By: Tina Reddington Fried, Sr. Director of LA Feline Programs, ASPCA
In Florida, animal control agencies, animal shelters, and rescue organizations often face challenges with a high level of cat intake year-round, partially due to consistently warm weather throughout much of the state. But the problem becomes worse in the spring and summer months, coinciding with the height of feline breeding season nationally. Also known as “kitten season,” this is a time of year when shelters nationwide are overwhelmed with vulnerable, newborn cats. Hundreds of thousands of kittens are born across the country during kitten season every year, and while shelters in climates like Florida experience a steady stream of kittens year-round, they too tend to see a marked increase in kittens entering shelters during the spring and summer months.
The Life of a Newborn Kitten
While that wide-eyed, little fluffball weighing less than a pound may have a personality that says they’re ready to conquer the world, newborn kittens are extremely vulnerable and often require round-the-clock attention as they mature, from frequent bottle-feeding and medical check-ups to socialization. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians, shelter assistants, foster caregivers, and others play a critical role in the process of giving these kittens better lives. Shelters and rescue groups work tirelessly this time of year to address the influx of cats, and the public can provide invaluable support to these organizations during kitten season.
What to Do If You Find Kittens Outside
If you’re enjoying the sunshine and nice weather outside and you find kittens, it’s crucial to pause and assess how to help these vulnerable animals in a way that matches their unique situation to give them the best chance at survival and avoid overwhelming shelters whenever possible.
Newborn and young kittens, both among the most vulnerable animal populations, are often removed from their environment and unintentionally orphaned by well-meaning community members, but this might not always be the right course of action. For example, some kittens found outdoors may appear to be alone, but the mother cat—who knows exactly what her new litter needs—may be hiding nearby or out getting food. Not all kittens require the same kind of assistance, and the ASPCA’s interactive online tool can help the public choose the appropriate next steps to take if they find kittens outdoors. 
If you feel encouraged to play a more proactive and hands-on role during kitten season, vital volunteer opportunities abound with animal shelters and rescue groups.
The Importance of Cat Adoption and Fostering
Every year approximately 3.2 million cats enter U.S. animal shelters and rescues nationwide, including harder-to-place cats and neonate kittens who need dedicated care and ultimately, safe and loving homes. Of those, approximately 2.1 million cats are adopted each year.
Adopting a cat or kitten relieves the pressure felt by shelters that are overwhelmed with animals in their care. And while kittens are sweet and fluffy, it’s just as important to consider the overlooked and misunderstood adult cats who are also in need of loving homes across the country, like senior cats or those who may require extra support to overcome medical or behavioral challenges.
If you’re not ready to adopt a pet, consider fostering a kitten in need. Fostering a cat or kitten on a temporary basis helps relieve pressure on shelter populations and assists with shelter animals’ abilities to acclimate to an eventual life in loving homes.
Fosters provide a necessary buffer when kittens need a little extra time and attention before being adopted, such as bottle-feedings, medications, and socialization to help them gain strength and prepare for life in adoptive homes. In addition to the hands-on support, fostering also helps shelters conserve their space and resources for animals in critical need.
While it can be challenging to part ways when it’s time to say goodbye, the foster can do so knowing they’ve single-handedly changed an animal’s life for the better and may be able to continue saving animals as a future foster parent for another pet in need.
Supporting Animal Shelters During Kitten Season and Beyond
Every shelter is unique, with intake and adoption rates that fluctuate based on seasonality and other factors. In addition to the hands-on support needed during kitten season, shelters and rescue organizations across the country have an ongoing need for support throughout the year. Every community has different needs, so getting in contact with your local animal shelter is the best way to find out what kind of support they need most.
 ASPCA Found Kittens tool: http://www.aspca.org/FoundKittens