In nearly twenty years of cat rescue we have never known a year like it. We expect to have a fair few number of kittens at this time of year, but we have nearly 40 currently in foster homes or ready to be rehomed this weekend.
Amongst those are a total of seven orphan kittens.
The first bunch, known as "the Netto Kittens" were found by a young lady when she was jogging through a supermarket carpark on her way home. They were near a carrier bag and as far as she was able to tell, they had crawled out of the bag. There was no sign of their mum and it is unlikely that they had been born in that location.
The kittens were only 3 weeks old when they were found and would probably not have survived more than a day or so - and even less if they had been found by a predator. Two weeks later, they are thriving, but require a feed every 2-3 hours.
Next we were asked to take in a couple of kittens which had been found in a shed. The shed had been unopened for over two years, but had a hole at the top of the door. Sadly near to Merlin and Gandalf were the remains of other kittens, at least one from a previous litter. We suspect that the mother cat had raised previous litters there but had stopped bringing food for them when subsequent litters had been born, and because of the location of the hole (at the top of the door) the kittens had been trapped and starved to death.
Last but certainly not least, we were asked to take Tom who was found all alone in a stables. The finders very sensibly observed from a distance for many hours to see if his mother was around, but were unable to find her, or any other kittens, and so asked us to take him. He was only about 10 days old when he came in, and he needs intensive feeding and care. The younger they are the less their chances of survival. Tom is coming along fine, but we are taking it a day at a time at the moment.
In addition to the orphans we have eight mother cats with a total of 31 kittens. Our foster homes are bulging at the seams and we are just glad that six of the kittens will be ready to go to new homes this weekend.
There are things you can do to reduce the number of cats. The most obvious is to have your female cat spayed and your tom cat castrated (it takes two!). If your cat does have kittens before you can get her spayed, then please make sure her kittens go to homes where their new owners will ensure that they are neutered before they get chance to breed.
Check all your outbuildings regularly - especially if you have buildings that are rarely used. If you do find a litter of kittens, keep handling them and feeding the mother cat. Ask your local cat rescue to help you trap and neuter the cat if she is feral (domestic cat gone wild) and again try and find homes for the kittens where the new owners will neuter. Even if you release the cat in the area where she had the kittens, she will have a better chance of survival if she is spayed. If you ignore it, the cat will regard the shed as a safe place and may have future litters there, as may her daughters and grand-daughters.
Cats are lovely, and we all adore cute little kitten faces, but sadly there are far far too many cats. Neutering is a safe and sensible way to try and reduce the population.