISTCHURCH: Ladybird was heavily pregnant and underweight
Ladybird had the very first litter of the season for our Christchurch Centre. Spotted by a member of the public, this girl was clearly in need of help. As well as being skinny and looking hungry and weak, the stray cat who soon became known as Ladybird was heavily pregnant. So heavily pregnant, she gave birth almost as soon as she came into our care.
Our team were there as Ladybird gave birth and witnessed the arrival of four, five, six kittens! With double the litter size of some cats, it’s unlikely Ladybird would have been able to take adequate care of her kittens if living on the street, so we are so glad she arrived with us just in time.
Ladybird and her kittens went into foster care so all of them could take it easy while the kittens started to grow. Unlike newborn kittens who are on their own, fostering nursing kittens together with their mum is a lot less intensive.
For the first couple of weeks mum spends most of her time sleeping with her babies, who aren’t yet interactive enough to do anything other than sleep and feed! Providing a warm, safe and quiet place is the main thing, and some loving pats for mum if she’s a cat who’s comfortable with human contact.
In a foster home, Ladybird has done such a great job of raising her kittens who are all still in foster with her for the meantime. Having grown into healthy, playful and charming little felines, they’re just about ready for desexing so they can go on and live the life all cats deserve – one that doesn’t involve giving birth to a litter they can’t care for out on the streets.