We’re Expecting! New Nursery Will Help Curb Kitten Season

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 12:00pm
ASPCA staff holding kitten

While most Americans are busting out the sunscreen, beach balls and barbeques in anticipation of summer, the ASPCA is preparing for a different kind of season: kitten season.

Sounds adorable, right? Unfortunately, there’s nothing cute about kitten season. It’s the time of year when felines begin to breed, flooding animal shelters across the country with homeless and newborn cats. It is a tremendous population explosion, and this year we’re expecting thousands of kittens to cross the threshold of the ASPCA Animal Hospital—all requiring round-the-clock care.

The seasonal influx of kittens is one reason why the ASPCA is opening a new facility near its 92nd Street Adoption Center in New York City. This brand new kitten ward will include a high-volume nursery for neonates and kittens to provide life-saving care for felines too young to thrive on their own.

 “We’re doing the mama’s job,” explains David Arias, an Animal Care Technician and regular caregiver to neonatal kittens at the ASPCA Animal Hospital. He gently pushes a syringe full of kitten milk replacer (KMR) into the wailing but eager mouth of a five-day-old neonate named Catsup, who drinks up as fast as his tiny throat can swallow. Catsup was No. 2 in a group of four baby kittens—including Mustard, Relish and Sauerkraut—dropped off at the AAH in their first days of life.

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But these four “condiment kitties” are just the start. The ASPCA will also be taking thousands of neonates from NYC’s Animal Care & Control (AC&C), where the annual influx of 4,500 kittens often overwhelms an already overpopulated system.  AC&C’s kittens will be transferred to the ASPCA nursery for treatment until they’re old enough to be weaned, spayed/neutered, and put up for adoption.

ASPCA Animal Care Tech feeding kitten

And because neonates must be fed every two hours, the ASPCA is providing special training to volunteers to help with this vigorous schedule.  “We keep track of how many milliliters each kitten consumes and stay consistent with that baseline amount until they want more,” says David.

His voice trails off when he sees that Catsup is getting feisty and wants more. He replaces the near-empty syringe with a full one. After 20 minutes, Catsup’s tiny belly expands. Before putting the 8-oz. ball of fur back in his cage, David applies a wet, warm gauze to Catsup’s rear end to encourage a defecation and urination—something a mama cat would normally do by licking her young.

Catsup complies. Then, eyes still closed and back in his cage, he clumsily searches for his siblings until he finds them, snuggles up, and goes to sleep. Two hours later, he’ll be hungry again.

The ASPCA is working tirelessly to save thousands of lives this kitten season. It is an urgent time of need, and even a little gift can help a lot of cats. Please consider making a donation to the ASPCA today.

ASPCA volunteers caring for kitten

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My son rescued an adult female cat from a Kroger parking lot that was trying to eat a french fry box. While I was upset with him for bringing home a female cat, I understood his heart. He could not walk away from an abandoned animal. I have a point I promise. My husband is a bit of a jerk about it though and after the cat became pregnant, refused to pay to get her fixed. She has had 5 litters of kittens all of which were raised in the house, at least until we found them homes. So there has been a lot of kitten playing going on. Every scratch by every kitten has become infected on everyone of us who has been scratched, every time.


The answer of course is spaying and neutering. Beyond that I applaud the efforts of everyone working so hard to save these helpless ones. If someone is keeping the mom, great but it needs to be spayed. Otherwise, it is not practical to make a rule to produce the mom for the many varied situations. Many people would just kill the kittens rather than be bothered. We need to remember the point here is to save lives.


Yeah, seriously, maybe people should let mama cats care for their kittens! How would you feel if you went out to get food and returned to find your babies had been stolen and taken to a shelter!!! This blows me away, that people think mother cats aren't taking care of their kittens! The poor mother cats. :(


I love cats and have been bitten by a feral but avoided the rabies shots even though we couldn't catch the cat for testing. The hospital didn't worry the cat had rabies because I had been dealing with the cat for weeks and it didn't have any symptoms. They told me that it is true that cat bites do get badly infected and the scrubbing that bite went through was more painful than the bite was I think. I had to take antibiotics as well. So it is true that cat bites do get infected very frequently according to the hospital I went to in Arizona. I still take care of feral cats though, I just learned how to handle them and what to not do. I hope I don't get bitten ever again but I know that it is one of those risks I take doing what I do and that is okay. They get frightened and defensive just like we do and often have good reasons why they are like that. People are so cruel to animals in todays world and it is a miracle they forgive us they ever trust humans again sometimes.


Such a change to the Animal Welfare Law is well meant but counterproductive. The idea is to rescue and find homes for as many animals as possible. Your proposal would make it difficult if not impossible to bring kittens to a shelter if the mother cat could not be caught.

My kitty, Merlyn (now 7 yrs.) was found in a dumpster by a co-worker with the mother cat and 3 other litter-mates. The mother cat was feral and apparently teaching the kittens to forage for food. He tried to catch her but she took off like a streak of lightning leaving the kittens behind. There was no catching her and we never saw her again. Fortunately, A customer took 2 kittens home, another co-worker took one and I took the only male. They found good homes immediately.

What if that had not been the case? What would have happened to those kittens if they couldn't be taken to the animal shelter without the mother? They couldn't be kept at a grocery store. These things must be thought through thoroughly before laws are implemented.


I am a responsible pet owner of dogs and cats and none of them have been allowed to breed, neutering them at the recommended age for optimum health and longevity of my animals. I am having a problem adopting kittens or puppies who have NOT been neutered before many vet colleges highly discourage due to documented health issues such as bone diseases and cancer. My cats live to ripe old ages of 18 or longer and cancer free. How can I adopt a kitten or puppy before being neutered with the understanding I will spay/neuter them at the recommended age. Thank you


The mamas either get killed on the street, or they abandon the newborns while out looking for another male to get pregnant again. A lot of the mamas are very young themselves, and don't know much.


you are right

Lanni Fish

I'm no expert, but just a guess: Moms hit by cars while roaming, searching for food. Moms catch rats that have consumed poison, eat them and are poisoned themselves. People find kittens, are unable to catch mom, dump kittens at the shelters or elsewhere. Dogs catch and maul moms. And some young, first-time moms just panic and flee, deserting kittens. I'm sure there are other reasons, but those come to mind at the moment.


I'd be willing to bet that a few litters are brought in by people who own mom, can't be bothered to get her spayed, and just drag in the kittens claiming they "found" them, too.