More sunlight, no winter coats and blooming flowers are just a few of the early signs of the start of spring. However, in animal shelters all around, the start of spring doesn’t always bring that same sense of joy and bliss. Both spring and summer seasons are referred to as “Kitten Season” because it is the time of year that cats give birth to many litters. The cuteness overload of a new litter of kittens can become rather sad when many of them end up homeless. A lot of them end up living outside together in community colonies. But this also brings a great number of kittens into local animal shelters, often doubling or tripling the animal shelter population where they become a strain on shelter resources and make it extremely difficult for shelters to find new homes for older cats who are there.
There are many simple ways that you can help out during this busy kitten season. Becoming a foster parent can help animal shelters free up space, while providing nurturing care for a kitten before they are old enough to get adopted. Supporting the trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) programs for feral colonies in and around Pinellas County is another way to help. TNVR organizations like MEOW Now help trap the stray cats, spay or neuter them, vaccinate them and then release them back to their community.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent overpopulation is spaying or neutering your pet. Since cats can become pregnant at just five months old, getting them spayed or neutered as early as possible is key. Getting your pet spayed or neutered provides a variety of different benefits, including an increased life expectancy by 12-18 months. In addition to a longer life, a spayed cat no longer goes into a heat, which then eliminates certain behaviors, like yowling and urinating in the house. When a cat is spayed before her first heat cycle, which can be as young as six months, they are also less likely to develop specific kinds of cancers or infections. Her chances of contracting breast cancer, uterine cancer, uterine infections and other cancers of the reproductive system are significantly reduced. This can ultimately lead to savings on costly vet bills in the future.
Spaying or neutering your pet has up-front costs, but it is much less expensive than the cost of caring and providing for an unplanned or unexpected litter. It also only reduces the number of homeless animals at shelters and provides the important health benefits mentioned above.
Spay and neuter programs are available locally at our SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center and other animal welfare organizations.
For more information on fostering kittens or to learn about the kittens and cats available for adoption at SPCA Tampa Bay, call 727-586-3591 or visit spcatampabay.org.
Rizal Lopez, DVM, is the Spay/Neuter Services Program Director for SPCA Tampa Bay, overseeing the public spay/neuter program at the SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center. This service has provided over 5,000 procedures since opening in late 2016, and Dr. Lopez, since joining the organization in 2011, has performed over 14,000 spay/neuter procedures for the community. He served as shelter veterinarian and medical director before taking the lead role in providing spay/neuter services.