While spring brings warmer weather and longer days, it also marks the beginning of the most prolific cat breeding season of the year, with many kittens born without homes. While animal shelters do an outstanding job in protecting these cats, the burden in Australia is a significant one, often leading to overcrowding and a strain on resources for these non-profit institutions.
“Breeding season varies depending on where you are in Australia,” says Dr Robert Johnson, the president of the Australian Veterinary Association [AVA]. “It typically begins around September when we start to see the first groups of pregnant cats and very young kittens arrive at vet clinics and shelters. By early October, the situation worsens with mums and kittens arriving in fatal numbers.”
While there are initiatives in place to address the high level of unwanted companion levels – including at the government legislative level, which is addressing overbreeding through backyard farms – there is more that can be done to help lessen the situation over the coming months.
“The AVA believes that the most effective way to make an impact on reducing unwanted kittens involves a multi-pronged approach that’s appropriate to the situation in each state or local government area,” says Dr Johnson.
Reducing unwanted kittens
- Understanding the problem – most unwanted cats and kittens ending up in shelters are stray or surrendered owned cats and kittens. Others may be feral or lost. The source of unwanted animals in each particular area needs to be identified and addressed.
- Education – rather than feeding stray cats, it’s better to take ownership of them or take them to a shelter. Otherwise they will continue to breed in large numbers, further contributing to the problem.
- Identification – microchipping and collars with tags are vital to ensure that lost animals can be returned to their owners without having to go to a pound or shelter and further adding to overcrowded facilities.
- Desexing – that prevents pet cats having unwanted litters of kittens.
- Targeted desexing programs – Targeted desexing programs in areas where there is an unusually low number of desexed cats can be an effective strategy to reduce unwanted animals in particular communities.
- Enforcing regulation – regulations for breeding, keeping and selling companion animals need to be enforced to reduce impulse buying, poor animal welfare and euthanasia rates.