When you think of January, you don’t normally think of weather in the 50s. You also don’t think about litters of kittens, but this year, the Siskiyou Humane Society welcomed their first kitten of 2011 a little earlier than usual.

When you think of January, you don’t normally think of weather in the 50s. You also don’t think about litters of kittens, but this year, the Siskiyou Humane Society welcomed their first kitten of 2011 a little earlier than usual.

“Cats breed according to the weather,” said shelter health coordinator Bobbie Davies. “In Siskiyou County there’s generally a very distinct kitten season... cats go into heat around March first and have their kittens at the end of April or early May.”

Whether or not cats are becoming confused about the unusually mild winter we’ve been experiencing, the arrival of little Storm on Jan. 13 came as a surprise.

Storm’s momma, Winter, was found Jan. 12 inside an apartment in Weed, said Kim Latos, Siskiyou Humane Society’s shelter manager. The occupants had moved out a week before, and apparently left their pregnant cat behind without heat, food or water.

Winter was brought to the shelter that night, and the following day gave birth to a single kitten.

Twenty four hours later, when only one kitten had been born, Davies became concerned and had an ultrasound performed, which confirmed that Winter had been pregnant with a litter of one.

This is extremely rare, said Davies; the average number of kittens in a litter is four or five.

Being neglected during her last week of pregnancy might have affected the health of Winter’s kittens, said Davies, who is fostering the cats at her home.  However, both momma and baby are doing just fine.

“Even with the experience Winter went through she’s still a wonderful cat,” Davies said. “She’s roaming around my house with the dog, and she’s letting us handle her kitten. She’s a wonderful mother.”

Davies estimates Winter is about two years old. As soon as she weans her kitten, she’ll  be returned to the shelter, get spayed and the be put up for adoption. Little Storm (it’s still unknown if Storm is a girl or a boy) will remain at Davies’ home until it weighs two pounds, at which time it, too, will be altered and offered for adoption.

Finding them homes may not be easy. Black cats are traditionally the most difficult to adopt, Davies said.

“People’s eyes are drawn to the more colorful cats,” Davies said. “They’re often overlooked, and people don’t give them a chance.”

In some kill facilities, entire litters of black kittens are sometimes euthanized right away, simply because they’re so hard to adopt out, she added.

Importance of spaying, neutering
Cats are rapid breeders, said Davies. Mothers who have an early litter are able to wean their kittens and get pregnant with a second litter all in one season.

Cats generally go into heat for the first time at around eight months old, Davies said. The youngest cat she’s ever seen who had a litter of kittens was just four months old.

In places like San Diego, where the weather is agreeable all year long, a kitten born in February can have a litter of kittens of its own in October.

These are reasons why its so imperative to spay and neuter cats, Davies said.

“In Siskiyou County there’s absolutely no reason for an unwanted kitten to be born because there’s financial assistance for people to spay and neuter their pets” through the Siskiyou Spay Neuter Program, she said, adding that in United States alone, 405 dogs and cats are euthanized every hour of every day. This is only counting animals in shelters, humane societies and at animal control facilities, and not at veterinarian’s offices or elsewhere.

If you are a Siskiyou County resident who would like to learn more about the SNIP program or get help to spay or neuter a pet, call (530) 938-4246 and leave a message. Someone will call you back to see if you qualify.

Volunteer opportunities
The Humane Society in Mount Shasta is a no kill shelter, meaning they do not euthanize animals due to lack of space, age or breed of the animal or length of stay. They do, however, euthanize animals due to untreatable conditions or injuries, Davies said.

Davies stressed that the shelter does have a waiting list, and if a person has an animal they’d like to surrender, they should call first.

They’re always on the lookout for families to foster kittens. “The shelter is no place to raise a kitten... It’s important for them to get used to noises and objects in an everyday household, including the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, kids and other pets. We like them to be exposed to as much as possible.”

Davies added that a foster home can keep kittens for as little as two weeks, or as long as eight weeks.

“At the height of kitten season, we can always work with people and match them with something that meets their needs and what they’re capable of giving,” she said.

If you’d like to find out more about fostering kittens or about adopting a cat or dog, call the shelter at (530) 926-4052.