This is my first Kitten Season at the shelter. Until a few months ago I didn't even know there was such a thing. I suppose I should have figured that spring would bring kittens just as it brings baby birds (but where are the baby pigeons? Have you ever seen a small pigeon?) and other denizens of the suburban wild, but who thinks about that kind of thing? I've had cats but never a pregnant one. The Kitten Season was beyond the scope of my experience. It isn't now.
As any pet photographer (or Kitten Mitten salesmen for that matter) would be, I was excited about Kitten Season. I sell photographs to stock image companies and kitten images sell. Kittens are cute. Everyone loves a kitten! They're also a heck of a lot easier to photograph than puppies. Puppies are spastic balls of fur and teeth. You're lucky to get one good photo out of 50 when working with a fully awake puppy. Cats, on the other hand, are born with the ability to appear calm and collected. I use the word 'appear' because, to me, kittens are just patiently calculating a complex equation for the perfect trajectory required for attacking whatever it is they're looking at. Still, it makes for a great photo. I was looking forward to this season of the kitties.
The annual Feline Infestation has arrived, and the shelter I work with is at full capacity. There are more kittens than you can point a lens at. It's not great. It's a little tragic, really. We have more kittens than the public can handle, and this is just the beginning. Kitten Season runs from about April to November, causing hardship on shelters across the country.
I work with Lee County Domestic Animal Services, where co-workers Laura Reinemeyer and Ria Brown were nice enough to give me the numbers for this post. They say that in the off season, the shelter takes in an average of 200 cats a month. During Kitten Season, their average intake is 500 cats a month. At any given time, LCDAS can hold a maximum of 300 cats. It doesn't take a kitten to do that math. As the only stray shelter in the county, LCDAS, and many other shelters around the country, have to make some tough choices.
Want to help? Ask yourself, WWBBD? Unless you are on a farm, or breeding championship felines, there really isn't a good reason to leave your animals unaltered. There are far more benefits for your four-legged family when it comes to spaying and neutering. Another way to help is to become a shelter-kitty caregiver. According to our kennel supervisor, Brandon Scribner, our most stressed resource during Kitten Season is the public. Shelters are always on the lookout for good foster families who can care for the kittens until they reach the proper age and weight for adoption. Keeping them in the shelter while they grow makes them susceptible to disease and high levels of stress. Putting them in a home for a few weeks protects them and the other animals in the shelter from outbreaks. Fostering is great. You get all the cuteness of kittens and none of the stigma of animal hoarding. WIN WIN!
I win every time I get to photograph these adorable, albeit scheming, furballs. They are easy to work with, and take great images in no time. It's just that, now that I've experienced the start of a Kitten Season, I wish there were fewer of them in the shelters altogether. Thank you, to those who choose to help by spaying or neutering your pets, and to those who open their hearts (and homes) as foster families. I hope that this post inspires more people to help in any way they can.
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