Warm weather brings jump in feral cat population

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Kitten season is coming early this year, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Cat biology depends on the cycle of the seasons. Due to the warm weather this year, we should expect to see a jump in the local population of feral cats, said Carrie Brown, who works as a veterinary technician at the Angels for Animals rescue agency.

Brown said cats are polyestrous, meaning that they come into heat year round, depending on the weather. This differs from dogs, who come into heat about twice a year.

Photos: Mahoning Valley’s adoptable cats

In areas where winter is mild, cats will mate year-round. But in Ohio, most litters are born in late spring or early summer.

With this December being the warmest month on record, many female cats went into heat, thinking it was spring.

“The moms are not going out of heat, so they’re constantly still going to be having kittens,” she said. “Come January and even February, we’re going to be getting an increase in litters.”

Rescue agencies say they are waiting to pay the price.

“We’ll probably see some early babies in January coming around. All the rescues are going to have an overabundance of kittens in spring as it is, and we’ll probably have more on top of that that we’ll be struggling to find homes for,” said Sherry Bankey, of Falcon Animal Rescue in Austintown.

Kitten Cam

Female cats can have a litter every 90 days. In one year, a female cat may give birth to as many as 35 kittens.

That’s why it is important to get your animals spayed or neutered.

Overpopulation isn’t the only problem. Stray cats can spread diseases to pets. Common illnesses include feline leukemia, FIV and flea-borne diseases.

“These diseases are so common, they spread from mom to kitten. It’s like I said, a wildfire,” Brown said.

To stop the kitten explosion, many rescues offer lower prices to spay female strays and their kittens.

“You’ll trap them, bring them in, we can give them the vaccines, if you want to do that, get them fixed,” Brown said. “Then we get an ear tipped, so you know they’re fixed and you’re not trapping the same cats. Then we can release them back out, and they can live out their lives without increasing the numbers.”

The alternative is kittens, who grow up into many, many cats.

For more information on cats available for adoption, visit Angels for Animals‘ and Falcon Animal Rescue‘s websites.

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