You know this time of year as summer, or our annual vacation into sweatiest Hades. In animal welfare we have another name for it: kitten season.
Adorable name; really hard, busy time for animal welfare organizations. Just ask local cat rescue groups.
Kitten season is when animal shelters and rescue groups are full. And not just with cats and kittens—it is the busiest time of year for dogs, too.
That means if you are trying to find a place in a shelter or rescue for an animal, you may find yourself being told there's no room.
Even government shelters can be limiting which animals they take in, to try to conserve space—and for other reasons, like using resources to keep animals in homes, as Hillsborough County's Pet Resource Center director Scott Trebatoski tells us.
At Human Animal Support Services, we encourage this model of animal sheltering: keeping pets in the community whenever possible, with shelters serving as emergency backup for animals who truly have no place else to go.
We know this may leave folks with questions about what they should do with the animals they find, or can't keep. Here are five alternatives to bringing an animal to the shelter.
Hold onto found pets
Most lost pets are picked up less than a mile from their home. Many are just blocks away, if that. They all have a much better chance of getting back home if they are kept in the neighborhood where they're found, not brought to the shelter.
Call the Pet Resource Center or Pinellas County Animal Services to file a found animal report, and register on the Finding Rover website. Get the pet scanned for a microchip at a vet's office or police station, and post them to local lost and found pets pages and to your local Nextdoor and Facebook groups.
PRC will give you supplies if you hold onto the pet for at least 48 hours, too.
Support kittens where they are until they’re weaned (Mom, too)
Kittens too young to eat on their own, will have to be bottle fed every two hours. For weeks. Few shelters have that kind of staff, and it's very hard to find volunteers.
This puts neonatal kittens, without their mothers, at extremely high risk of euthanasia once they come to a shelter.
Absent injury or some other serious danger, support kittens where you find them until they are about six weeks old, when they can be weaned. You can leave out food and water for the mother.
At six weeks, bring the kittens into your home to socialize them. The mom cat can get spayed, then returned to her outdoor home.
Get the kittens spayed or neutered when they are two months old, then adopt them out. You don't need to do that through a rescue group or shelter, though you can call around and see if any have the resources to provide support.
Use pet food banks
If you've lost your job and are having a hard time feeding your dog or cat, you may think your only option is to give them up to the shelter. It's usually not.
"We can work with them. Just because you're poor doesn't mean you don't love the animal just as much as somebody who has more means," says PRC's Scott Trebatoski.
For Hillsborough County residents, the Pet Resource Center offers pet food and other supplies, no questions asked. Friends of Strays is partnering with the St. Pete Free Clinic and Meals on Wheels to get pet food out to those who need it.
Finding your pet a new family online
If you cannot keep your pet, use online resources to find them a new family. In addition to Nextdoor and local Facebook groups, try home-home.org and rehome.adoptapet.com—two websites that help match you up with potential adopters.
Foster, adopt, donate, volunteer
You know about adopting, donating, and volunteering. How about fostering?
Every single rescue group and shelter in Tampa Bay would be so thrilled to have you temporarily take in kittens, cats, puppies, and dogs. Doing so literally saves lives.
Because I am on the board, I'll put in a plug here for fostering through Friends of Strays in St. Pete. Check out other organizations' websites for more info, too.
You can foster for days, weeks, months—even an afternoon. See Friends of Strays' Doggy Day Out. Shameless logrolling? Guilty. For a great cause? Pawsitively, yes.
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