CHICAGO — It’s “kitten season” once again, a time of year that typically overwhelms shelters with tiny furballs from the city’s stray cat community. But this year, people working from home are more willing to take them in than ever before.
Kitten season starts in late spring and goes into the fall. The period sees an influx of stray kittens being born and taken in by shelters. This year has been no exception, as animals need help even during a pandemic, said Julia Poukatch, a spokeswoman for PAWS Chicago, the largest no-kill shelter in the city.
But shelters have had to make changes in how they operate due to COVID-19, Poukatch said. They’re operating on limited hours and with decreased staff and volunteers because of COVID-19, so they haven’t been able to care for as many pets in-house.
So, they hope the spirit of fostering sparked by the coronavirus pandemic continues through the season.
Jenny Schlueter, a spokeswoman for Chicago Animal Care and Control, said it’s important for Chicagoans to raise awareness of kitten season and offer their homes as places to foster kittens. The agency has been trying to encourage people to foster stray pets or care for them at home until they can find permanent homes.
“We might have to say, ‘Hey, you should consider taking that litter of kittens in and reaching out to your own social network’” to find them homes, Schlueter said.
The influx of fostering has had multiple benefits: Ultimately, fostering can lead to more successful adoptions, said Stacy Price, medical director at the One Tail at a Time shelter.
“We think that it’s better for an animal to go from a shelter and into a home and spend a little bit of time decompressing and let the foster homes get to know the animal prior to placing them for adoption. We find that that’s more successful for placements,” Price said.
Animals being fostered can also lead to less stress for them and a smoother transition when they’re adopted, Price said.
“A lot of the medical situations that happen with cats and behavioral situations … come from a lot of stress,” Price said. “We’re able to kind of head off immediately by putting them in a home where they feel comfortable and safe right away.”
Kittens in particular require special care because, though they might be tiny, they require consistent attention and resources to be properly cared for, Poukatch said.
The best way to support shelters this kitten season is to make a monetary donation or sign up to foster a kitten, Poukatch said.
Price said One Tail at A Time is grateful for the Chicagoans who have stepped up to foster and adopt pets now.
“… If we could say one thing right now, it would be how much we appreciate the community and their engagement during such a difficult time,” Price said. “It’s really been a time where we have been able to keep our staff and volunteers safe while still doing our really important work.”
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