As the weather gets warmer, we will enter what is known in the rescue community as “kitten season.” During this time, feral and unaltered stray cats reproduce in large numbers. It is not uncommon for as many as 50 cats to be turned in to a municipal shelter in a single day during the height of kitten season.

Because the heat cycles in cats are regulated by the weather, there is an uptick of pregnant cats at the same time. Most cats go into heat three times a year, beginning in March or April. A female cat will keep repeating a heat cycle until she gets pregnant. Once a cat conceives, it is about two months until the kittens are born.

Here are some ways you can do to help rescuers address the challenges of kitten season:

Spay or neuter cats. Kittens as young as 2 months can be safely altered if they meet the weight requirements for anesthesia.

Volunteer at shelters and rescues. Contact a local shelter or rescue to find out what is needed most. Volunteers also are needed to network from home or to assist with adoption events.

Care for homeless or feral cats in your neighborhood. Work with local rescues and shelters to help manage stray cat populations through trap-neuter-return (TNR) and feeding stations.

Become a foster parent or bottle parent. Kittens under the age of 4 weeks need around-the-clock care, and rescues and shelters depend on bottle parents to help keep these tiny kittens alive. Kittens do not do well in a shelter environment, as they are more prone to illness until all vaccinations are administered, and therefore benefit from spending their early weeks in a foster home.

Adopt a cat. If you are thinking about adding a new furry friend to the family, now is the time!

A cat can become pregnant as early as five months of age, and a mother cat can become pregnant again while she is still nursing. Spaying and neutering are crucial to combating cat overpopulation.

Events

SPAY/NEUTER DISCOUNTS: The Louisiana SPCA Community Clinic is offering $20.15 spay/neuter surgeries through August for all pets residing in Orleans Parish. In addition, microchips will be available at a reduced fee of $10 in conjunction with a spay/neuter surgery or wellness visit, and T-N-R for feral cats will be reduced to $10. Call (504) 363-1333 or visit www.la-spca.org/communityclinic.

YAPPY HOUR: Ana Zorrilla, CEO of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, will be the celebrity bartender during Yappy Hour from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at The Velvet Cactus, 6300 Argonne Blvd., New Orleans. No dogs are allowed, but dog enthusiasts can mingle and register to walk in the Dog Day Walk-A-Thon and Festival, which will be March 22 at New Orleans City Park.

NEW ORLEANS BUDDY BREAK: The Jefferson Parish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will sponsor a Buddy Break in Lafayette Square in New Orleans from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, March 5. Buddy Breaks pair Central Business District office workers with shelter pets for lunchtime strolls. For information, call (504) 733-5878 or send email to jacob@jeffersonspca.org.

METAIRIE BUDDY BREAK: The Jefferson Parish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will sponsor a Buddy Break at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, March 6. Buddy Breaks pair office workers with shelter pets for lunchtime strolls. For information, call (504) 733-5878 or send email to jacob@jeffersonspca.org.

LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact information to lostandfound@la-spca.org. In Jefferson Parish, email molsen@jeffparish.net and bbourgeois @jeffparish.net, and in St. Bernard Parish, email cluna@sbpg.net.

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at animalrescuecolumn@ gmail.com, www.animal rescueneworleans.org or call its recorded information line at (504) 571-1900.