With winter a fading memory and bright sunny days now the norm, the weather change sparks the beginning of cat breeding season. Kittens generally don’t come into shelters all year round—kittens generally arrive when it is warm. Female cats go into ‘heat’ (i.e. they become fertile and want to breed) when the temperature spikes. This can last from a few days to a few weeks in some cats, with kitten season occurring annually during the warmer months from November all the way to March.

During kitten season, animal shelters overflow with many homeless kittens needing a furever home. Cats can breed from as young as 4 months old, producing on average 2 litters every season. Litter sizes can range from one to 12 kittens—if 10 pairs of cats mated and produced full litters for 2 seasons, that’s a whopping 240 kittens!

According to RSPCA WA’s 2021-2022 annual report, figures soared high with 932 cats and kittens in care. That’s a big increase from 726 cats and kittens the year before.

We’ve gathered some information to help you navigate this annual event, and what you can do to help RSPCA WA with the kittens coming into our care.

I’ve found a litter of kittens—what do I do?

Use this chart to ensure you’re making the right choice.

The best rule to practice when seeing a litter of kittens is to leave them alone and observe from a distance before intervening. Kittens need their mother to develop properly, so you need to make sure that their mother won’t be separated from her kittens if you rescue them. Also, keep in mind that not all kittens and cats can come to RSPCA WA—stray and feral cats and kittens are the responsibility of your local council or shire rangers. RSPCA WA can only take in animals that are:

  1. handed in as an injured stray,
  2. seized by an RSPCA WA inspector under the Animal Welfare Act 2002, or
  3. surrendered by an owner.

Would desexing help? Does RSPCA WA have any programs to help people desex animals?

Desexing your cats is a sure-fire way to help reduce population booms and to keep your cats safe during kitten season. Unsterilised females become very agitated, frustrated, and become more tactile when in heat. They loudly vocalise and become desperate to go outside, especially at night. Unsterilised males also become highly agitated, have an increase in urination (i.e. spraying), and try to go outside in an attempt to find a female.

Roaming cats, especially during kitten season, are very much at risk of getting into fights with other cats. This can lead to further complications such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), a virus that weakens the immune system, leaving your cat vulnerable to other infections. They are also at risk of getting run over by cars, and they pose a threat to local wildlife.

Is there a way I can help with the influx of kittens during kitten season? 

The short answer is yes! RSPCA WA and many other shelters would not survive through kitten season if it wasn’t for the many foster carers widening their doors for all the adorable cats and kittens that are coming in. Our shelter space is limited, so we rely heavily on foster carers to provide a temporary home for the animals.

If you’d love to open your home to some kittens and cats, you can learn more about becoming an RSPCA WA foster carer here.