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Kitten season hits hard

In nature, animals often give birth during the safest and easiest time of the year — summer. The climate is temperate; food sources are plentiful. But in Los Angeles and other urban areas, there’s little safety for the thousands of kittens born under house porches, in bushes and garages, even in abandoned cars.

And kitten season is here. In May alone, the city’s shelters took in nearly 1,800 unweaned kittens — too young to survive without their mothers or a lot of intervention from humans. Kitten season is a huge problem for municipal shelters everywhere, which struggle to accommodate large numbers of kittens from late spring until well into the fall. The current bumper crop is also the result of unsterilized stray and feral cats roaming the streets. In the 12 months ending in May, the city’s Department of Animal Services took in 9,505 unweaned kittens and euthanized just under 7,000 of them.

But people can help lessen the shelters’ burden. For starters, pet owners can obey both L.A. city and county laws mandating that dogs and cats — with some exceptions — be spayed or neutered. Vouchers are available at shelters to defray costs. And cat owners should not allow their felines to wander outside (particularly if they didn’t heed our first suggestion).

If you stumble across a litter of kittens, many advocates advise leaving them be. There is probably a mother cat out foraging that will return to them — and she is their best caregiver. When unweaned kittens are turned in to shelters as orphans, they have a poor chance of survival. Advocates recommend checking back to see if the mother has returned and then deciding whether to feed them, collect them or get them sterilized — and, if feral, to return them to the outdoors. More information is available on alleycat.org and straycatalliance.org. You can volunteer to bottle-feed kittens through the city’s Animal Services department or the county’s Department of Animal Care and Control.


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