Spring has sprung and the air feels fresh and sweet. This springtime bliss may be a pleasant beginning to everyone except animal shelters.

The start of spring and into summer are also known as “kitten season,” because cats are having many litters during this time of year. Unfortunately, many of the litters of kittens end up homeless, living together outside in community colonies. Many kittens also make their way to local animal shelters, where their large numbers place a strain on resource availability.

Helping out during this season is super easy. Fostering a kitten is one simple way to help, as it frees up space in shelters and provides a nurturing environment for a kitten before they are old enough to find a permanent home. In addition to becoming a foster parent, supporting the trap-neuter-vaccinate-return programs for feral colonies in and around Pinellas County is another great way to prevent overpopulation. MEOW Now is a local TNVR program that traps stray cats, spays or neuters them, vaccinates them and then releases them back into the community.

Spaying or neutering your pet is considered the best way of preventing this overpopulation throughout the season. Cats are able to get pregnant as early as five months old, so getting them spayed as early as possible is extremely important. These procedures offer a variety of different benefits, one of which is an increased life expectancy of 12-18 months. In addition to a longer life, a cat who has been spayed can no longer go into heat, which then prevents certain unwanted behaviors, like yowling or urinating in the house. If a cat is spayed before her first heat cycle, which can be as young as 5 to 6 months, she has a smaller risk of developing specific kinds of cancers or infections. The chances of contracting breast cancer, uterine cancer, uterine infections and other infections of the reproductive system are greatly reduced, which can ultimately lead to savings on vet bills later on down the road. Spaying or neutering your pet does have some high up-front costs, but it will end up being much less expensive than the cost that comes with caring and providing for an unplanned litter.

Choosing to spay or neuter your pet reduces the number of homeless animals and offers several health benefits as mentioned above. Spay and neuter programs are available locally at our SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center and other animal welfare organizations.

For more information on fostering kittens or to learn about the kittens and cats available for adoption at SPCA Tampa Bay, call 727-586-3591 or visit spcatampabay.org.

Rizal Lopez, DVM, is the spay/neuter services program director for SPCA Tampa Bay, overseeing the public spay/neuter program at the SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center. This service has provided over 5,000 procedures since opening in late 2016, and Dr. Lopez, since joining the organization in 2011, has performed over 14,000 spay/neuter procedures for the community. He served as shelter veterinarian and medical director before taking the lead role in providing spay/neuter services.