By Michael Puffer
contributing writer 

Rescue and responsibility: what to do when you find feral kittens or puppies


October 28, 2023

Every day, in the United States, more than 70,000 puppies and kittens make their debut in the world. This staggering statistic, while invoking heartwarming mental images of cute pets, comes with a somber truth - overpopulation.

It's this overpopulation crisis that leads to the unfortunate reality of over 3.7 million animals being euthanized in shelters across the country each year. Kern County Animal Services euthanized 801 dogs and 521 cats last year alone.

Female cats can be quite prolific, reproducing two to three times annually. Yet, their kittens, if they manage to survive, become feral without early human contact. At just 4 months old, cats can become fertile, and without responsible intervention, their numbers multiply rapidly. In fact, one breeding pair of cats can unleash a veritable explosion, yielding 420,000 offspring over seven years. Female puppies aren't far behind, reaching maturity at just 5 months old, with one breeding pair capable of adding 67,000 puppies to the population in six years.

So, what should you do if you stumble upon a litter of feral kittens? First and foremost, remember this - if you don't see the mother, it doesn't mean she's abandoned her young. She might be nearby, ensuring their safety or searching for sustenance. Your best initial option is to leave them be. However, if you can safely and lovingly tame them, it would be wonderful, as socialized animals have a higher chance of finding loving forever homes. Simultaneously, make a call and schedule spay and neuter appointments with programs like the SNIP bus or other local spay and neuter options. Bear in mind that the current wait time for these services is approximately four months.

Have a Heart Humane Society is Tehachapi's local animal welfare organization, and is here to help when and if we can. On a daily basis we receive numerous calls requesting to help re-home cats and dogs, especially unwanted feral litters. While we would love to assist every cat and dog, we face limitations, primarily revolving around funding and the availability of foster homes to care for adoptable pets. We take pride that our adoptable animals are homed with our loving pet foster parents. Each pet we prepare for adoption comes with expenses such as microchipping, spaying and neutering, vaccinations and occasional veterinary care. Currently, we provide microchipping in addition to our adoptions, striving to give each animal the best possible chance at a wonderful future.

In conclusion, your role in addressing this crisis is vital. Begin by spaying and neutering your own pets, understanding that a "free" kitten found on social media will cost you at least $400 to be a responsible pet owner, once you factor in spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping. Keep your cats indoors to prevent further overpopulation and ensure their safety. If you want to make a direct impact, consider volunteering for Have a Heart.

We are always on the lookout for dedicated individuals to help with donation intakes, run our thrift store and foster pets for adoption. Come in and request a volunteer application today! Another way to support our mission is by visiting our thrift store or making tax-deductible donations of gently used items or money. Remember, every small effort counts toward building a more compassionate and responsible pet community.


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