RALEIGH, N.C. — Summer is the peak time of year that kittens are born, known as kitten season.
During this time shelters become flooded with kittens, seeing upwards of 1,000 being brought in for care in Wake County.
"The rate of kittens spike in the summer. When summer hits, the cats start breeding an absolute tsunami with kittens that are born," Samantha Ranlet of SPCA of Wake County said.
Newborn kittens require 24-hour care in the first few weeks of their life. In order to survive without their mother, that care must be replaced by humans.
Bridgett Gallagher has been fostering kittens during kitten season for the last three years. She currently is taking care of two kittens that are now two weeks old.
Sibola and Koto were dropped off at the Warren County Animal Shelter one week ago at just a few days old.
"They were taken into the county shelter and needing help. They only have until the end of the day that they are brought in to find a rescue like the SPCA because they have no chance of survival without a rescue or a foster. We are only able to rescue those kittens because we do have fosters," Ranlet said.
In some cases, if there is no space or fostering available to provide the around-the-clock care the kittens need to survive, they are euthanized.
Every three hours, eight times a day, Gallgher hand-feeds, hand-stimulates and weighs the kittens because they were separated from their mother while they are so young. This is crucial to their survival.
"Always better safe than sorry with these babies. They can crash really quickly," Gallagher said.
Kittens do not have the ability to regulate and control their body temperature, without their mom, their body warmth must be maintained.
Their formula must also be a certain temperature before feeding. Depending on their age, some kittens under two weeks old must be fed every two hours, including throughout the night.
The process of feeding is also extremely crucial because incorrect positioning of the kitten can cause aspiration, meaning that the kitten is breathing in the formula instead of swallowing it. Gallgher says this can cause pneumonia, which can be fatal.
What should you do if you see a kitten or litter of kittens outside?
"If you find kittens, it's always good to wait around a bit to see if the mom will come back because the mom will leave them. If they seem really skinny, they seem lethargic, it is a good idea to get them because they probably don't have a mom," Gallgher said.
The SPCA of Wake County also says it's important to assess the situation before removing them.
"If they look clean and well-fed, plump with a belly, it's really best when they're small to leave them with the mom cat because she can take better care of them than a human foster can," Ranlet said.
Another way to help with the overpopulation of kittens is the trap, neuter and release program.
"It's really important to spay and neuter outdoor cats. If you have a personal pet that goes outside, make sure you spay and neuter them because they could be going out and getting other cats pregnant," Ranlet said.
A way to identify if a feral cat is spayed and neutered is to check its ear. If the tip of the ear is clipped that means the cat has been spayed or neutered.
"If you ever see a cat in your neighborhood and you notice it does not have an ear clip, there is no cut off the ear and it doesn't appear to be owned, a step you can take to help the overpopulation kitten problem is to work to collect that cat and bring it to one of the low cost spay and neuter clinics in the area and release it back to where it came from," Ranlet said.
Ralnet says feral cats are most happy outdoors. Friends of Wake County Animal Center offers the spaying and neutering services for feral cats brought in for $5.
The SPCA of Wake County offers the service for $50 for feral cats.