WILLIAMSBURG — It's "kitten season" again in New York — which means hordes of free-roaming and abandoned kittens are ending up at shelters across Brooklyn.
Just last week, volunteer rescue group North Brooklyn Cats fielded calls for eight kittens in one day, including an incident where a cardboard box filled with a litter that had been left by an L train stop in Williamsburg, according to volunteer Eva Prokop.
Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition is already at capacity for kittens after taking in many in the last month, BARC employee Jim Perugini said.
And in the last two weeks alone, Brooklyn-based Sean Casey Animal Rescue said it has taken in some 30 to 40 kittens — putting the shelter at maximum capacity and forcing it to turn down newcomers.
"It's really hit full speed," said Sean Casey, who runs the rescue and said it averages more than 100 calls per day in warmer months. "We're getting constant calls. We're overrun with kittens."
Cats who are not spayed tend to give birth throughout the spring and summer, the rescue organizations said.
Most of the time, the kittens are born to free-roaming, feral cats. Do-gooders find them and bring them to no-kill shelters in hopes of finding them homes.
But it's not uncommon for people to simply leave kittens in the street, whether it's because they find them or because their own adult cats aren't spayed or neutered, some rescuers said.
Queens resident Judy McGuire was walking through McCarren Park last week for a hair appointment when she saw two kittens meowing as a woman walked quickly away from them, McGuire said.
She scooped them up and was able to find homes for them through a network of cat lovers.
Prokop said her volunteer group regularly sees situations where kittens have been abandoned in front of pets stores or shelters.
"It's not fair. It's not right," Prokop said. "[Spay] and neuter your pets. It’s not humane what’s happening to the animals."
Kittens require additional money and resources in order to be properly cared for. Many of them show up sick or with infections — which can quickly spread to other kittens once they're near each other, Prokop said.
Others are so young that the rescue organizations need people who are trained to bottle feed kittens to foster the newborns until they're ready to be adopted, Casey said.
One foster parent who had been bottle-feeding 12 kittens brought them back last week only to take in 10 more underage kittens within 15 minutes of arriving at the rescue, Casey said.
"Our resources are almost none at this point," he said. "Our fosters are full. We're ripping our hair out to care for what we have and find homes for them."
Even with a higher demand to adopt kittens, there's not enough space for all the new ones coming in, rescue centers said.
Plus, once the little ones start coming in, adoption for adult cats virtually halts, Casey said.
It's a problem, especially since the cage for one adult cat could be used for an entire litter of kittens during kitten season, he said.
"Ultimately we need to find homes for these guys," Casey said of both kittens and adult cats. "We need people to go out and adopt."
Animal activists encourage people who spot a cat in the street to reach out to local trap-and-return organizations, which spay and neuter cat colonies to prevent reproduction of free-roaming cats.
Martha Stone, who runs an organization in Bed-Stuy called Bedford Corners Community Cats, said the goal is to prevent kittens from being born at all and she works to neuter strays.
"If you’re lucky enough to live in our little section of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, you won’t have a kitten problem," Stone said.
Stone said that it's not a bad option to try and take kittens to a shelter or to just leave them in the wild.
The mortality rate for kittens is high when they're left outside, but the reality is that not everybody has the resources to take care of stray animals, she said.
"You have to do what you can," Stone said. "If the only thing you can do is take it to the shelter, then that's a perfectly reasonable thing to do."
Here are five things you can do to help during kitten season:
- Spay and neuter your own pets. Shelters and rescue centers are already overburdened with kittens that are either born outdoors or left by their owners. Taking care of your own animal will help prevent increasing the population.
- Foster or adopt kittens or adult cats from rescues and shelters. Adopting an adult cat will help make room for kittens that come through during the busy season. For no-kill shelters, the main goal is moving pets into permanent homes.
- Donate to efforts to spay and neuter and vaccinate more cats. The Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals is accepting donations to help take care of kittens and cats that are found on the streets and in backyards.
- Try your hand at TNR. The Mayor's Alliance offers free workshops to teach people how to safely trap cats in order to vaccinate them and have them spayed or neutered before being released. Doing so helps decrease the kitten population.