When you walk into Great Plains SPCA in Independence you’re greeted by a friendly volunteer and two wire-panel cages of kittens.
Turn left and there’s a room the size of a closet packed with black, gray and white kittens pouncing on one another. Another room once designated for bunnies is now filled with kennels of kittens. As employees work in their offices, more kittens snuggle in cages in the corners.
“Kittens are just coming out of our ears,” said Rachel Hodgson, chief communication officer for the shelter.
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It’s “kitten season,” peaking in summer and ending in fall, when the largest number are brought into shelters. Great Plains’ two locations are at maximum capacity now with a total of 700 kittens, and has taken in 1,100 this year, a 16 percent increase over last year.
Not enough people are adopting the kittens, so Great Plains and other area shelters have had to get creative to make room or find foster homes. And they are urging people to report feral cats to their city’s Animal Control department or get them neutered, all to keep the cats from reproducing. Cats can start having kittens as early as 4 months of age.
Most shelters will vaccinate, neuter and treat all stray cats that come through. Some feral adults are released back into the wild. But the kittens need homes.
“There is a huge number of feral cats out there and it’s a big problem,” said Katie Fields, CEO and president of the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City in Kansas City, Kan. “And kitten season is a result of that.”
KC Pet Project has about 300 kittens now, said Stephen Holdeman, feline care supervisor. Each day, as many as 21 kittens are brought in. The shelter recently created another full-time position to coordinate foster care for the cats. KCPP operates the city shelter for Kansas City and has two other adoption centers.
The Humane Society of Greater Kansas City has about 100 kittens at foster homes — it’s normally about 20 — and the shelter is at capacity with 105 cats. Foster families go through an application process and are interviewed to make sure they can properly take care of kittens and cats, specifically those that might be sick.
Wayside Waifs has found permanent homes with summer kitten promotions. Last week, kittens 5 months and younger could be adopted at a 50 percent discount for $75. Fifty-four were adopted, a significant number, said Casey Waugh, communications and annual giving manager for the shelter. Through Aug. 31, the shelter has Kitty Palooza, in which cats 5 months and older are $25.
Great Plains tries to put a positive spin on the need for homes, Hodgson said. The staff has found that more people will adopt if they’re not guilted into it.
“We like to say that adopting saves the life of that pet, but also the pet that then gets its spot,” she said.