Weather and pandemic combine to extend cats’ breeding season, creating challenges for shelters and vets
An unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change has been an explosion in kitten populations, which is overwhelming local veterinary practices and animal shelters.
The Humane Society for Southwest Washington has observed a massive influx of kittens coming to its gates due to a longer kitten season, or when cats give birth to their litters. In Washington, kitten season begins in late February or early March and lasts until October. However, it hasn’t stopped since its debut in 2021.
The animal shelter sent 611 kittens to foster care in 2021, said Megan Dennis, the shelter’s vice president of operations. There are even more felines coming to the shelter. Despite this influx, there is sufficient space and accommodation for the incoming kittens.
“It’s not unique to Washington or Vancouver,” Dennis said. “It’s happening all over the country. It is something that we have to understand and really try to navigate.
Warm weather, longer days, and increased access to food all contribute to kitten season. In 2021, shelter staff saw a significant increase in the number of newborn kittens and pregnant cats. It is a rapid and continuous cycle, as female cats can become pregnant as early as 4 months old and can produce several litters per year.