JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you are an animal lover like I am, then you’re going to want to jump in and help if you find a small, helpless animal who looks like it may be in danger — or cold, hurt or hungry. But that may not be the safest thing for the animal.
The Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS), along with the City of Jacksonville’s Animal Care & Protective Service (ACPS), and First Coast No More Homeless Pets (FCNMHP) wants to give you tips and life-saving information on “what to do” when you find a litter of kittens during kitten season.
Kitten season is the time of year when unfixed cats procreate and give birth to kittens. As the weather warms, cats go into heat.
According to Best Friends Animal Society, “In most places across America, animals mate and give birth in spring. This phenomenon can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as longer days, better weather and more access to food, which means higher survival rates for the offspring of many species. Unlike other animals, though, cats can keep on reproducing, having litter after litter right up until the weather turns cold again. In many regions, kitten season can last from spring until early winter.”
In 2021, JHS and ACPS combined took in 6,349 kittens under the age of five months and JHS served an additional 596 via a program called Kitten Krusaders, which helps community members who find kittens by providing veterinary care to keep them out of the shelter.
When community members find a litter of kittens outside, it is often instinctual to jump right into “savior mode” and “rescue” these tiny cats. This notion has been given the moniker “kitnapping” and all three agencies ask the public to not act on that instinct. Instead:
If mom returns: Provide support (food, water, shelter) as needed and when the kittens are 8 weeks old, get mom and kittens spayed/neutered and find them homes.
If mom does not return: A home is a better option than the shelter. JHS can provide coaching on care instructions and help support your efforts to find the kittens new homes once they are ready.
If kittens are experiencing a true medical emergency, such a struggling to breath, open wounds, or visible ribs/spine, ACPS can be reached via 904-630-2489, myjax.custhelp.com or the MyJax app.
Kitnapping is not the best option for kittens, mother cats and shelters.
Underage kittens are the most fragile population in shelters and require extra time, labor and resources that are not always available. When underage kittens arrive at the shelter, they most often have to go into a foster home the very same day, putting an extra strain on staff and volunteers. Also, when no one looks for the mother cat, she is left alone to continue reproducing in the community.
“If we can share the “Don’t kitnap kittens” message throughout our community, we can collectively do what is best for these little ones and keep them with their mother cat,” said Denise Deisler, JHS CEO. “Together, we can conquer kitten season in Jacksonville!”
Community members who want to help with the “Don’t Kitnap” initiative can share this messaging on social media, sign-up to foster kittens in their home at either shelter, or donate items via the kitten wish lists on shelter websites. Volunteers are also needed for all three organizations.
Community members can also contribute by participating in Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return programs offered at First Coast No More Homeless pets, which provides free and low-cost spay or neuter surgeries for outdoor community cats.
For more information, please visit jaxhumane.org/kittenhelp.
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