Helping Cats in Your Neighborhood

What is kitten season?

Kitten season is the time of year when cats give birth, flooding animal shelters across the nation with homeless litters. Kitten season is really three seasons in one, starting in spring, peaking in late spring or early summer, and ending in fall.

Why does kitten season occur? Because too many kittens are born when cats who are not  spayed and neutered mate.




The easiest way to help reduce the overwhelming numbers of unwanted cats is to spay and neuter your own cat and encourage others to do the same. Unaltered cats are driven by their hormones and tend to sneak outdoors primarily in search of a mate. Mating just once can start a domino effect that can result in dozens, even hundreds or thousands of unwanted animals.



During kitten season you may come across kittens born to community cats in your neighborhood.

If you find neonate kittens, don’t scoop them up and take them to the shelter. Leave them where they are and keep an eye on them. It’s likely that the mother is around.

Watch the neonate kittens to see if the mother comes around. If you see her, it’s best to let her take care of them until they’re old enough to eat on their own. Otherwise, how long you should wait depends on the age of the kittens. If they’re younger than 4 weeks old, don’t consider taking them to a shelter unless mom hasn’t appeared for about 6 hours. If the kittens are older, perhaps 4 to 6 weeks of age, then wait a day before gathering them up.

If you have watched for several hours from a distance and you are 100% certain that a kitten has been abandoned we have a Guide to help people when they find kittens and hope that some good Samaritans will raise the kittens and find homes for them.


Stray Cat or Lost Pet?

One day, you’re walking down your block and suddenly you spot a furry feline face poking out from behind a bush. Or perhaps a cat you’ve never seen before dashes across the yard and disappears under a parked car. You want to help, but what can you do?

Don’t go chasing after him right then and there.  It’s unlikely you’ll catch him but it is likely that you’ll frighten him.  Even if you do manage to get close enough, you’ll be risking serious injury if you attempt to grab him.  A scared cat can inflict a lot of damage very quickly.

Questions to ask: Is this a pet cat who was recently lost? A stray cat who has been on his own for a time but warms up to people once he gets to know them? A feral cat who by nature is wary of people and prefers living outside a traditional home?

To find out, ask neighbors and other people in the immediate area if they know anything about the cat.  Did he just arrive or has he been seen around for some time?  Is anyone feeding him, providing shelter or even letting him in their house?  Does he have a collar and tags?  Has anyone posted “lost cat” signs?


How to help a friendly cat
If it turns out kitty is lost, here are some ways that you can help to return him to his owner.

  • If the cat has identification, try to contact the owner.
  • If you can get the cat into a carrier, take him to a veterinarian or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip.
  • Contact animal shelters, veterinary offices, and rescue groups to let them know about the cat you’ve found. Someone may have filed a lost-cat report that is a match.
  • Ask neighbors and mail carriers if they’re familiar with the cat.
  • Post signs and place free ads in local newspapers.


Helping Community Stray Cats

Food and water are important parts of caring for community cats. But some people who are new to looking after these cats often don’t realize that if they don’t find a way to have the cats spayed or neutered, the number of hungry cats may soon become unmanageable as more and more kittens are born.  T-N-R (Trap-Neuter-Return  ) will keep this from happening to you and the cats.  T-N-R is the most effective and humane way to control the free-roaming cat population.


The most important rule for caring for free roaming cats: fix them, fast. You must use a trap to capture him and transport him to a veterinary clinic for spay/neuter. Click HERE for a list of vets in our area that provide these services.  A day or two after the surgery, he can be released back outside. It’s important to call ahead and schedule an appointment before you trap the cat so you can quickly bring him in after he’s caught.  For more information on trapping free roaming cats and caring for them before and after surgery, check out Neighborhood Cats or Alley Cat Allies.   Some of our city municipalities’ offer trap rental services.  For a list of Hidalgo County Animal Control Departments please click HERE.


If there’s one feral cat living in your neighborhood, it’s very likely others are there too. Take a look around, and talk with your neighbors about how you can all work together to help them. It’s important to get all of your neighborhood’s cats spayed or neutered so you don’t end up with even more cats.


It takes a bit of time and work, but when you’re done and your neighborhood cat is now in a new home or being cared for outdoors, you’ll know you’ve made a difference.

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