ELKHART — Kitten season has started in Elkhart County, but don’t say “aw” just yet.
Kitten season is the time of year when cats start to give birth more than any other time of the year. It begins in early spring and lasts through the fall. Local animal organizations have to work harder and use more resources to keep the cat population under control.
“During this time of year we start getting probably three or four cats for every dog,” said Anne Reel, executive director of the Humane Society of Elkhart County.
Between extra food, litter, medicine and vaccinations, the costs add up quickly.
“It's definitely a strain on the shelter environment to care for these animals,” she said.
Many of these cats are feral, meaning they were born and raised in the wild.
Chris Bralick, president of the Elkhart County Feral Cat Coalition, isn’t sure how many free-roaming cats are in Elkhart County — but she does say it’s “still way too many.”
The coalition is ramping up its efforts to find feral cats and implement the trap-neuter-return method. This involves finding feral cats, taking them to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and releasing them into a feral cat colony.
Part of the method also includes surgically removing a small part of the cat’s ear tip. This identifies them as feral.
Bralick said some people don’t realize that reducing a cat population isn’t like getting rid of mice or rats. She referred to an incident in February where cat shelters in a controlled feral colony were destroyed. Somebody also left behind rat poison sprinkled with cat food, she said.
“Other than controlling that population, one of our jobs, we feel, is to be the voice of these cats, because I don’t think people realize it is a class D felony if you’re caught doing something like that,” she said.
And while it might seem like a good idea to take found kittens to a shelter, that’s not always the case.
“Leave them alone and let the mother come and relocate them,” Reel said. “If people can trap a mother and kittens together, that’s ideal thing to do, but when people bring in little kittens that are only three days old, nine times out of 10 it’s going to be very difficult for us to save those kittens’ lives.”
The Humane Society encourages people to get their domestic pets spayed and neutered. The ABC Clinic in Granger offers these services at a lower-than-usual cost.