Pets

Kitten season means the heat is on

This young mother cat has just had a litter at the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport.
This young mother cat has just had a litter at the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport. tmsmith@sunherald.com

Kittens are cute and cuddly. They also can become a handful — and more — if adult cats are allowed to continue breeding.

Late spring, summer and early fall frame what is known as kitten season, and here in South Mississippi, that timeline can be stretched even more.

“Cats will reproduce as long as it’s light and warm outside,” said Dawn Boob, director of operations for the Humane Society of South Mississippi. In fact, HSSM has taken in 155 kittens since March 1.

“I can’t emphasize enough the need to spay and neuter,” Boob said. “It’s not just to keep the population in control. It’s also for the health of the animal. With cats, the female can mate with up to seven (toms) during the heat cycle. That’s why you can see litters of all different colors.”

During April, she said, HSSM is offering a Beat the Heat special. Harrison County residents can get male or female cats fixed for $10 each; for $20, the service includes a rabies vaccine and microchipping.

“The community wants us to be a no-kill facility, but we all have to be part of the solution,” she said. “This (kitten season) is a problem for us every year. Not just for us, but for every animal shelter in every area of the Coast, every year. We’re inundated with kittens.”

To prepare for kitten season 2017, HSSM is conducting a “kitten shower,” accepting donations of specific items needed to care for the young cats. The “kitty registry” includes:

▪  Powder and pre-made kitten formula

▪  Bottle kits

▪  PetAg bottles (nursing bottles designed for pets)

▪  Tube socks

▪  Rice

▪  Blankets

▪  Cat litter

▪  Diaper rash cream

▪  Shallow litter boxes

▪  Hypoallergenic baby wipes

Tube socks and rice might sound like odd requests, but Boob said the socks are filled with rice, then heated and used to keep kittens warm, much like small heating pads.

“You know those lonely socks you wind up with from the dryer?” she said. “Here’s what we can do with them.”

Diaper rash cream is used much the same way as it’s used for human babies. Kittens that arrive without their mothers often develop diarrhea, and the cream can be used to soothe irritation.

HSSM also is seeking volunteers who can foster kittens, especially during the kitten season.

“We ask people to foster for two to six weeks, depending on the ages of the kittens,” Boob said. “The easiest fostering is when you have the mom and her kittens; then, you basically make sure the mom is comfy. We send kittens out in groups of two to three, for socializing and for body warmth. We take care of all medications for the fosters, and we supply lots of support.”

To donate to the “kitty registry,” take items to HSSM, 2615 25th Ave., Gulfport, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information on fostering a litter, contact foster@hssm.org, and follow HSSM’s fostering program on Facebook at Humane Society of South Mississippi Foster Hero Network. For more information on the spay/neuter program, call HSSM at 228-863-3354, extension 3829 or 3830.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

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