“Kitten season” in temperate countries

This is a sharing from my dear friend, Ms Aurora Lambrecht, from South Africa, also person-in-charge of EndFIP®.

While one hemisphere says goodbye to the warm, halcyon days of summer, another opens its arms to welcome the season of rebirth and renewal. EndFIP® extends a special Spring message:

Spring Is Here, but So Is Kitten Season!

Spring has arrived! It’s the time to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of fresh flowers and sunshine. Springtime is undoubtedly the most loved time of the year when we have a sense of wonderment and renewal.

With the awakening nature and all its beauty, springtime also brings “kitten season”. Most likely you’d never heard this term before unless you have work for an animal shelter or rescue organization. Kitten season begins in early spring and runs through fall. It is the annual high-breeding periodwhen babies are born to cats who have not yet been spayed or neutered.

In our minds, “kitten season” is all about the cuteness of sweet, fluffy kittens happily romping around in between flowers on a sunny day, but for shelter workers, kitten season can be the worst time of the year.
Why are cats so prolific and why do kittens arrive seasonally?

An un-spayed female cat typically experiences her first heat cycle (estrus) sometime between five and nine months of age. She will repeatedly come into heat, approximately every two weeks throughout the entire breeding season as she is an induced ovulator (her eggs lie in waiting until 30 to 50 hours following copulation, at which time they are released from her ovaries). She will do whatever it takes to find herself a tomcat and in certain situations she will breed with multiple males.

The queen has evolved into a seasonally polyestrous animal, meaning she comes into heat only during a particular time of the year and during the breeding season she is capable of having multiple pregnancies. Queens quickly come back into heat after giving birth, even before their kittens are weaned.

The feline breeding season begins in early spring and lasts throughout the summer months. The rest of the year, the reproductive cycle goes into a state of dormancy, commonly called “anestrus”. In case you are wondering why it is so important to spay a female kitty before she ever comes into heat, please be aware that if allowed to breed naturally, a queen might easily produce in the range of 50 – 150 kittens over the course of ten years. Sadly, we all know many of these kittens will never find loving homes and when resources are limited, tough decisions are made.

Prevention of FIP in cat shelters

The single best way to prevent FIP is to prevent cats becoming infected with feline coronavirus. FCoV infection occurs via the oral-fecal route. FIP is a major problem in cat shelters thus an understanding of feline coronavirus (FCoV) shedding and rigorous hygiene protocols are the most effective ways to prevent this disease. Stress reduction is also an important factor, since the development of FIP is often preceded by a stressful episode in the cat’s life.

The main source of virus is the feces of infected cats and infection is by accidental ingestion of such feces, FCoV is also very readily spread by fomite transmission. Feline coronavirus is a fragile virus, surviving a few days outdoors, but can survive up to 7 weeks in dried up feces in cat litter particles.

As mentioned above, the key to prevention of FIP is to prevent FCoV infection. Largely, this is done by keeping infected and uninfected cats apart, and by excellent hygiene. Please DO NOT keep more cats than you have facilities for. Infectious disease is the scourge of cats, and overcrowding is a ticking time bomb.

In many situations, a good network of cat fosterers, each housing only a few cats, is a better system than having a large, central cat shelter: should there be an outbreak of infectious disease (any infectious disease, not just FIP) it will be easier to contain in a foster network situation.

The focus of our group is providing education and awareness about feline coronavirus and FIP but we believe it is also important to provide resources about other issues affecting cats worldwide. As we all brace for the impact of “kitten season” it is worthwhile to note that by far, the biggest cause of kitten death in rescue shelters is feline parvovirus, FPV (also known as feline panleukopenia virus, feline enteritis virus and old-fashioned names such as feline distemper or cat plague). Do you know what to do in case of an FPV outbreak in your shelter?

Those interested can access clear and well-presented information at:

Feline parvovirus is especially nasty because it is mega-tough (not as fragile as FCoV) and can last in the environment for up to a year (not as FCoV which last up to 7 weeks). Very often kittens or adult cats with FPV are just found dead, without even having shown signs of illness. Fortunately, the vaccines against FPV are very good and can be used from just a few weeks of age. However, once again, excellent hygiene practices are the major way to save animals from this killer virus.

We all agree there’s nothing cuter than a kitten; but those who work with homeless animals dread this time of year. Let’s help to slow down this cycle of cat overpopulation and homelessness by doing our part and embracing: spay/neuter and adoption.

All of us at EndFIP® would like to take a moment to recognize and praise people who work or volunteer at animal shelters/rescue groups. THANK YOU for all you do to help animals and for making the world a nicer, kinder place!

Want to learn more. Visit: www.endfip.com/shelters/

All of us at EndFIP® are dedicated to keeping cats healthy and happy.

www.endfip.com | www.LucaFundforFIP.com 🐾💙🐾

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