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There Are More Kittens In Broward County Than Last Year. Here's Why That's A Problem

Broward County Animal Care And Adoption Center
Caitie Switalski
This unnamed kitten was dropped off at the shelter a week ago, and is almost four weeks old. One of the shelter's 'bottle babies,' she still needs a bottle every two to four hours.

In the back of Broward County’s Animal Care and Adoption Center, a tiny black kitten the size of a hand, squeaks for another bottle. 

She doesn’t have a name, but Meagan Nehls, who is a program coordinator at the shelter, just calls her, “Kitten.”

The shelter doesn’t have enough volunteers to foster all of the incoming kittens, so Nehls has been taking Kitten home at the end of her workday every day.  

For the past several months, people have been dropping off tiny kittens to Broward’s shelter by the hundreds.

"Kittens this size are too young to be on their own and they generally have to be fed every two to four hours. So I took her; I'm a sucker,” Nehls said.

The kittens may appear to be abandoned, but Nehls said most often the mother cat is off getting food and will come back to her babies. 

Cat breeding season usually lasts during only the spring and summer months, but in Florida that can be year-round. 

But this season has been explosive. In Broward alone, more than 200 kittens are getting dropped off every month. That's definitely higher than normal for Lauralei Combs, the shelter's director. 

“Hundreds of kittens being dropped off is alarming to any intake shelter,” Combs said. 

Between April and the end of August last year, just over 3,500 kittens had been brought to the shelter. Between April and the end of August this year, more than 4,450 kittens have been brought in. 

And its continuing into September. 

At a recent national animal welfare conference conducted by the Best Friends Animal Society, Combs said there is one theory for why Broward, and some other animal shelters in the southern parts of the country are experiencing such a high volume of kittens. It could be related to Hurricane Irma.  

Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Center
Credit Caitie Switalski / WLRN
These 'bottle baby' kittens are sharing a kennel with two others right now. They can be adopted starting at two months old.

“We keep trying to figure out what happened, and a lot of it is going back to the hurricane season we had last year… here we had Hurricane Irma. It really upset the breeding cycle of cats.”

Combs said thatwhile people bringing kittens in to the shelter have the best intentions, it can actually be bad for them. 

"What you have to remember - mom's the best caregiver,” Combs said. “Here at an animal shelter…we do not have staff on duty 24 hours-a-day.”



Here are some tips for what to do if you find a nest of kittens outside: 

  • Wait and watch as long as you can to see if the mother cat comes back, at least 12-18 hours. 
  • If there is a severe storm, you can move the kittens to somewhere safer in the immediate area, as long as the mom can still find them. 
  • Sprinkle flour around where the kittens are nestled to see if the mother leaves paw prints when she comes back. 
  • If the kittens look like they have a cold, are dirty or cold to the touch after several hours, then you can consider them abandoned and bring them into a shelter.
Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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